Dr. Robert Parkes – Teaching history after ‘the end of history’

26 March 2010

History Seminar Series

School of Humanities and Social Science,

The University of Newcastle

2010, Semester 1

Held in the Cultural Collections Friends Reading Room

Level 2, Auchmuty Library, Callaghan Campus

10am- 11am, followed by morning tea

Dr. Robert Parkes (Education, University of Newcastle)

Teaching history after ‘the end of history’

It has been argued that postmodernism signals ‘the end of history’ as a discipline (Jenkins, 1991; 1999; 2003), and both historians (Evans, 1997; McCullagh, 2004) and conservative commentators (such as Windschuttle, 1996) have come out in its defence. This paper re-examines the nature of the alleged ‘threat’ to history posed by postmodernism, and explores the implications of postmodern social theory for History as curriculum. The paper, which summarises Robert’s doctoral work, begins with an exploration of ‘end of history’ discourse in contemporary social theory, examining its manifestation in the writings of both neoliberal conservatives and methodological postmodernists. It then turns to a specific case study of ‘end of history’ discourse as it emerged at the site of the History curriculum in New South Wales during the 1990s, igniting a series of highly public ‘history wars’ (Macintyre & Clark, 2003) over representations of the nation’s past; which are arguably implicated in setting Australia on the road to a national curriculum. The paper proceeds with a discussion of the missed opportunities for ‘critical practice’ within both the NSW and proposed national History curriculum. In seeking a curricular response to the history wars, the paper synthesises insights into the ‘nature of history’ derived from contemporary academic debate, and resultantly argues that what has remained uncontested in the struggle for ‘histories’, are the representational practices of history itself. The paper concludes by arguing for a historiographic approach to teaching history, that follows Curthoys and Docker (2006) in recognising that history cannot escape either its sources or its representational forms.

One thought on “Dr. Robert Parkes – Teaching history after ‘the end of history’

  1. Pingback: History Seminar Series 2010 « UoN Cultural Collections

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