Conference PaperPDF Available

The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media

Authors:
188
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
The Concept of Historical Consciousness
as an Interpretive Frame for Historical
Media
1
Introduction
This paper presents an outline for how the concept of historical
consciousness can be understood regarding (i) its definition, application, and
qualitiative character, (ii) its relation to other history didactical concepts (i.e.
‘historical culture’ and ‘historical use’), (iii) its development, (iv) its
significance, and, finally, how an aggregated understanding of the concept
can be used as an interpretive frame for historical media. The paper will not
present any new ideas on how to understand or approach the concept, but
rather a selection of theoretical approaches that can be found in history
didactical research. Given the rather limited space in this paper, some of the
presentations will be shorter than others.
‘Historical Consciousness’ Its Definition, Application and
Qualitative Character
Below follows a brief presentation of one way to describe the concept of
historical consciousness. I regard the concept to be essentially a history
didactical one, and the following presentation will focus on historical
consciousness as an ability that everyone possesses and that can be improved
in an individual, and, consequently, something that individuals can have to a
higher or lesser degree. This is a controversial interpretation
2
, and this will
be discussed in more detail in the sub-section below called Qualitative
Character.’
Definition
In 1979 the German historian Karl-Ernst Jeismann presented four aspects of
definitions of historical consciousness, and his second one which states that
‘[h]istorical consciousness incorporates the connection between
interpretation of the past, understanding of the present, and perspective on
1
Paper presented at the 7th annual conference of the Swedish national network for history didactical
research, Linköping, Sweden, April 23-24 2013.
2
Cf. Ulrika Holgersson and Cecilia Persson, ‘Rätten Att Skriva Människan. Historiemedvetande Och
Berättelse Som Problematiska Begrepp: Svar till Bernard Eric Jensen’, in Historisk Tidskrift, vol. 122:4
(Historisk tidskrift Svenska historiska föreningen, 2002), 638639; and Peter Seixas, ‘Introduction’, in
Theorizing Historical Consciousness, ed. Peter Seixas (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006), 9.
189
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
the future’
3
has become the generally accepted one in Swedish history
didactics.
4
Thus, historical consciousness is an ability to create connections
between past, present, and future in an individual. Niklas Ammert has
dubbed this ability ‘multichronology.’
5
This is the most basic and general
definition of the concept that will be used in this paper.
Application
Of imperative significance for how the concept of historical consciousness is
to be understood is the manner in which it is applied. There is a variety of
applications in the research that uses the concept
6
, but the view presented in
this paper focuses on historical consciousness as an ability to create meaning
in life in general and history in particular. Hence, historical consciousness is
applied as a concept that creates and establishes meaning in an individual’s
life through multichronological connections.
7
Using this application of the
concept, a person by her use of historical consciousness manages to
understand the underlying conditions for her life and that there are
historical reasons to why the contemporary world is constituted the way it
is.
8
A person’s historical consciousness is made visible when she creates
meaning and understanding in her life
9
, and, consequently, it is through this
meaning creating practice or use of history that we encounter an individual’s
historical consciousness.
This application also lends itself to explaining how a person’s historical
consciousness is instrumental in creating meaning in history itself; our
historical consciousness enables us to see patterns in history, instead of just
an infinite number of historical events and people. That one historical event
3
Karl-Ernst Jeissman, ‘Geschichtsbewusstsein’, in Handbuch Der Geschichtsdidaktik, ed. Klaus Bergmann et
al., vol. 1 (Düsseldorf: Pädagogischer Verlag Schwann, 1979), 4042.
4
Robert Thorp, ‘The Concept of Historical Consciousness in Swedish History Didactical Research’, in
Yearbook (of the International Society for History Didactics), ed. Joanna Wojdon (Schwalbach:
Wochenschau Verlag, 2013), 6.
5
Niklas Ammert, Det Osamtidigas Samtidighet: Historiemedvetande i Svenska Historieläroböcker Under
Hundra År (Uppsala: Sisyfos, 2008), 56.
6
For some examples, see Thorp, ‘The Concept of Historical Consciousness in Swedish History Didactical
Research’, 7–12.
