We recently published an article which challenged some of the more traditional values of how history is interpreted. The article was a point of view we had and had a great mix of reactions.
For those of you who didn’t read it, here it is.
Now I need to clarify one thing, Hashtag History do not hate historians. The writers here have all had an academic background in history and value the importance of the work of historians.
Saying “Taking History back from the Historians” maybe was a bold phrase which could easily be taken out of context and can easily be misinterpreted. We understand offence has been caused and for that we are sorry.
The first thing that comes to mind throughout this is unfortunately there is a huge divide on opinions when it comes to the interpretations and views on accessibility of history.
Also when I talk about “history” I mean as a subject and not the accessibility of the sources.
There have been some great responses about the work that is being done by historians when advising on some very popular television shows. We had views saying history is already accessible with free museums, libraries and the internet, people saying it is an academic subject and should be left to the academics, some saying they have been interested in history from a very young age and it is accessible as well as many other comments.
On the other side we had people tell us about the ways they have got into history which involved films, books, a teacher and trips to tourist attractions. We had teachers tell us that any way of inspiring children is good, adults who have told us that they have gotten into history by watching Horrible Histories with their children and many more.
Is history accessible enough?
Our stance on this is no. I have been involved with museums when they have had recent drastic cuts as a lot of their services have been seen as unessential by their local governments. I have friends who have been reduced from a full time contract to a part time contract because their museum has not attracted enough visitors. The National Trust had a full restructure and has had to put an emphasis on making money from their retail and tea room outlets to survive. Even the government have struggled and we have seen the collapse of the English Heritage with its rebirth with a new brand and properties run by part time staff and zero hour contracts.
Television even struggles with many history documentaries being moved to BBC 4, a channel who has a demographic which is not aimed at the mainstream. Even how these programmes are presented, they are not aimed at a mainstream demographic. The last three programmes on the National Trust have been on BBC4, Sky Arts and the ITV Sunday evening slot competing with the Antiques Roadshow. All of these are targeted at an audience who traditionally will already interact with these types of programmes.
In a country that students now pay for their tuition, universities including Russell Group universities, have introduced outreach programmes to say to potential students that studying an arts subject like art, English or history is not a luxury, there are careers and a need for these studies to happen.
Are historians to blame?
Not at all. Historians are a strong backbone to the understanding of history. They are the net we need to catch people who gain an interest in history and want to pursue a career. They are the people who need to give us the information. Without historians we do not have a clear understanding of history.
So what do we mean by taking History back from the historians?
History can be presented in a dull way, and usually is aimed at people already interested in history. Someone said, why should we dumb down history? (We only use dumb down in response to a comment made against us-This is a horrible term in itself) I say because we need everyone to understand it. Should we leave history to those who get paid to do it? No we shouldn’t. The great thing about history is it does not belong to anyone. Everyone has their own history and everyone is inspired to love a certain part.
Not everyone is going to pick up a journal and understand it. We see this as true with the popularity of Wikipedia and “We f*****g love science”. Is there a chance of misinformation? Yes of course but this is still away of igniting interest, like it has done for myself and others. I said this in my article it is a seed planted. What people do with this information/seed is up to them.
This is not an attack a historians, we f*****g love historians. The problem is the attitude we have got from some of the comments which say that the job is done, the materials are there, the rest is everyone else’s problem. In an ideal world that would be the case. Unfortunately that is not the reality.
So is there a need for Hashtag History?
Yes there is, we are not an academic source, we are a specific interest set up. There is need for us just like there is a need for other Twitter accounts such as @thnkingmuseum @MsHughesteaches @Queen_MaryTudor @activehistory @CreativeHistorian @Britishbattles @KingLackland @bessofyork @ii_kingrichard @JoannaOfCastile @Bygonedays who are a mix of everyday people, historians and teachers who love history and want to spark interest in others through their own passion.
We have academic backgrounds, we have heritage backgrounds and most importantly we have a passion for history just like all of you.
Items such as History vs Hollywood will be presented by video, inspired by Honest Trailers by Screen Junkies, we will be on Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. We will take our history forward to align with the current world. That will not be every ones cup of tea and we are fine with that. We are not at war with traditional history we are just another function.
Getting into history through films and Horrible Histories is stupid?
These comments came up yesterday, this was a personal experience of mine and I read some negative comments about this. I read that Horrible Histories is for children and getting an interest from this is stupid. To the people who messaged and tweeted us saying things like “I got into history watching horrible histories with my children” and “You got into history due to a film or television programme”, this is not stupid. It is awesome. We welcome you to the team.
We apologise for saying “taking history back from the historians”, we understand how that came across and maybe it was a too strong use of words. History for the masses? If you think enough has been done, then you are wrong. Hashtag History is here and we will engage people with history and we invite everyone to get involved. Historians, teachers and of course the people who got involved through less conventional but amazing ways like me.
If we spark one interest in history we have done a great job.
To the people in schools inspiring children, keep up the great work, we have a lot of teachers following us and we love the stories of how you ignite a child’s imagination and interest in history. To those working or volunteering in heritage, dressing up, raising money in retail or the tea room, putting on events, giving tours and everyone else in the industry, you make some ones experience. You inspire people every day and are great champions for history.
We don’t mean to offend but we are here to stay.
If you would like to contact us please email us firstname.lastname@example.org