Gordon Lynch on the uses of historical research in child abuse inquiries

Gordon Lynch, Professor of Modern Theology in the Department of Religious Studies has, along with four other international authors, published a paper with the History and Policy Network on how historical research can inform the work of child abuse inquiries.

The paper argues that, alongside evidence from survivors and representatives of organisations, archival research can play a crucial role in helping to understand the context in which abuse took place as well as specific organisational failures in protecting children’s welfare. It goes on to examine what it might mean to think about abuse inquiries as a form of public history whose contribution to shaping public understanding about the past often continues long after their final reports and recommendations are published.

The authors all had different experiences of working with national child abuse inquiries – including acting as a former inquiry chair, a member of inquiry staff and as expert witnesses and commissioned researchers. The paper also drew on insights emerging from a workshop run in conjunction with History and Policy in September 2019, involving academic researchers and others with direct experience of inquiry work, funded by an AHRC Fellowship held by Gordon Lynch.

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