7
Cf. Peter Aronsson, ‘Historiekultur, Politik Och Historievetenskap i Norden’, Historisk Tidskrift 122, no. 2
(June 6, 2002): 189190; Peter Aronsson, Historiebruk: Att Använda Det Förflutna (Lund: Studentlitteratur,
2004), 67; Lars Andersson Hult, Att Finna Meningen i Ett Historieprov: En Studie Om Mer Eller Mindre
Utvecklat Historiemedvetande (Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet, 2012),
26; and Klas-Göran Karlsson, Med Folkmord i Fokus: Förintelsens Plats i Den Europeiska Historiekulturen,
Skriftserie/Forum För Levande Historia, 1653-5332; 6 (Stockholm: Forum för levande historia, 2008), 7.
8
Nanny Hartsmar, Historiemedvetande: Elevers Tidsförståelse i En Skolkontext, Studia Psychologica Et
Paedagogica. Series Altera, 0346-5926; 155 (Malmö: Institutionen för pedagogik, Lärarhögsk., 2001), 79.
9
Cf. Kerstin Berntsson, Spelar Släkten Någon Roll?: „Den Lilla Historien‟ Och Elevers Historiemedvetande
(Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet, 2012), 19; and Klas-Göran Karlsson,
‘Förintelsen Som Historiekulturellt Fenomen - En Översikt’, in Historisk Tidskrift, vol. 125:4, s. 721733
(Historisk tidskrift Svenska Historiska Föreningen, 2005), 722.
190
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
follows another one with a certain amount of necessity (real or imagined) is
possible because a person possesses a historical consciousness and applies it
to create meaning in history.
10
Qualitative Character
The final important component of historical consciousness as a history
didactical concept is its qualitative character: people can have historical
consciousnesses of a higher or lesser degree. Jörn Rüsen’s typology of
historical consciousness is a convenient way to explain the different
characteristics that a historical consciousness can have, and the hierarchy
between the different types of historical consciousness. The most basic kind
of historical consciousness is the ‘traditional’ one: history is full of repetition
and all members of society are supposed to uphold what tradtition dictates.
The next kind is the ‘exemplary’ one, and here history is still static, but also
generates normative rules about how a person should lead her life (historia
magistra vitae). The third kind is called a ‘critical’ historical consciousness
and a person that possesses a critical historical consciousness uses history as
a way of criticising contemporary society and culture. The final, and most
advanced, type of historical consciousness is the genetic’ one, and this type
lends an ability to historicise past and present societies and cultures by
explaining continuity and change through the use of history.
11
As I noted above, there has been some controversy about this way of
perceiving a historical consciousness; this has been criticised as a
Eurocentric way of perceiving individuals. The Canadian historian Peter
Seixas argues, for instance, that with this understanding of the concept of
historical consciousness, the more rational and secular a person you are, the
higher you will ‘score’ in Rüsen’s typology, and that Western societies,
generally speaking, are the ones that are the most rational and secular.
12
I
would like to argue that this criticism is deficient in two ways: firstly, it rests
on the assumption that Western societies are different in kind than non-
Western ones, and, secondly, that an ability to historicise society and culture
is incompatible with a non-secular world view.
It could instead be proposed that Western and non-Western societies
consist of individuals that have historical consciousnesses to varying
degrees: there are certainly Westerners with a traditional type of historical
10
Cf. Martin Alm, Americanitis: Amerika Som Sjukdom Eller Läkemedel: Svenska Berättelser Om USA
Åren 1900-1939, Studia Historica Lundensia, 1650-755X; 10 (Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2002), 2122;
and Åsa Linderborg, Socialdemokraterna Skriver Historia: Historieskrivning Som Ideologisk Maktresurs
1892-2000, Atlas Akademi, 99-3423719-9 (Stockholm: Atlas, 2001), 33.
11
Jörn Rüsen, ‘Historical Consciousness: Narrative, Structure, Moral Function, and Ontogenetic
Development’, in Theorizing Historical Consciousness, ed. Peter Seixas (Toronto: University of Toronto
Press, 2006), 72.
12
Seixas, ‘Introduction’, 9.
