"My interest in creating Parallel Histories stems from my experience as a high school history teacher over the last 16 years. It’s always struck me that students really gain from exploring the past through different perspectives; it helps them understand why people did the things they did.
I’ve also been struck by how slow the educational world has been to wake up to the opportunities digital technology offers - they are numerous, and enormously exciting. It’s my hope that Parallel Histories, which allows each student to control the pace and depth of their lesson, will play a role in encouraging the education sector to embrace its digital future.
Before becoming a teacher I ran the US arm of a management consulting business and prior to that I’ve worked in sales and marketing for big businesses with global brands.
I spent formative years as a child in Northern Ireland as the Troubles began. I have a very clear memory of my father taking me aged nine to see the aftermath of the previous night’s rioting on Bombay Street in Belfast. The sight of a Catholic family carrying their furniture out of their terraced house with its smashed windows, and loading their possessions onto a lorry to make the move out of a mixed area made a profound impression on me.
I’d seen that people can grow up in the same neighbourhood - on the same street, even - and yet be bereft of any sense of communal feeling, in spite of all the things they so clearly share. Such is the divisive power of conflicting historical narratives. They make for uncomfortable histories, but it is essential we study them."
History is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” Edward Gibbon, the 18th century historian of the Roman Empire
Clearly different historians at different times have chosen to include very different “crimes, follies and misfortunes” in that register. I became interested in learning about why people think the way they do about the past, through reading Gibbon and other past historians in my first year studying History at Oxford University.
Parallel Histories’ emphasis on teaching history through contested narratives seemed a natural extension of this early interest. Its focus on understanding the narratives of others is a useful corrective to a world already noisy with opinions.
The dual narrative approach we take can be applied to many many historical conflicts, but for me the outstanding example of history being deployed to support each side in a long running conflict is the contested history of Israel and Palestine. I was hooked early during a school visit to Israel and Palestine, and I’ve returned many times to the Middle East to learn more. I’ve lived in Cairo and Amman to improve my Arabic and I’m looking forward to learning Hebrew next. My work for Parallel Histories allows me to continue learning about the history and politics of the Middle East, through creating our videos, and in addition I get the chance to observe in workshops how students respond and learn from our new way of studying conflict.
I’m delighted to have been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship to keep developing the work of Parallel Histories.
Theo joined Parallel Histories in 2018.
He has graduated from two Masters programs, one in International Relations at the University of Lyon, the other in Geopolitics at the French Institute of Geopolitics in Paris, and completed part of his studies in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.
Theo is translating Parallel Histories for use in French schools!
Hugh has been Head of History at Lancaster Royal Grammar School for 18 years and leads the implementation of the Parallel Histories program in schools.
He also serves as Chair of Parallel Histories Trustees.
Our talented student research team on why they joined the Parallel Histories project, and what studying conflicting narratives has taught them so far:
Professor Colette Mazzucelli
Professor Colette Mazzucelli, MALD, EdM, PhD teaches courses in conflict resolution, radicalization & religion, international relations in the post-Cold War era and ethnic conflict, and is a recipient of the NYU SPS Excellence in Teaching Award 2013.
A Fulbright Scholar to France (1991) and Germany (2007), Professor Mazzucelli is the author and/or editor of 5 books on European integration and transatlantic security as well as a contributor to numerous peer-reviewed journals. Her courses have been profiled by the Council on Foreign Relations in Foreign Affairs as well as the CFR Educators Bulletin. As the recipient of 11 fellowships in 7 countries, Dr. Mazzucelli's biography appears in Marquis Who’s Who in the World 2016.
She is currently researching the issues that define the state of the field in data collection, including prominent uses of satellite imagery analysis, forensic investigation techniques, and mobile telephony applications, to document human rights abuses in remote areas.
In 2016, she was named an Ambassador of Peace in recognition of her service as an educator with over 20 years’ experience in technology-mediated learning.