The Newcastle University Humanities Research Institute (NUHRI) was launched last Thursday to promote interdisciplinary research projects and act as an advocate for humanities research in general.
To launch the institute a debate was held at Newcastle Civic Centre on the theme of ‘The Challenge of Change’ featuring a number of guest speakers related to the field of humanities:
Philippa Gregory, historical novelist who wrote The Other Boleyn Girl, Emma Tucker, deputy editor of The Times newspaper, Harvard historian David Armitage, and poet Lemn Sissay.
The debate was focused on the ever-changing nature of our world as well as on how societies can influence our views on it.
Poet Lemn Sissay pointed out that poets and writers have always catalogued change in society, especially from minority perspectives, which Philippa Gregory agreed with.
Gregory explained how researching women in medieval and Tudor England has influenced her characters and what it can tell us about feminism today.
David Armitage had a particular influence in the debate as his latest book The History Manifesto, published last year, encouraged historians, archaeologists and classicists to influence politicians, which ties into one of the goals of the NUHRI.
Emma Tucker argued that the business model for newspapers and publishers of news has radically changed because of the technological change in the recent decade.
Tucker was optimistic about the role of journalists.
The Times deputy editor argued that power will always need to be challenged and journalists will continue to campaign for the public good.
She used the example of war journalists in the Crimean War in the 1850’s who played a significant role in improving the conditions in soldiers’ hospitals.
The debate was open to some questions from the public, who asked whether and how we can make changes in our own lives who will benefit poorer people in different countries.
One particularly inquisitive question targeted David Armitage asking ‘what change has been as large historically as we are seeing now?’.
Armitage replied by referring to the first Portuguese and Spanish sailors who sailed to the Pacific and the Americas in the 16th century and put the start of the globalisation process, whilst emphasising that all changes seem to have a deep-rooted history.