Doing Public History, a new web site and electronic journal, attempts to “promote public debate about the nature and role of history in Britain.” The site notes the relative lack of public discourse about the past in the U.K. when compared to the United States and Australia, where national debates about the role of the past are common. It calls for a sustained discussion about the relationship between the academic historian and the public.
Essays in the inaugural issue of the journal include a meditation on the role of historians in public life and advice on sharing historical research with the public through radio and television. Notes author Justin Champion, “despite a sophisticated and passionate debate about the nature of the Heritage industry and National Trust,” there is little “engagement with the public value of historical discourse” among British academics (See “What are historians for?”). The site, which is sponsored by the history department at Royal Holloway University of London, hosts a discussion board intended to promote such conversations.
A series of British public history conferences such as “History and the Public,” a 2006 conference hosted by the Institute for Historical Research, a 2007 conference at Swansea University on the same theme, and an upcoming conference in Liverpool demonstrate a growing interest in British public history. Selected presentations from both conferences are archived online.