Download our Conference Briefing by Dr James Wallis, for the February 2019 Cumberland Conference, 'Difficult Histories & Positive Identities'

Published Date: 
Friday, 15 February 2019
Dr James Wallis, Cumberland Lodge Research Associate


We find ourselves in an era of significant engagement with the past. Amidst ongoing globalisation, digitalisation and postmodern anxieties about a seemingly uncertain future, there has been a collective turn to former times, in a bid to help shape our world.  The very act of remembering the past remains central to our sense of identity – at the individual, community and national level.

With the internet providing unprecedented access to historical resources, and technology advancing the ways in which mass data can be utilised, the past is, in effect, a ‘commodity’ of the Information Age.

New cultures of memory have been ushered in, as ways of combatting a perceived sense of rootlessness in contemporary society. This has been achieved through initiatives such as oral history movements, new museum and memorial projects, and political movements to right past wrongs. These forms of commemoration can reveal who or what is forgotten, as much as they seek to promote remembrance.

For Britain, this is a pertinent issue. Though many Britons tend to shy away from engaging with their country’s complex legacies of conflict and imperialism, a contemporary postcolonial and (more) multicultural setting has delivered the contextual backdrop for initiating such conversations amongst those working in schools, public life or museums.

Read and download

The full Conference Briefing can be read on screen in full-screen mode here, or downloaded in compressed pdf format from the link on this webpage.

Find out more

The Difficult Histories & Positive Identities conference takes place at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park on Monday 25 to Tuesday 26 February 2019. We are tweeting at #CLdifficulthistories.

Briefing contents

1. Rethinking identity and difficult histories

2. Does history matter?

3. History and identity formation in schools

4. Contesting history in public spaces

5. Managing the past

6. Museums and ‘difficult histories’

7. Peace, reconciliation and positive identity