191
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
consciousness, and there are also non-Westerners that possess the genetic
type of the concept. It is a matter of who you are and how you perceive the
world, not where you happen to live. Furthermore, being able to appreciate
continuity and change in history and contemporary society (as Rüsen’s
fourth and most advanced type states) is an ability that harmonises well with
a religious way of perceiving the world: to understand that historical persons
and societies have had differing ways of perceiving the world can hardly be
challenging to a Christian or Muslim world view, for instance. It is also
possible to imagine people being secular and rational and still viewing
history as static and full of examples of how we should lead our lives. Finally,
it is not at all given that the fourth type of historical consciousness is a better
type than the first one, it is only more advanced.
Summary and Synthesis
Hence, an aggregated definition of the concept of historical consciousness
would look something like this: it is an individual ability to create meaning in
life and history through multichronological connections that everyone
possesses (consciously or not) and there are four different types of historical
consciousness that are qualitatively different in character. I would like to
stress that this understanding of the concept makes it an individual one: in
order to have a historical consciousness you have to be an individual that
constructs meaning in your life. Thus, societies cannot possess a historical
consciousness, only its human members.
‘Historical Consciousness’ Its Relation to Other History
Didactical Concepts
The aim of this section is to theoretically locate ‘historical consciousness’ in
relation to the other key history didactical concepts of ‘historical culture’ and
‘historical use.’ To achieve this aim, I will briefly define the two latter
concepts and describe their relation to the concept of historical
consciousness.
Historical Culture
If the analysis presented above limits historical consciousness to meaning-
making individuals, ‘historical culture’ becomes the concept that most
conveniently deals with how historical meaning is constructed and
maintained on a societal level. The Swedish historian Peter Aronsson writes
that historical culture is ‘the artefacts, rituals, customs, and assertions with
reference to the past that offer manifest possibilities to connect the relation
192
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
between past, present, and future.’
13
Although this quotation does not
explicitly state that ‘historical culture’ is a societal and not individual
concept, one could argue that cultural artefacts, ritual, customs and
assertions are implicitly societal in character since they are present in society
regardless of its individual members. With ‘regardless’ I mean that the
cultural components of a given society is present in that society when an
individual member is born into or otherwise enters it, but that this individual
member later on can influence the historical culture of the same society to a
certain degree. Historical culture is thus a dynamic concept that shapes
individuals’ historical consciousnesses.
14
Consequently, it can be asserted that ‘historical culture’ is the societal
historical landscape that individuals are born into. A society’s historical
culture thus a priori affects how individuals interpret historical events or
facts.
15
For instance, almost all members of Western societies regard Adolf
Hitler as a historical villain regardless of what they know about him or his
actions, and this is not necessarily the same case in other historical
cultures.
16
This view of the concept claims that no person meets history from a
neutral position; all historical knowledge is ‘pre-interpreted’ by the historical
culture that is dominant in the society in which the individual is born or
lives. This does not necessarily mean that all individuals automatically adopt
the societal historical culture, but they do have to relate to it, and a historical
culture can be seen as a pre-requisite for a historical consciousness: without
it individuals would have no means to express their views on history.
17
Furthermore, it should be noted that a historical culture is always a matter of
negotiation and that it is, as stated above, dynamic. It is also important to
underline the fact that it might be misleading to talk about ‘historical culture’
in the singular case, since most societies are historically multi-cultural,
meaning that there in a society are various and competing historical cultures
and ways of interpreting history.
18
13
Aronsson, ‘Historiekultur, Politik Och Historievetenskap i Norden’, 189.
14
For a similar approach, see Karlsson, ‘Förintelsen Som Historiekulturellt Fenomen - En Översikt’, 724.
15
Cf. David Carr, Time, Narrative, and History, Northwestern University Studies in Phenomenology &
Existential Philosophy, 0550-0060 (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1986), 5053; and Karlsson, Med
Folkmord i Fokus, 11.
16
For an example of this, see Ylva Edenhall, ‘Hitler Eftertraktat Varumärke i Indien’, SvD.se, December 13,
2012, http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/nyheter/varlden/hitler-eftertraktat-varumarke-i-indien_7752902.svd.
17
Cf. Kenneth Nordgren, Vems Är Historien?: Historia Som Medvetande, Kultur Och Handling i Det
Mångkulturella Sverige, Doktorsavhandlingar Inom Den Nationella Forskarskolan i Pedagogiskt Arbete,
1653-6894; 3 (Umeå: Fakultetsnämnden för lärarutbildning, Umeå universitet, 2006), 19, 26.
