A new history

You’ve probably got questions.

what’s era?

ERA is an online history magazine – but it’s different to whatever likely comes to mind when you read the words ‘history magazine’.  

who are you?

We’re ERA’s editorial team: Francesca Newton, Rosie Slater and Shannon McDonagh. The three of us met while training as journalists, found we shared a frustration about the ahistorical way political and social problems are looked at in the news media, and decided to set this up. We’re working on this part-time, alongside (or while looking for) other jobs.

We’re not professional historians. Each of us has an average knowledge of history, which we hope means ERA will stay accessible for readers from all kinds of work and educational backgrounds. Elitist history is exactly what we’re trying to undo. 

what’s this for?

In the short term, we want to provide a space for individuals, activists and campaign groups to write about the history that interests and inspires them, and to engage new and broader audiences in history by highlighting the aspects of the past that helped to shape the present.

In the long term, we’d like to host events at which people can learn more about the kind of stories we publish. We also want to produce audio and visual material to widen our outreach, and if we can fund it, a printed magazine.

The focus of all this is on supporting the push for changes to the history curriculum and public historical practice – broadly, on how people think about ‘history’, what it does, and what it’s for. ERA’s message is radical history for all. 

what do you mean by radical history?

History in the UK is taught as the selected victories of an elite few. In school, we learn that Henry VIII had six wives, that Churchill beat Hitler and that Caesar was stabbed. 

But history is also the experiences of our parents and grandparents. It’s the development of the neighbourhoods we grew up in and the way they change over time. It’s the relationships between our community and those of others, and the bases on which we identify ourselves. We make it happen, and it happens to us.

That’s one aspect. There are also important histories that aren’t part of our personal worlds – but maybe should be. There are the stories of the people who challenged the status quo and made the powerful uncomfortable, and the movements that inspire the people making the powerful uncomfortable today. They often – and conveniently – get forgotten. 

These are two examples of what might be considered radical history – a radical, grassroots imagining of historical practice, and the history of radicalism – but we use the term broadly. As we wrote in our Contributor Guidelines, if you think it’s radical history, it probably is.

what will you publish?

The stories we’ll be publishing are wide-ranging. They span from the ancient world to this year, and from Australia to India to Ireland. They’re about individuals, beliefs, wars, propaganda, medicine, music, art, economics, communities and cartoons. 

We’ve split the pieces into three broad sections. People will feature stories of individuals and their impact on the world around them. Movements will feature stories of political and social shifts and their outcomes. Culture will feature stories of the way those shifts manifest in the popular imagination, and in writing, film, art, music and TV. But all the sections link into each other, and any piece in one could also probably fit into another.

At the end of each piece will be three resources – books, podcasts, documentaries, articles – recommended by the writer that you can use to find out more about a topic or time period, if you want to.

We’re also keen to publish oral histories from people who lived through events and changes, and pieces from contemporary activist groups and charities about their organisations and the histories that they fit into. At time of writing, we have pieces in the works from groups including Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Rhodes Must Fall, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Fill in the Blanks. 

can i help?

We’re always open to contributions, so if an idea has sprung up while you’ve been reading this, have a look at our guidelines

Similarly, if you’re a videographer, sound recordist, illustrator or graphic designer, or if you have any other skills that you think could be used to make something that falls into the broad category of radical history, get in touch. If things go well we’ll hopefully be looking to expand the editorial team in the future, too.

As we say on our contributors page – and as it’s important to be upfront about – we’re not able to pay yet. We know that that’s a problem that shuts out many of those with the stories that most need telling, and we’re working on it. The reason we started publishing before raising funds is that we wanted to give readers a sense of what ERA is before we ask them for donations – and keeping everything free to read is a key part of what we’re trying to do.

when will you start fundraising and paying?

Depending on how things go, we want to launch a platform to which people can donate in the next couple of weeks. Money raised will be going first and foremost to future contributors for their work, so we’ll start paying as soon as we’ve raised enough for it to be sustainable. Watch this space.

how can i campaign on History education?

As a platform, we plan on doing all we can to support the movement for better and broader history education – but we’re not a campaign group. If you’re interested in getting involved in a campaign, Fill in the Blanks and the Black Curriculum are two of the organisations leading the way. Consider donating to one or both of them if you can.

anything else?

We want to say a big thank you to all those who have helped us get to this stage – particularly to the almost 100 people who pitched and wrote for us after our first call-out. We’re also grateful to you for reading to this point, and we hope you’ll continue to do so.

If you have any questions or thoughts, email us at editor@era-magazine.com.

Follow ERA on Twitter and Instagram.