Professor Andrew Thompson

Research council selects Exeter academic to lead the way

University of Exeter historian Professor Andrew Thompson has been selected as one of the new Leadership Fellows for the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Professor Thompson will lead the strategic theme ‘Care for the Future: Thinking Forward Through the Past’.

Over the next three years, Professor Thompson will provide intellectual and strategic leadership for the theme which is a focus for up-and-coming areas of interest in the arts and humanities. He will work closely with award holders, senior AHRC staff, and a range of partner organizations to promote engagement with and communicate the findings of research funded under the theme.

Professor Andrew Thompson commented: “The past is all around us. The future’s uncertainties weigh heavily on the present and are turning us back to history for insights into the age in which we live. Environmental change, pressures on welfare, technological advances, humanitarian interventions, and the causes and effects of globalisation are all being subject to historical scrutiny in myriad ways.”

Professor Thompson added:“The challenge of Thinking Forward Through the Past could not be more timely. It opens up fascinating issues of intergenerational communication, and of who and what purposes histories are written for.  It also looks at how the past is set out for different needs, and whose voices are heard and silenced in the process. Greater interaction under the theme between disciplines across the arts and humanities will enable us to think through complex questions, including the consciousness of time; and whether history can furnish us with moral obligations.”

The ‘Thinking Forward Through the Past’ theme will also consider cultural memory and historical legacy – how we understand knowledge of the past to have been translated into the present.  Research will uncover the range of emotions arising from historical change, from amnesia to nostalgia to mourning and celebration. Realising the potential of this theme will also include exploring the resentment over historical injustices, and calls for apologies for past wrongs which are prominent in the public domain.

Professor Mark Llewellyn, Director of the Research at the AHRC, said:“The appointment of Theme Leadership Fellows and the current call for the large theme grants make clear our investment in approaches that help cut across disciplinary remits in order to answer some of the big questions of our time.”

University of Exeter’s Associate Dean of Research and Knowledge Transfer Professor Andrew Thorpe said:“This is great news for the AHRC and for the academic and wider communities that it serves. Professor Thompson is, by any standards, a leading scholar, and he will bring to his task formidable powers of intellect, organisation and motivation. It is also good news for Exeter, and shows once again the faith of the Research Council in our arts and humanities community.”

Date: 4 December 2012