The topic for the tenth SRS Biennial Conference is ‘Difficult Pasts’. Since its inception as a period of historical enquiry, the Renaissance has been packaged as the rebirth of European civilisation following the long period of decline after the fall of the Roman Empire. While this narrative mischaracterises both the Renaissance and the rich tapestry that was medieval Europe, and has been largely discredited, the assumptions underpinning this founding myth of Western civilisation have shaped and continue to shape the development of Renaissance and early modern studies. For some time now, our disciplines have been reassessing and grappling with the implications of their frames of reference. Current debates over de-centring and decolonising research and teaching testify to the challenges of recovering controversial pasts and departing from a reading of history and culture in terms of a narrative of continued progress. By engaging with the complexity of a shared global past, scholars, heritage professionals, and community activists can attract negative publicity and resistance from those unwilling to explore how difficult pasts impact our present and future. This interdisciplinary conference offers a broad platform for evaluating and developing the trajectory of Renaissance and early modern Studies.
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