18
See Igor Potapenko, Historiemedvetande Och Identitet: Om Historiens Närvaro i Några Estniska
Ungdomars Liv (Stockholm: Institutionen för didaktik och pedagogiskt arbete, Stockholms universitet,
2010), 227229, for a more thorough discussion of this.
193
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
Historical Use
When an individual makes use of the historical knowledge she has or uses
history to achieve various things, it is generally said that she portrays
‘historical use,’ and there are a number of different historical uses and
categorisations of them.
19
Of importance to the argument presented in this
paper is what relation the concepts of historical use and historical
consciousness have to each other, and according to the view presented here
an individual expresses her historical consciousness when she uses history
for various purposes. This means that it is through an individual’s historical
use that we can access her historical consciousness.
20
In the section below
called ‘Historical Consciousness an Interpretive Frame for Historical
Media’ it will be discussed in greater detail how different historical uses can
be seen as symptoms of an individual’s historical consciousness.
‘Historical Consciousness’ – Its Development
Since historical consciousness is primarily a history didactical concept, it is
presumed that a historical consciousness is a dynamic entity that can be
developed. For this reason, it is very important from a didactical perspective
to theoretically specify how this development takes place. In what in Sweden
is generally called the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ history didactical tradition, historical
cognition has traditionally been in focus and in this tradition the concept of
‘historical thinking’ is widely used to theoretically illustrate how an
individual’s historical knowledge can be developed.
21
Some researchers have
suggested that there is a link between historical consciousness and historical
thinking
22
, and this is something this section of the paper seeks to affirm.
19
Cf. Klas-Göran Karlsson, Historia Som Vapen: Historiebruk Och Sovjetunionens Upplösning 1985-1995
(Stockholm: Natur och kultur, 1999), 5560.
20
See Bernard Eric Jensen, ‘Historiemedvetande - Begreppsanalys, Samhällsteori, Didaktik’, in
Historiedidaktik, ed. Christer Karlegärd and Klas-Göran Karlsson (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1997), 4446;
and Nordgren, Vems Är Historien?, 38, for similar approaches.
21
Cf. Per Eliasson, ‘Vilken Historia!? | Nationalencyklopedin’, September 6, 2012,
http://www.ne.se/rep/vilken-historia; and Vanja Lozic, Historieundervisningens Utmaningar:
Historiedidaktik För 2000-talet (Malmö: Gleerups, 2011), 21.
22
Cf. Maria de Laval, Det Känns Inte Längre Som Det Var Länge Sedan: En Undersökning Av
Gymnasieelevers Historiska Tänkande (Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds
universitet, 2011), 2324; and Hans Olofsson, Fatta Historia: En Explorativ Fallstudie Om
Historieundervisning Och Historiebruk i En Högstadieklass (Karlstad: Fakulteten för samhälls- och
livsvetenskaper, Historia, Karlstads universitet, 2011), 3038.
194
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
Historical Thinking
Although ‘historical thinking’ seems a complex and somewhat ambiguous
concept
23
(much like the concept of historical consciousness), there seems to
be some features that are essential: it is an ability to understand how
historical knowledge has been constructed and to know what that means,
and an ability to contextualise historical facts, events and persons.
24
The
Canadian historian Stéphane Lévesque differentiates between two different
ways of understanding history: ‘memory-history’ and ‘disciplinary history.’
Memory-history is characterised as a way of understanding history as a
matter of transmitting historical knowledge, how this historical knowledge
came to be is not of importance with this view. Disciplinary history, on the
other hand, is preoccupied with this question since it determines the value of
the historical knowledge at hand. Memory-history can be interpreted as a
kind of substantive knowledge: the facts themselves are in focus, whereas
disciplinary history is more a matter of procedural knowledge: how did the
substantive knowledge come to exist in the first place and what does that
mean?
25
To develop a historical thinking the latter view on history and
historical knowledge is essential.
To obtain a kind of historical thinking an individual has to learn to think
like a historian, i.e. to learn to apply theoretical tools to analyse how
historical knowledge is constructed. These tools are historical significance,
continuity and change, progress and decline, evidence, and historical
empathy.
26
A historian needs to be able to explain why historical events or
knowledge are significant, she has to be able account for continuity and
change and progress and decline, she has to be able to scrutinise historical
evidence, and, finally, she has to have what is called historical empathy.
