Header Image: The sculpture “A Surge of Power (Jen Reid)” by British artist Marc Quinn stands on the plinth in Bristol where the statue of the seventeenth-century merchant and slave-trader Edward Colston had been since 1895. The statue of Colston was removed by protestors in June 2020. The statue of Reid, an activist, was removed after one day by Bristol City Council. History has played a key role in debates about race equality in 2020. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Dr Diya Gupta, RHS Past & Present Fellow: Race, Ethnicity & Equality in History introduces the second annual RHS Race, Ethnicity and Equality Roadmap Update, which is published today.
How can we shape and embed anti-racist research and teaching practice across the discipline of History? How can more bright and talented BME students and scholars enter, and remain in, the academy? These important questions have acquired a new sharpness and urgency in 2020 – the year that has laid bare deeply entrenched structural inequalities in our society.
While the coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately claimed BME lives, George Floyd’s murder in May galvanised the Black Lives Matter movement and led to mass protests against racism in the UK and overseas. Race matters today – more than ever – and so do our efforts to provide meaningful equal opportunities in History.
A Second RHS Roadmap Update
It is in this broader context that the Royal Historical Society (RHS) publishes Roadmap for Change II (2020). The report surveys the race, ethnicity and equality initiatives undertaken over the past year by the historical community in the UK. Its purview includes departments, faculties and schools, along with heritage organisations and learned societies, as well as the RHS itself.
Roadmap II follows on from the RHS’s initial publication Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History: A Report and Resource for Change (2018), which documented the overwhelming whiteness of the discipline of History, and the first Roadmap for Change I (2019), which gathered evidence on how individuals, universities, learned societies and other institutions responded to the 2018 report.
What Steps Can I Take?
- Include the histories of race and empire in your curriculum.
- Cite diverse authors in your own work.
- Listen to student voices on barriers to higher education and pay them for their time.
- Invite external BME scholars to speak at your events and raise their profile.
- Amplify the work of organisations like the Runnymede Trust and Leading Routes.
Roadmap II reveals how wide-ranging departmental and organisational interventions have been – from critical changes made to the curriculum to empowering student perspectives, organising race-related training workshops to new appointments in Black British History. We know that there is still a long way to go, but hope that this second Roadmap will offer a rich repository of ideas and initiatives in working towards achieving racial equality, diversity and inclusion in History.
Quotes from Roadmap II
“We have appointed our first Community History Fellow, with a remit to develop links between the Faculty and community groups in our very diverse city.”
Professor John Watts, Head of the History Faculty, University of Oxford
“We are making systematic efforts to actively engage with students, to make them partners in this process of reform.”
Professors Helen Berry, HoD, and Nandini Chatterjee, Chair of the Decolonising the Curriculum working group, University of Exeter
“We have instituted a training workshop for all colleagues who research and teach, including GTAs, which deals with encountering and challenging problematic behaviour (and one’s own behaviour), including racism, in teaching and research settings.”
Dr Kate Ferris, Director for EDI, School of History, University of St Andrews
“The department made good on its promise to create an Undergraduate and a Postgraduate BME Student Rep position and to pay a bursary for each.”
Professors Jan Plamper and Richard S. Grayson, HoD, Goldsmiths, University of London
“History at Hertfordshire continues to review our curriculum to emphasise a diverse range of experiences and voices – we are just about to offer a new module in the history of the contemporary Middle East – and recognise that this needs to be an ongoing process of evaluation.’”
Dr Daniel Grey, HoD, University of Hertfordshire
“Building on expertise underpinning our long-running MA Programme in Race and Resistance, we launched a new module on Histories of Black Britain in 2019-20 and appointed our first Lecturer in Black British History in 2020-21. We have also hosted a number of events focused on teaching and researching of Black histories.”
Professor Andrea Major, HoD, University of Leeds
“In summer 2020 the university approved a permanent post in Transatlantic Slavery Studies to provide capacity for a MSc in Reparative Justice to be jointly offered with the University of the West Indies.”
Dr Karin Bowie, Senior Lecturer in Scottish History, University of Glasgow