History Department News
Durham Historians collaborate with leading NGOs
(4 October 2016)
A new project, co-ordinated by Durham historian Richard Huzzey, has offered leading UK non-governmental organisations the chance to reflect on their predecessors’ struggles in the past. Commenting on the initiative, leading environmentalist George Mombiot said, “[u]nless we understand our history, we have no hope of making sense of the present. These case studies help us to see where we have come from and where we are going.”
Available for free online, a new book captures the lessons of a workshop, held last year, which challenged researchers and campaigners to consider when and what might be learned from major campaigns in modern British history. The volume offers short essays by historians, including Huzzey, spanning the campaigns for abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and homosexual equality, as well as opposition to Irish independence and Mary Whitehouse’s campaign against permissive morality. Fellow Durham historian Henry Miller has written, for example, on the challenges and solutions of those campaigning for free trade. These chapters are followed by the reflections of campaigners from Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Dignity in Dying, Unlock Democracy, and other charities. Supported by the group History and Policy (http://www.historyandpolicy.org/), the initiative forms part of Friends of the Earth’s Big Ideas Change The World project (https://www.foe.co.uk/page/big-ideas-change-world).
In the volume’s introduction, Huzzey offers his perspective, as an historian, about how far we can draw lessons, or even learn at all, from the past. His co-editor, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Policy, Research, and Science, Mike Childs, marshalled the ideas of his fellow campaigners and activists in reacting to the historical case studies. Jonathon Porritt, former Director of Friends of the Earth, offered his response, saying that “as this book shows, little has been gained without people simultaneously organising against vested interests – and fighting them every step of the way”.