Historical empathy is best described as an ability to contextualise things past
and present, and to understand what that means, in other words to
appreciate how historical societies and historical people differed from
present day societies and people.
27
A possible link to the concept of historical consciousness can be Rüsen’s
typology that was presented above. The ‘traditional’ and ‘exemplary’ types of
23
Cf. Stéphane Lévesque, Thinking Historically: Educating Students for the Twenty-first Century (Toronto:
Buffalo, 2008), 10; and Catherine Duquette, Le Rapport Entre La Pensée Historique Et La Conscience
Historique. Elaboration D‟une Modèle D‟interprétation Lors De L‟apprentissage De L‟histoire Chez Les
Élèves De Cinquième Secondaire Des Écoles Francophone Du Québec (Québec: Université de Laval, 2011),
20.
24
Cf. Lévesque, Thinking Historically, 27; and Samuel S. Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other
Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001),
110.
25
Lévesque, Thinking Historically, 79, 37.
26
Ibid., 17.
27
Wineburg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts, 2324, 110.
195
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
historical consciousness in Rüsen’s typology, correspond quite well with
what Lévesque calls memory-history: historical knowledge is static and
epistemologically unproblematic; history and historical consciousness is
about learning facts and applying them. A ‘critical’ historical consciousness
differs from a ‘traditional’ and ‘exemplary’ one, in that it uses history to
scrutinise society and culture, and this resembles a more disciplinary
approach to history, although it does not have to be procedural in kind. You
can criticise society and culture by using history without being able to apply
source criticism, for instance. A ‘genetic’ historical consciousness, however,
seems to require a kind of historical thinking that is both disciplinary and
procedural in character; Lévesque writes about historical empathy (what I
perceive to be the most important element of historical thinking) that:
[students] should not only employ standards to judge events or cases applicable to the
whole period but also avoid imposing such standards anachronistically on past actors [...]
to create „straw men‟ or make history support present-day claims of progress. This step is
more complex and challenging because it requires that students recreate the sequence of
events so as to mentally see to imagine whether the standards they employ were
recognized and valued by predecessors as well. This empathetic task demands that students
use their historical imaginations and contextualize their sources.
28
This seems to be quite close to the requirement that Rüsen presents for a
genetic historical consciousness: to be able to contextualise past and present
societies and cultures. In order to not impose our contemporary standards
on history, we need to be aware of the standards we possess ourselves. In
other words, we should have an awareness of the exoticism of history and a
critical assessment of the normalcy of contemporary society and culture. If
the individual does not possess this ability, she will only project her own
unreflected beliefs onto history, with the result that history is perceived as a
status quo, and that historical agents are ‘lesser’ beings for not
understanding what was going to happen. Hence, the individual will not be
able to contextualise, and will not gain historical empathy or a genetic
historical consciousness.
‘Historical Consciousness’ – Its Significance
In Swedish history didactical research that uses the concept of historical
consciousness, it is often asserted that the concept is an important one
because it develops an individual’s identity.
29
Furthermore, it is held that it
is through narratives that an individual’s historical consciousness develops
28
Lévesque, Thinking Historically, 109110.
29
For two examples, see Nordgren, Vems Är Historien?, 36; and Klas-Göran Karlsson, ‘Historiedidaktik:
Begrepp, Teori Och Analys’, in Historien Är Nu: En Introduktion till Historiedidaktiken, ed. Ulf Zander and
Klas-Göran Karlsson (Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2009), 52.
196
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
her identity.
30
This section will present the ‘Narrative Self-Constitution View’
on identities and their formation, a theory that might manage to explain the
links between historical consciousness, narrative, and identity, and thus
show why historical consciousness is an existentially important concept.
The Narrative Self-Constitution View
The American philosopher Marya Schechtman writes that:
[a]ccording to the narrative self-constitution view, the differences between persons and
other individuals (I use the word “individual” to refer to any sentient creature) lies in how
they organize their experiences, and hence their lives. At the core of this view is the
assertion that individuals constitute themselves as persons by coming to think of
themselves as persisting subjects who have had experience in the past and will continue to
have experience in the future, taking certain experiences as theirs.
