Writing the history of contemporary events is a perilous enterprise. For those living through a rapidly-changing historical sequence, like the current Universities strike, events themselves can recede into a blur. What is happening in our Universities has been astonishing and moving, exhausting and energising; it risks leaving many bewildered at the sheer pace of changes. It may yet be helpful, as this first phase of industrial action approaches a close, to try to draw recent events together into some kind of shape – and here the skills of the historian as well as those of the political commentator may properly be employed.
This is, however, not a history but a narrative; it cannot hope to be comprehensive, but is necessarily written from a particular vantage-point. It remains provisional, for not only does the future of the dispute remain to be decided, but certain crucial facts about its past are being brought to light only by the progress of the dispute itself. In line with this provisionality, I welcome any comments, criticisms, and elucidations from readers. My great debts to the many UCU members and concerned citizens who have been producing information and analysis around the dispute should be clear.
[Image: Nelly Ali Photography]