Podcast Series: Confronting Controversial History

Podcast Series

By Dr Jason Todd and Dr Natasha Robinson, published 1st October 2022

Controversial History formed the focus of the Historical Association’s report, Teaching Emotive and Controversial History 3-19 (TEACH). Published in 2007, it offered teachers invaluable guidance for teaching historical topics that can stir emotion and controversy. However, the authors noted how the nature of the sensitivity can be affected by ‘time, geography and awareness’. This means that the nature and form of controversy shifts but the need to engage with this past historically remains important. It is in our collective interests to engage historically as the resulting diversity and social inclusion has scope to generate a range of societal benefits. Engaging historically means recognising the dynamic interplay between the past and the present and the role of the disciplinary concepts and processes in enabling a critical examination of these issues. 

A range of considerations are needed in teaching these histories, including the needs and views of learners. One consideration is enabling teachers with detailed subject knowledge and in the original TEACH report, Wrenn et al recommended giving attention to supporting teachers’ continuing professional development. Thus, given the sensitivities and contingencies teachers might value support offered by emerging historical scholarship and appropriate educational research.

This series of podcasts represents an innovative form of knowledge-exchange that brings together an historian with a history teacher educator to discuss a topic that might be considered controversial. They are intended as a starting point for conversations and not the definitive word. The discussion will consider the challenges of teaching this topic in history, including historical and pedagogical approaches. Panellists will reflect on why – and in which circumstances – the topic of history in question is ‘controversial’. We have not prescribed particular historical periods but leave it to discussants to focus in where appropriate. The podcasts offer a broad sketching of historiographical contours of both how these topics have been researched and studied, but also how they have been taught in school and university over time. We are looking to develop the series further exploring other topics using a similar approach.