31
Hence, it is through the narratives we create about ourselves and the world
around us that we become individuals with identities. We organise our
experiences differently, and that is what makes us individual. It is through
our ability to perceive ourselves as temporally persisting subjects that have
experiences that we gain personhood. What I did yesterday affects who I am
today, and what I do today will influence who I am tomorrow, i.e. a
multichronological understanding of the self. In order to make these
temporal connections, we need narratives about ourselves to make us feel
that our lives make sense, that what we have experienced and will experience
unfolds in a logical manner. Furthermore, our narratives functions as a type
of lens through which we filter experiences, actions and plans, and it is only
the entities that make sense and are conceptualised in our narratives that we
incorporate, the rest is filtered away.
32
From a history didactical perspective,
this could be interesting and challenging: what does not fit in to people’s
narratives, they will forget, and in order to make history affect people’s
historical consciousnesses and identities it has to address the narratives that
people have about history and themselves.
Thus, the narrative self-constitution view affords a theoretical approach
that can explain the connections between the concepts of historical
consciousness and identity, rendering historical consciousness a highly
significant concept in history didactics.
30
Cf. Berntsson, Spelar Släkten Någon Roll?, 2425; Igor Potapenko, Elevens Egen Historia Och Skolans
Historieundervisning: Historiemedvetande Och Identitet Hos Några Ungdomar Från Forna Jugoslavien,
GEM Rapport, 1652-0572; 4 (Stockholm: Lärarhögskolan i Stockholm, 2006), 38; and Rüsen, ‘Historical
Consciousness: Narrative, Structure, Moral Function, and Ontogenetic Development’, 67.
31
Marya Schechtman, The Constitution of Selves (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2007), 94.
32
Ibid., 113114.
197
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
‘Historical Consciousness’ an Interpretive Frame for
Historical media
This last section will argue for how we can understand the concept as an
interpretive frame for historical media (I use the term ‘historical media’ in
the broadest sense, meaning anything that conveys something historical).
This will be done by synthesising the previous perspectives that have been
dealt with. In the first section it was established that a historical
consciousness is an ability to create meaning through multichronological
connections all individuals possess. There are also four qualitatively different
types of historical consciousness. In the second section, it was claimed that a
historical consciousness relates to the concepts of historical culture and
historial use in the sense that a historical culture determines how history is
perceived and interpreted in any given society, and that an individual
expresses her historical consciousness through her historical use. The third
section highlighted how the concept of historical thinking can help explain
how historical knowledge is constructed, and how a historical consciousness
is developed. The fourth section, then, presented the narrative self-
constitution view in order to theoretically explain the history didactally
significant link between a historical consciousness and an individual’s
identity. This last section will then attempt to connect these perspectives.
It has been asserted that the meaning of historical media is always
determined by who experiences it, where she experiences it, and when she
experiences it, i.e. the context of the medium determines its meaning.
33
It
could therefore be claimed that there is a tension concerning the
construction of meaning in historical media: the authors or creators of the
media wish to convey one message through them, while the recipients of the
media have their interpretations and understandings of the same media. If
we return to the concepts of historical consciousness, historical culture, and
historical use, it can be claimed that the historical use of creating historial
media is determined by the contemporary society’s historical culture and the
author’s historical consciousness, but that its meaning also is contingent on
the historical culture of the recipient’s contemporary society and her
historical consciousness, and that this affects how the historical media can
be used as a bearer of historical meaning. With this line of reasoning, the
most basic concept is historical consciousness since it is the personal
interpretation of meaning that determines the meaning of the historical
media.
33
Cf. James E. Young, The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meaning (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1993), 154; Reinhart Koselleck, The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History,
Spacing Concepts, ed. Todd Samuel Presner, Cultural Memory in the Present, 99-2896218-9 (Stanford, Calif.:
Stanford University Press, 2002), 325–326; and Magnus Rodell, ‘Fallna Svenskar Och Fortifikationer i
Vildmarken: Om Det Ryska Hotet Och Medielandskapet Kring 1900’, in Berättande i Olika Medier, ed. Leif
Dahlberg and Pelle Snickars, vol. S. 79115 (Berättande i olika medier 2008, 2008), 8687.
