Doing history in urgent times: forum introduction

09 July 2020

As we enter the 2020s, our times are daily getting more urgent. The climate and ecological emergency, catastrophic Australian bushfires, and now the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic meltdown have launched us into a new era of seemingly incessant crisis. Through it all, history remains omnipresent. In press conferences and Zoom meetings, in newspapers and Twitter feeds, history is invoked to bring sense and meaning to our disorienting present. As public commentary mythologises the past in order to manage a destabilised and unknown future, what should the response of professional historians be? What are our responsibilities in the face of cataclysmic change? In this forum on ‘History in Urgent Times’, we present three attempts to grapple with what it means to be a historian in this alarming historical moment, and ask how historians ought to respond.