This blog post serves two purposes. First, as a reminder that the call for papers deadline for our next event (on 'Narratives' at Durham University on 8 May) is tomorrow. What better way to spend a Sunday than writing a short abstract? Second, we thought it might be an idea to use the blog to start thinking about the theme of 'Narratives' in historical research before the event itself.
A long standing friend of History Lab (Northumbria University's Peter O'Connor) recently drew my attention to this Guardian article about truth in historical fiction. This is a somewhat different issue to that experienced by us researchers as though we may deal with narratives in various ways we're unlikely to pursue a particular narrative in our own research at the expense of academic integrity. That said, when discussing 'truth' in historical narratives the references to the ambiguity of 'historical fact' are of pertinence to us all.
As researchers dealing with various historical contexts - about which 'the facts' may be unclear - the appeal of a narrative to help us comprehend the events and processes we engage with is clear. However certain facts are often at odds with the broad narratives that historians have long used to situate and make sense of historical developments. In every whiggish account of teleological progress there are reactionary or conservative moments; Marxists conceptions are often complicated by actions that counteract economic processes; and, in my own research, the Saidian narrative of East versus West is undermined by the huge variables within these overly simplistic categories. Sometimes the nuance or complexity of historical events means that the facts don't lend themselves to a coherent narrative.
So how do historians reconcile the 'facts' (if they do indeed exist) with broader historical narratives? Come to our Durham event to find out!
(History Lab North East, Northumbria Rep)