198
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
Since we can only encounter an individual’s historical consciousness
through her historical use, it becomes difficult to claim that historical media
can possess a historical consciousness. They can portray the historical
consciousness of their authors (through the author’s historical use) and they
can influence an individual’s historical consciousness through historical
thinking; a rudimentary historical thinking will result in a traditional
historical consciousness and a fully developed historical thinking will result
in a genetic historical consciousness. Regarding historical media’s ability to
influence a person’s historical consciousness, it has been shown that
historical media portraying values (such as ‘freedom’ or ‘benevolence’) are
more successful in affecting a historical consciousness than media that only
present historial facts.
34
And, finally, if the historical media has influenced
the personal narratives of the recipients, the identities of the recipients will
have been affected by their historical consciousnesses.
Conclusion
As the argument presented in this paper hopefully has shown, historical
consciousness is a complex concept that needs quite a bit of tinkering with to
become theoretically versatile. However, if the concept is theoretically
specified it can afford many interesting perspectives on the construction of
historical meaning (both on an individual and societal level), the
development of historical knowledge and thinking, the influence of history
on the construction of personal identities, and how meaning in historical
media can be analysed from different perspectives. This is quite a lot from a
history didactical perspective.
References
Alm, Martin. Americanitis: Amerika Som Sjukdom Eller kemedel:
Svenska Berättelser Om USA Åren 1900-1939. Studia Historica
Lundensia, 1650-755X; 10. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, 2002.
Alvén, Fredrik. Historiemedvetande På Prov: En Analys Av Elevers Svar På
Uppgifter Som Prövar Strävansmålen i Kursplanen För Historia.
Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds
universitet, 2011.
34
Cf. Fredrik Alvén, Historiemedvetande På Prov: En Analys Av Elevers Svar På Uppgifter Som Prövar
Strävansmålen i Kursplanen För Historia (Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds
universitet, 2011), 9394; Arndt Clavier, „Mänsklighetens Största Problem Genom Alla Tider‟: En
Receptionsstudie Av Elevers Miljöberättelser Och Historiska Meningsskapande 1969 (Lund: Forskarskolan i
historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet, 2011), 176–177; and Niklas Ammert, ‘To Bridge Time:
Historical Consciousness in Swedish History Textbooks’, Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and
Society 2, no. 1 (May 30, 2010): 2526.
199
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
Ammert, Niklas. Det Osamtidigas Samtidighet: Historiemedvetande i
Svenska Historieläroböcker Under Hundra År. Uppsala: Sisyfos,
2008.
———. ‘To Bridge Time: Historical Consciousness in Swedish History
Textbooks’. Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society 2,
no. 1 (May 30, 2010): 1730.
Andersson Hult, Lars. Att Finna Meningen i Ett Historieprov: En Studie Om
Mer Eller Mindre Utvecklat Historiemedvetande. Lund:
Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet,
2012.
Aronsson, Peter. Historiebruk: Att Använda Det rflutna. Lund:
Studentlitteratur, 2004.
———. ‘Historiekultur, Politik Och Historievetenskap i Norden’. Historisk
Tidskrift 122, no. 2 (June 6, 2002): 189208.
Berntsson, Kerstin. Spelar Släkten Någon Roll?: „Den Lilla Historien‟ Och
Elevers Historiemedvetande. Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och
historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet, 2012.
Carr, David. Time, Narrative, and History. Northwestern University Studies
in Phenomenology & Existential Philosophy, 0550-0060.
Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1986.
Clavier, Arndt. „Mänsklighetens Största Problem Genom Alla Tider‟: En
Receptionsstudie Av Elevers Miljöberättelser Och Historiska
Meningsskapande 1969. Lund: Forskarskolan i historia och
historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet, 2011.
Duquette, Catherine. Le Rapport Entre La Pensée Historique Et La
Conscience Historique. Elaboration D‟une Modèle D‟interprétation
Lors De L‟apprentissage De L‟histoire Chez Les Élèves De
Cinquième Secondaire Des Écoles Francophone Du Québec. Québec:
Université de Laval, 2011.
Edenhall, Ylva. ‘Hitler Eftertraktat Varumärke i Indien’. SvD.se, December
13, 2012. http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/nyheter/varlden/hitler-
eftertraktat-varumarke-i-indien_7752902.svd.
