The Smell of Human Flesh

The Smell of Human Flesh

A dynamic exploration of consultancy and history – our new Practical Seminar


3 October 2018

Key people

A dynamic exploration of consultancy and history – our new Practical Seminar

The Guardian columnist, Ian Jack, in the article (3 March 2018) Who do I blame? Eight reasons we ended up in this Brexit mess provides eight possible roots that can explain where the historical process that has led to Brexit, started. Ian discusses “broad and narrow” reasons: from deindustrialisation in the 1980s to the Dam Busters in 1940s, from the playing fields of Eton to the Scottish referendum. The article is implying that current social and political dilemma have their roots in the past, and they are also the result of interrelated long term evolving processes and events whose impact is still visible and felt after their times.

The French historian Marc Bloch (co-founder with Lucien Febvre of the “Annales d’Histoire Economique et Sociale”) is credited with being the “father” of the history of the long duration (longue durée) where the focus of enquiry is on historical trends and evolving historical structures. In his The Historian’s Craft (1992:28) he wrote that “‘the good historian resembles the ogre of legend. Wherever he senses human flesh, he knows that there lies his prey”. The job of the historian, according to this tradition and approach, is not the cold collection of facts and events rather the learning and the understanding of the relationships among a variety of processes (political, economic, social, cultural etc.), what he called ‘total history’.

In certain organisational consultancy and change management interventions historical processes are only meaningful if ‘we take account only of what is contemporary’; that is, existing at the same time or during the same time-period, while we accept the ‘necessity of excluding events which roughly speaking belong to past and future time’[1] (Lewin, 1997:34-35). However as Jean Neumann expressed when presenting this Lewinian rule, there is resonance between the rule and the consultancy intervention based also on system psychodynamics. These approaches for intervening are: “(1) bringing the transference from the past to awareness in the present; (2) testing the degree to which the past is ‘alive in the present’; and (3) experimenting in the present by intentionally acting differently from the past.”

This fourth ‘shamelessly’ practical seminar on 17 January 2019 will be an exposition and exploration of what it means to practically work with the impact and the dynamics of history when consulting with organisations or designing a change project. The seminar will consider the whole field four-dimensionally, through both space and time, in your work with organisational change and development.

Led by Juliet Scott: Principal Consultant, TIHR Artist-in-Residence, Archive & 70th Anniversary Festival Director and Antonio Sama: TIHR Professional Partner and Senior Lecturer, Consultant & Historian of Ideas, Canterbury Christ Church University Business School; both will draw on their experience of opening up the Tavistock Institute’s archive with the Wellcome Library and how this work has informed the development and customisation of their own practice as organisational consultants.

Applications are now being invited for this seminar on Thursday, 17 January 2019.  You can apply here.

1 seminar = £300 + VAT

2 seminars booked at the same time = £260 + VAT each.

If you have any questions, please contact Rachel Kelly: r.kelly@tavinstitute.org


[1] Lewin, K. (1997). Field theory and learning. In Cartwright, D (Ed.), Field theory in social science & selected theoretical papers (pp. 212-230). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. (Original work published 1942).

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