I will now be blogging from emilyarobinson.wordpress.com. It would be great to see you there!

So, it’s been a while. A new comment recently prompted me to re-read this blog, which I hadn’t looked at for two and a half years. While there weren’t many posts, it struck me that so many of the ideas and questions I explored here have since developed into other projects and formats. I found it an incredibly useful way of developing fledgling ideas and getting early feedback. As I’m now in the early stages of a new project, I will be taking up blogging again (see below). But first, here’s a brief catch-up on the after-life of ‘the historical shiver’:

First, I started to write an article about the emotional and affective experience of working with archives. This was published nearly a year ago in Rethinking History. It’s free to download at the moment as part of Routledge’s celebrations for Arts and Humanities Month, so do have a look!

Second, a book. This is based on my PhD research, which mainly focused on political parties and their relationship to the past, but reading back over this blog I see that a lot of the ideas I explored here have made it in there too – progressive nostalgia, the way the past is privileged in contemporary society, the heritage industry, the aesthetics of ‘pastness’. The book is called History, Heritage and Tradition in Contemporary British Politics: Past Politics and Present Histories and will be published in January 2012, but is available to pre-order now on Amazon. It’s rather pricey (even with the £3.25 discount!), but do please mention it to your libraries!

I am now working on a new project, looking at political and cultural ideas about progress in the long twentieth century (1888-2010) and also about the ways that people, and especially politicians, have talked about being ‘progressive’. It’s a very malleable word, with lots of contradictory meanings: moderate and radical; left-wing and centrist; pluralist and partisan. I’m trying to unpick the specific political associations it has from the more general statements it makes about progressing through time – but even these are complex and contradictory: does it mean moderate, gradual change or a radical rupture with the past?

I first started thinking about this in relation to the 2010 General Election when (I think for the first time), all three of the main parties were describing themselves as ‘progressive’, but with rather different assumptions about what that meant. David Cameron also described the Coalition as a ‘progressive partnership’, seemingly in a direct challenge to those who think that this is a term associated broadly with the values of the left and specifically with co-operation between Liberals and socialists dating back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

I’m now tracing these shifting meanings and uses back to the late nineteenth century, to put it all in a longer perspective and to find out where the boundaries are. Can anything be described as ‘progressive’? Are there particular core meanings which must be there? And, perhaps most importantly, how have the public understood the term? Does it have the same associations for them as for the politicians?

I’m currently trying to decide whether to start a new blog for this project (and if so what to call it – all suggestions welcome!), or whether to continue discussing it on here. Expect an update soon!

In the meantime, please download my article and pre-order my book!