Professor of Modern History, Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study

Jo Fox

Wednesday 21 November, 13:15 – 14:00

Jo Fox is Professor of Modern History, Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London. She specialises in the history of propaganda and psychological warfare in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is the first female Director of the Institute of Historical Research. Founded in 1921, the Institute of Historical Research’s mission is to train the next generation of historians, to produce and facilitate ambitious and innovative historical research, and to foster public understanding of history and its social, cultural and economic benefits.

Presentation: ‘Fake News’ into the 21st Century

What is ‘fake news’?  Undoubtedly, the phenomenon has become one of the defining characteristics of our recent past – in 2016, Oxford Dictionaries declared ‘post-truth’ to be its ‘word of the year’ – but what might its historical significance be 100 years from now? If, as Matthew Norman, writing in the Independent in November 2016, suggests, we are now ‘free to choose our own truth’, released from the ‘tyranny’ of expertise and objective reality’, what becomes of a discipline, such as history, underpinned by evidence and ‘fact’? Are there creative ways that historians might use ‘fake news’ as evidence of popular mentalities, allowing for a deeper understanding of human behaviours in a complex world? And, if ‘fake news’ is critical historical evidence, how should it be preserved and curated?