Swapping Viewpoints: Past & Presentism

by the Editorial team

Last year Past & Present revived the journal’s “Viewpoint” feature, after it had fallen into abeyance for a few years, with a crackling debate about “human rights history”.

Following on from that burst of intellectual fission, the journal is now pleased to present a new series of Viewpoints exploring the concept of “presentism”.

In a series of short articles seven eminent scholars – whose work spans the breadth of human geographical and temporal experience – address the following points introduced by Professor Alexandra Walsham (one of our co-editors):

What place does ‘presentism’ have in modern historical scholarship? Can students of the past avoid seeing it through the prism of the present? Should our research be undertaken with an eye to its current relevance and with the aim of transforming the future?”

Collectively, the viewpoints expressed in “Presentism” are best viewed as roundtable contributions. The Introduction and seven pieces together form a cumulative dialogue akin to a conversation.

The full set of articles can be accessed in sequence below and are also grouped together on the website of our publisher Oxford University Press:

*Prof. Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge), “Introduction: Past and… Presentism”

*Prof. Robin Osborne (Cambridge), “Classical Presentism”

*Prof. Peter Coss (Cardiff), “Presentism and the ‘Myth’ of Magna Carta

*Prof. Miri Rubin (Queen Mary, London), “Presentism’s Useful Anachronisms”

*Prof. Evelyn Welch (King’s, London),  “Presentism and the Renaissance and Early Modern Historian”

*Prof. Catherine Hall (UCL, London), “Thinking Reflexively: Opening ‘Blind Eyes’”

*Prof. Rana Mitter (Oxford), “Presentism and China’s Changing Wartime Past”

*Prof. S.A. Smith (Oxford), “China, Revolution and Presentism”

We hope that you find this collection of views thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating.

If you would like to share any thoughts that have been provoked please do join in the conversation on Twitter by tweeting us directly or using the hashtag #presentism.

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