History Slam Episode 116: History’s Future

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By Sean Graham

For the past three days, historians from across the country have been gathered in Regina for the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association. In the past, we have done recap episodes following Congress to highlight some of the trends that are shaping the profession. In essence, Congress has served as a spring cleaning of sorts, where we can get a fresh sense of history and its future.

While the podcast was unable to travel to Regina this year, I wanted to highlight some new trends in historical scholarship. Fortunately, Professor John Bonnett of Brock University was recently the keynote speaker at the University of Ottawa’s public history open house. In discussing the ‘animal turn’ in history, Professor Bonnett highlighted some of the opportunities presented to historians not only by this new approach, but also by digitization, big data, and VR.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Professor Bonnett about history’s future. We talk about the animal turn, ascribing sentience to all living things, and the challenges this presents to the humanities. We also talk about how this challenges traditional historical methods, how historians can incorporate this into their work, and how students respond to these changing approaches. We finish the show by talking about big data and VR’s influence on history, how this will change the historical profession, and the difference between micro and macro histories. As an added bonus, we also answer the age-old question of why Harold Innis is so hard to read.

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