Academic to reflect on how the present changes shape of history 

CDU academic Professor Giselle Byrnes will give a professorial lecture on July 26.

Charles Darwin University academic Professor Giselle Byrnes will examine how the present can influence the past when she delivers a free public lecture in Darwin on 26 July.

Professor Byrnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Law, Education, Business and the Arts, will argue that the understanding of history changes depending based on how it is re-read in the light of the present. This will be the second in a series of three Professorial Lectures that CDU is presenting this year.

“History is a constant conversation with the past, where stories of the past change in order to reflect prevailing values, attitudes and interpretations,” she said.

“When we think of history we ought not to visualise a place or a distant past, but an approach and a perspective.”

Professor Byrnes said history and historians had the ability to weave stories that obscured as much as they claimed to reveal.

“Not only is history written by the rich, the powerful and the victorious, but it is seen through their eyes and interpreted accordingly. Such interpretations tend to subsume the voices of ordinary people who did not have access to telling, recording and writing history.

“These silences and missing pieces of ‘big history’ have been a preoccupation of my generation of historians and have been fundamental in shifting the centre of gravity of historical enquiry from those in power, to one concerned with those affected by that power.”

Professor Byrnes, a former national president of the New Zealand Historical Association, has published extensively on aspects of settler colonialism and cross-cultural history, and is currently writing a history of apology in the former British world.

She will present “The myths we live by: reframing history for the 21st Century” in the Nitmiluk Lounge, Level 4, Parliament House, on 26 July from 5.30pm - 7pm. This free lecture will be open to a limited public audience. Members of the public who wish to attend must RSVP by 23 July either by email or phone 08 8946 6554.