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REPORT ON THE II INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS
HISTORY UNDER DEBATE
Santiago de Compostela (Spain), July 14-18, 1999



Is the History still a science? How should we do global History? Men and women, do they have a common History or a split one? Which will the relation history-narration-fiction be in the future? What kind of History will we be teaching in the next century? Is the division in chronological periods out of date? What kind of commitment should the historian have, and what should be his relationship with the power in the XXI century? These and other questions of the kind were presented and discussed by more than 600 historians attending the II International Congress History under Debate held in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, on July 14-18,1999. More than thirty-five countries from five different continents were represented in Santiago, so confirming that in these days of fragmentation, the periphery may and also must get involved in the search for new ways of consensus and new paradigms. Five plenary conferences, eighteen round tables, more than one hundred and twenty papers divided in seventeen sections, speak clearly about the importance of this reunion of international nature whose main aim is to present, discuss and analyse one of the branches of History with less academic tradition and where discussion is not so developed: epistemological questions, matters of theory of History, methodological issues, or historiographical balances, which are topics that Carlos Barros, organizer of History under Debate, proposes.

The organization of the congress was divided into three different parts. The symposium started with a plenary lecture, each day, given by a well-known historian: E. Florescano, G.G. Iggers, J. Revel, C. Barros, H.J. Kaye. Professor Florescano talked about the relationship between history, myths and nationalism; the relationship between history and narrative, one of the constants all through the congress, was discussed in consecutive days, and from different and clashing points of view by the professors Iggers, Revel and Barros. Whereas Iggers criticised the theories by Hayden White about the scientism of history, Jacques Revel talked from a opposing perspective: we should not talk about the return of the narrative because history is always narration, and it cannot stop being narration without losing its identity; Carlos Barros, within a more extensive paper, in which he tried to find out the way of making history in the future, also expressed his opinion about this scientism of history, pointing out the necessity of liking the scientific proof and the appealing narration to reach this way a wide range of people, which is the commitment of the historian towards the society; in the last plenary session, Kaye went back to the topic concerning this commitment of the historian through the analysis of the contributions from the British Marxist Historiography; such commitment was reached without forgetting the scientific rigour. Once the plenary sessions had finished, there were three halls where different workshops of fifteen minutes each took place, followed by their corresponding debates; and there were round tables, followed by debates as well -debates are fundamental for History under Debate. These are some of the titles of the thematic sessions: "Balance of the historiography of the XX century", "Crisis of the history and change of paradigms", "Post-colonialism historiographies", "The history in the XXI century: new perspectives", "Historiography, definition and history of science"pretty much the same happened in the round tables: "Interdisciplinarity under debate", "The historian, ethics and social commitment", "Sexuality, history and politics", "Theory and history: a difficult relation". It was mainly in these working sessions where the answers to the questions stated at the beginning of this review, and to many others, which came up all through the different speeches, were founded. These answers were not only from the speakers or participants but also from those present as public in the halls who participated animously in the debates in a very friendly way but voiced their disagreement with many of the topics. The debate is, with no doubt of vital importance, because thanks to it we can establish the existent problems, analyse them in depth, and so reach signs of possible solutions. Only with a consensus reached after profound debates, it is possible to find the new paradigms which guide our discipline in the future.

The contents of the Congress can be divided as well in three parts: First, we had epistemological, theoretical and methodological problems (e.g. XXI c. History: new approaches; History crisis, changes of paradigm; Postmodernism, History and new Enlightenment; History and discourse, narration and fiction); secondly, we had the matter of the social commitment of the historian ("Chiapas and the History", "The Historian and the Power", "Pasts and Presents, Pasts and Futures", "How to do Global History?", "Myths, Historiography and Nationalism"); and finally there was a section dealing with the institutional question of History ("University, access to teaching profession and teaching university course", "The debate on Humanities: balance and perspectives", "History, employment and generation reshuffle").

The question of social commitment for the historian or the relationship between the historian and society, together with the already mentioned relationship between history, narrative and fiction, that is to say, the scientism of history, were the constant concern all through the congress, from the plenary sessions to the papers themselves, and of course, in the debates.

All this work does not take just a few days. This II Congress HaD belongs to a more extensive historical project which has already started with the I Congress HaD, whose acts were publish in six volumes, and still continues permanently on internet, where there is a list of debate and a web page (www.h-debate.com) which can be used as a vehicle of transmission of ideas in order to establish the common paradigms of the historians for a near future. This way, when we get to the third edition of HaD we will have done part of our job. This third edition will take place in Santiago in the year 2004.

Pablo Chaves Montenegro
Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
e-mail: pchaves@cesga.es