CMNH engages both with research that sits, discretely, in social, cultural or political history and with that which works between and within these fields. We understand all aspects of historical practice to be essentially political, and recognise the multiple ways in which the present shapes our understanding of the past. Historians working with the Centre tend to adopt interdisciplinary approaches, drawing on work conducted in allied disciplines such as anthropology, cultural geography and literary and cultural studies in their research.
Since the ‘cultural turn’ of the 1990s, the field of history has undergone a number of methodological and theoretical innovations. The challenges of cultural history to traditional practices of social history, particularly in its insistence that subjectivity could not be simply ‘read off’ historical texts, and that historians needed to pay careful attention to issues of power and language, have combined with social history’s insistence on the importance and value of everyday life and experience as a means of understanding past worlds to create a vital and lively field. Current key areas of debate, which the Centre has participated in, include the relationship between history and memory, history and heritage, the ‘emotional turn’, and debates concerning the uses of history by the State, particularly in post-war Europe.
As a central aspect of our understanding of historical work and practice as political, we engage with history at a number of levels. In addition to the production of scholarly monographs, articles and papers, researchers associated with the Centre collaborate with community history groups, theatre groups, schools, museums and archives in the production of what might be termed ‘public histories’. This, we believe, is both a means of making history and the processes of historical production accessible to the widest number of people, and of engaging communities in their own history.
Researchers associated with the Centre currently have particular interests and expertise across a wide spectrum of social, cultural and political history, including: histories of warfare, conflict and political violence and their aftermaths in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; design history and material culture; histories of medicine, religion, sport, leisure and popular culture; transnational histories, particularly those concerning the Balkans and South-eastern Europe, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade; histories of class, politics and social movements; and the inter-relations of history with memory, commemoration and cultural landscape.