For this edition of New Histories, we wanted to encourage students to engage with the topic of ‘decolonising the curriculum’. By no means is this an attempt to provide an all-encompassing account: some of the articles here are the authors’ first time engaging with topics outside of those prescribed by our current curriculum. But, by providing the space to talk about the histories, cultures, and individuals that are overlooked by our current syllabus, we hope to continue those much needed conversations on race, privilege, and inequalities in current society that filters on into academia. With this edition, we want to invite students into this conversation to encourage self-reflection: firstly, on the state of our current syllabus, and secondly, on our own prejudices.
The inspiration behind this edition came from the Race, Ethnicity and Equality report, published by the Royal Historical Society in November last year. The report regards the current History curricula as a central cause of the under-representation of BME students (and staff), in history departments across the U.K. Undoubtedly, the fear of being unable to identify with the curriculum serves as a major deterrent for potential history students, and is clearly a major concern for many current students.
We understand that the task of decolonising the curriculum is a mammoth one — but, by working with students, the history department has begun to take steps in the right direction. Facilitated by Dr. Emily Baughan, both student and staff members of the Race, Equalities and Decolonisation (RED) Working Party have begun to curate a curriculum that welcomes and engages with all students. We hope that New Histories can be utilised for both the aims of RED and History in the City to give a platform for this discussion.
For us, to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ is to actively recognise our positionality and subjectivities in relation to the histories we encounter. We need to question the current historical canon; question the ‘default’ eurocentric narrative; question white-washed reading lists; and question the absence of BME scholars. For us, to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ is to challenge the framework of our syllabus, and to challenge the prescribed narratives which elevate some voices, whilst silencing others.
The purpose of this edition is to shed light on histories sidelined by our syllabus, not to provide a single solution to this problem: simply, there is not one solution. We hope that these articles will further encourage the vital conversations about the lack of representation in the current curriculum.
We appreciate that this task transcends what can be achieved through a student-led e-zine. However, we believe that the articles in this edition afford an excellent starting point — we hope you feel so too.
Amanda Boateng and Hannah Casey