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Examining Historical Narratives

Last week's Showcase of 2023 HSC Extension History major projects treated family and friends to a presentation spanning a wide range of historical periods and themes.

The students offered fresh and insightful perspectives on historical narratives, the role of popular culture, and the impact of socio-political factors on historical interpretation.


Jennifer’s essay examined the difficulty in separating fact from fiction in relation to the Golden Age of Piracy. She challenged the prevailing understanding of this period, which she says has been largely shaped by literature, movies, plays, music, and television. Jennifer concluded that the influence of popular culture and the subjectivity of historical interpretations present a significant challenge for historians.

Sophie’s work, Rethinking Historical Celebrations: To what extent do the growing debates about Thanksgiving reflect the trend towards historical revisionism, reconciliation and “truth-telling”?, provided a critical examination of the historical interpretation and celebration of Thanksgiving. She highlighted the role of revisionist historians, the media, and Native American activism in challenging traditional narratives and promoting a more accurate history. Despite this, she acknowledged modern American culture’s enduring attraction to a “comfortable” celebration of Thanksgiving, without focusing on historical controversy.

Lauren focused on the colonial past of the Netherlands and its impact on present-day society. She scrutinised public displays of colonialism, such as the Zwarte Piet tradition and colonial monuments, and found that these often overlook the negative aspects of Dutch colonialism, suggesting a flawed understanding and reconciliation with the past.

Kalara examined the Japanese education system through the lens of the question: To what extent do governments assume a responsibility to refute historical denialism in order to achieve socio-political unity? She determined that Japan’s attempts to reconcile with its controversial past have been unsuccessful despite international pressure and academic scrutiny. She attributed this “falling short” to the country’s desire to enhance its political interests and conservative values.

Georgie’s major work focused on the re-evaluation of the teaching of slavery in the United States education system. She found that despite the efforts of individual educators, particularly in liberal states, American nationalism and the lack of a centralised national education system, have hindered large-scale reform.

Ruby’s project explored how Iranian regimes have utilised Persian history to influence public opinion and shape national identity. She concluded that while there are multiple factors contributing to the construction of Iranian identity, the utilisation of Persian historical narratives by regimes has played a significant role in shaping Iranian governmental, religious, and national identity.

Finally, Amelie’s work delved into the contentious topic of memorialisation, such as statues and monuments, particularly in relation to Australia's Aboriginal history. She scrutinised the shift in historiography to include and commemorate the stories of Aboriginal resistance figures and the long history of frontier conflict. Her conclusion was that memorialisation can bring important recognition but risks resigning Indigenous Australians to history rather than reflecting their ongoing role in the modern Australian narrative.