On 14 July 2021 over 160 participants joined the IHR online at its annual Historical Research Lecture: The Accountability of Historians, by Ludmilla Jordanova (Durham University).
The annual Historical Research Lecture—which explores questions of historical practice and approach—is sponsored by the journal’s publisher, Oxford University Press.
Accountability’ may be a useful notion for historians, one that invites us to probe the relationships it implies - to whom are we accountable, for example? In day to day historical life we engage with accountability in one form or another, from the niceties of footnotes to complex negotiations with living informants and contemporary sensibilities. As ‘history’ with all its ambiguities is being invoked, with considerable urgency, in public life at the moment, it is timely to consider where professional historians stand on matters, such as ‘contested heritage’, that provoke passionate, polarised reactions. The lecture explores these challenges, considering, for instance, the languages available for reflection on ethics, responsibility and conscience, the contributions of other disciplines, and the extent to which ‘accountability’ is a generative concept.
Ludmilla Jordanova is Emeritus Professor of History and Visual Culture at Durham University. Her training was in the history and philosophy of science and art history and theory. Relevant publications include History in Practice (2000, 2006 and 2019), The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice (2012) and the co-edited volume Writing Visual Histories (2020). She will be drawing on her experience of working with museums, galleries and collections, including as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in London (2001-9) and the Science Museum Group (2011-2021).