With Black History month in full swing. Events and talks are taking place all over Sheffield, celebrating the often-neglected history of people of colour throughout the world.
We interviewed Professor Siobhan Lambert-Hurley ahead of her talk about her new book ‘Three Centuries of Travel Writing by Muslim Women’, taking place at the Creative Centre on the 17th.
After doing her BA in Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and completing her PHD at the University of London, Professor Siobhan Lambert-Hurley joined the department of History at Sheffield University in 2015.
As a scholar of history can you explain why you think that black history month is so important in the UK?
“I think these events are important for raising the profile of this kind of history.
“It’s a side effect of the changes to the school curriculum that many of these topics don’t feature on what students necessarily learn.
“And therefore, I think it gives the facility to raise the profile of these things, both for students and for society more generally.
“My own research is really focused on things looking at South Asian communities in Britain.
“Raising the profile of that kind of history is so important because it really gives people of those backgrounds a sense that their history is British history.”
What inspired you to study Oriental and African history in the first place?
“Since I was very young, since I was nine, I had a pen friend in India so it’s quite a personal story.
“I had written to her for many years and just as I was starting university, my parents had the opportunity to actually go visit her, and that kind of inspired me.
“I thought I’d do some courses in Indian history and culture and I just loved it basically, that was kind of the inspiration to go in this direction.
What inspired you to write about this particular history of Muslim women? Why was it important to tell their story?
“I think we have lots of stereotypes about Muslim women in our society and particularly in our current political moment.
“Often prevalent is this idea of Muslim women as kind of silent and secluded and not having opportunities for mobility.
“And so I guess I felt that problem was a really useful vehicle for kind of challenging many of those kinds of stereotypes, and really, kind of opening up this different vision of Muslim women, as these amazing travellers and over a really long period of time as well.”
With the amount of bias that exists in our society, do you think our educational establishments are doing enough to educate on black history?
“That’s a big question.
“I think there are really impressive efforts from individuals and also from departments at the university level, to really rectify the kind of silences maybe that we still have around many of these subjects.
“Now, for instance, we have a really exciting third year module called decolonizing history, which is really thinking consciously about this process of how we bring these stories.
“I think that at the school level, there’s a lot of constraints in terms of a national curriculum in particular, and I think as long as these kind of histories aren’t valued in our national curriculum, that it’s going to be really, really hard to create change in society.
“I have offered to do sessions for schools around these kinds of histories and topics.
“And the message I often get is ‘we just don’t have time, we’ve got so much stuff to cover already.’
You can buy tickets for Professor Siobhan Lambert-Hurley’s talk at: