Sunday, 10 October 2010

LSHG Newsletter No 40

From the LSHG Newsletter No. 40, Autumn 2010

Time again to demand:A continuing supply of history

The New Labour Governments of 1997-2010 were
hardly the most friendly to the subject of history
in history but it might be argued that some modest
advances were made. A limited Freedom of
Information Act opened a little more space
amongst the official files for historians, for
example. On the other hand we might note that the
activities of Blair & Co. did a lot to destroy very
important historical records and artefacts in Iraq.
The present Con-Dem Government seems very
unlikely to offer us any chance to ponder such a
balance sheet. At one level the profile of history in
the UK does look positive. Tristram Hunt has
managed to get elected as Labour MP for Stoke,
while Education Secretary Gove has hinted that
Niall Ferguson may be a Government advisor on
history in schools. A lot could be said but, no
question, both individuals are genuine practising
Yet the level of cuts in public spending which is
proposed suggests big problems for historians and
in particular big tasks for socialist historians.
The activity of socialist historical research and
writing by committed historians and activists will
continue well outside of the reach of anything the
Government can do, but if research requires
access to libraries or archives there will be
problems ahead. The British Library has already
circularised readers about cuts in funding and
pondered whether a reduction in hours could be an
acceptable way of saving money.
Likewise while those who write about the
institutions of the rich and powerful can expect
sponsorship from industry for their efforts, I’m not
aware that such funding options are open to
socialist historians. We rely on grants and other
funds—rarely huge but always making an essential
difference between a research project happening
or not—from a variety of public sources.
Details of specific cuts related to the Con-Dem’s
bogus austerity programme are few as this
Newsletter goes to press. It has been reported that
a museum dedicated to artefacts related to Mrs
Thatcher faces closure, and while not a top
priority, it would be unfortunate to lose any
historical resource.
Our duty is twofold. Firstly to demand continuing
access to libraries and archives for historians and
hence to oppose any cuts that are proposed that
impact on them for alleged reasons of short term
expediency. That will mean involvement in many
specific campaigns as well as backing for national
initiatives such as those planned by the Right to Work
campaign and others to defend jobs and services
It will also require us to expose and publicise cuts.
The aim will be for the LSHG to publicise on our
website threats of cuts in jobs, courses and
resources and, of course, all attempts to oppose
these. The Con-Dems have claimed some historic
purpose in their plans to break public services. It is
the role of historians to oppose that, to defend
historical research and crucially to add historical
perspectives to the fight as well.
Keith Flett

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