Connected curricula: 'decolonising', de-centring and diversifying historical education in the UK

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: History


The Royal Historical Society's Report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in UK History (2018) challenges institutional reluctance to face legacies of racial and ethnic injustice, and the lack of diversity within the historical discipline. New directions in research have not penetrated the history curriculum in many schools and universities. A 2018 survey of teachers by the Runnymede Trust found that over 70% of respondents wanted further training in both the history of migration and empire. The under-representation of diverse histories and BME scholars in history speaks to a deeper problem in the structures of our educational processes and institutions.

Decades of advocacy by historians, teachers, BME heritage groups, and students have pressed university-based historians across the UK to consider what it means to 'decolonise' teaching curricula and research practices, and to challenge ingrained patterns of racial discrimination and exclusion in Higher Education. The phrase 'decolonise the curriculum' has become an umbrella term to describe a range of activities committed to promoting greater representation of diverse stories and experiences in history curricula. It has recently been used to refer to a set of reform-minded, anti-racist activities aimed at exposing historic legacies of colonialism and their present-day effects in the built environments and taught programmes of schools and universities.

This network will research directions that history departments in UK universities have taken to 'decolonise' or de-centre their teaching curricula and research agendas, focusing on the theories and methodologies that underpin these efforts, the practical impacts that they have had, and the ways that these processes raise larger questions about reframing the focus of historical research and inquiry. The network will also consider how initiatives to diversify who studies, writes and teaches history have been successful, and where lessons can be learned beyond the academy. We will therefore draw on expertise from schools, heritage organisations, archives, libraries and museums. Responsiveness requires not just thinking about how research enters the classroom, but openness about how academic historians undertake research.

We will work closely with the Runnymede Trust, whose award-winning Our Migration Story project has foregrounded the importance of migration history to the study of British history, and offers a template for academics to work with schools and communities. We will build on a smaller, existing network of groups connected to the Runnymede Trust that are committed to, and have a track record in, tackling issues related to 'decolonising' the curriculum and advocating reform of institutional practices that contribute to discrimination and exclusion. By extending this network across sectors, regions, and the four nations, we will maximise impact by creating connections and pathways for participation from non-London based academics and projects. The IHR, HA and RHS, as professional bodies that convene, support and train historians and history teachers across the UK, are particularly well placed to support this work.

Our meetings will generate conversations and resources beyond the network's immediate participants, through podcasts, blogs, a website, publications, a public meeting hosted at the IHR in London, and a series of articles published on History Workshop Online. We will encourage, facilitate and support press and media engagement, which has already begun to take place in national magazines, newspapers, television and radio programmes. The network will also create a strategy report of research aims and recommendation that will challenge policy-makers and educators to consider pathways to reform history curricula and actions that can be taken to diversify those who teach, study and write our histories.


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