Everyone involved in TAHR is dedicated to a simple principle: that the past is relevant to the present. We hail from a wide variety of personal, political, intellectual, and disciplinary backgrounds both in and out of academia. The issues of today were formed historically, and the only appropriate solutions to those issues are ones informed by a comprehensive understanding of how they came to be. Each of us lives in towns and cities founded and built by our ancestors, forms ideas based on those of our predecessors, and demands social change based on their struggles. The Review is intended to allow us and others like us the opportunity to use our knowledge of the past to help inform our decisions in the present. Our struggle is not optional. Failing to understand the forces that shape our world is a luxury of the powerful.
This website opens on Inauguration Day, 2017, in the United States, a moment poised on the precipice of a forbidding uncertainty. As a nation, the United States cannot chart the way forward without reference to where it has already been. As a people, its citizens cannot make informed decisions without understanding a shared national past and the ways it has shaped the present. The events of the 2016 election remind us that forces often thought lost in the mists of a past best left forgotten are as present and as powerful as ever. The continued existence and success of those forces is the direct result of a pervasive and systemic refusal to come to terms with that past and its connections to this present.
The United States exists within a diverse global community. A significant portion of the content published by The Activist History Review may deal specifically with the US in domestic terms depending on the relative expertise of contributors. But, that nation is, in the conceptualization of this website, one among many, and its needs and interests do not outweigh those of the larger world that surrounds it. So, content that specifically addresses US issues on this website will, as much as possible, be balanced by material that explores the issues of other nations and the international community at large. In short, we conceive of our present as equally global, national, and local, and intend for our content to reflect that.
The British novelist L.P. Hartley famously wrote that “the past is a foreign country,” a place incomprehensible to the present absent an intimate understanding of its inner workings. The same might be said of the present; that it is a “foreign country” absent an intimate understanding of the past; its inner workings are built on a foundation that stretches back into time immemorial. We hope to better understand both by breaking down the artificial barrier between them and recognizing the potential that a more deeply understood world brings. The past might be a “foreign country” to the present, and the present might be a “foreign country” without the past, but with both, we can begin the work of building a future that can be another country, and another world, altogether.
Thank you for joining us.
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Our collected volume of essays, Demand the Impossible: Essays in History As Activism, is now available on Amazon! Based on research first featured on The Activist History Review, the twelve essays in this volume examine the role of history in shaping ongoing debates over monuments, racism, clean energy, health care, poverty, and the Democratic Party. Together they show the ways that the issues of today are historical expressions of power that continue to shape the present. Also, be sure to review our book on Goodreads and join our Goodreads group to receive notifications about upcoming promotions and book discussions for Demand the Impossible!
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We here at The Activist History Review are always working to expand and develop our mission, vision, and goals for the future. These efforts sometimes necessitate a budget slightly larger than our own pockets. If you have enjoyed reading the content we host here on the site, please consider donating to our cause.