Eliasson, Per. ‘Vilken Historia!? | Nationalencyklopedin’, September 6, 2012.
http://www.ne.se/rep/vilken-historia.
200
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
Hartsmar, Nanny. Historiemedvetande: Elevers Tidsförståelse i En
Skolkontext. Studia Psychologica Et Paedagogica. Series Altera,
0346-5926; 155. Malmö: Institutionen för pedagogik, Lärarhögsk.,
2001.
Holgersson, Ulrika, and Cecilia Persson. ‘Rätten Att Skriva Människan.
Historiemedvetande Och Berättelse Som Problematiska Begrepp:
Svar till Bernard Eric Jensen’. In Historisk Tidskrift, 122:4:635
640. Historisk tidskrift Svenska historiska föreningen, 2002.
Jeissman, Karl-Ernst. ‘Geschichtsbewusstsein’. In Handbuch Der
Geschichtsdidaktik, edited by Klaus Bergmann, Annette Kuhn, rn
Rüsen, and Gerd Schneider, 1:4244. Düsseldorf: Pädagogischer
Verlag Schwann, 1979.
Jensen, Bernard Eric. ‘Historiemedvetande - Begreppsanalys, Samhällsteori,
Didaktik’. In Historiedidaktik, edited by Christer Karlegärd and
Klas-Göran Karlsson, 4981. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 1997.
Karlsson, Klas-Göran. ‘Förintelsen Som Historiekulturellt Fenomen - En
Översikt’. In Historisk Tidskrift. Vol. 125:4, s. 721733. Historisk
tidskrift Svenska Historiska Föreningen, 2005.
———. Historia Som Vapen: Historiebruk Och Sovjetunionens Upplösning
1985-1995. Stockholm: Natur och kultur, 1999.
———. ‘Historiedidaktik: Begrepp, Teori Och Analys’. In Historien Är Nu: En
Introduktion till Historiedidaktiken, edited by Ulf Zander and Klas-
Göran Karlsson, 2570. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2009.
———. Med Folkmord i Fokus: Förintelsens Plats i Den Europeiska
Historiekulturen. Skriftserie/Forum För Levande Historia, 1653-
5332; 6. Stockholm: Forum för levande historia, 2008.
Koselleck, Reinhart. The Practice of Conceptual History: Timing History,
Spacing Concepts. Edited by Todd Samuel Presner. Cultural
Memory in the Present, 99-2896218-9. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford
University Press, 2002.
De Laval, Maria. Det Känns Inte Längre Som Det Var Länge Sedan: En
Undersökning Av Gymnasieelevers Historiska Tänkande. Lund:
Forskarskolan i historia och historiedidaktik, Lunds universitet,
2011.
201
Robert Thorp, Umeå University/Dalarna University College
Lévesque, Stéphane. Thinking Historically: Educating Students for the
Twenty-first Century. Toronto: Buffalo, 2008.
Linderborg, Åsa. Socialdemokraterna Skriver Historia: Historieskrivning
Som Ideologisk Maktresurs 1892-2000. Atlas Akademi, 99-
3423719-9. Stockholm: Atlas, 2001.
Lozic, Vanja. Historieundervisningens Utmaningar: Historiedidaktik För
2000-talet. Malmö: Gleerups, 2011.
Nordgren, Kenneth. Vems Är Historien?: Historia Som Medvetande, Kultur
Och Handling i Det Mångkulturella Sverige. Doktorsavhandlingar
Inom Den Nationella Forskarskolan i Pedagogiskt Arbete, 1653-
6894; 3. Umeå: Fakultetsnämnden för lärarutbildning, Umeå
universitet, 2006.
Olofsson, Hans. Fatta Historia: En Explorativ Fallstudie Om
Historieundervisning Och Historiebruk i En Högstadieklass.
Karlstad: Fakulteten för samhälls- och livsvetenskaper, Historia,
Karlstads universitet, 2011.
Potapenko, Igor. Elevens Egen Historia Och Skolans Historieundervisning:
Historiemedvetande Och Identitet Hos Några Ungdomar Från
Forna Jugoslavien. GEM Rapport, 1652-0572; 4. Stockholm:
Lärarhögskolan i Stockholm, 2006.
———. Historiemedvetande Och Identitet: Om Historiens Närvaro i Några
Estniska Ungdomars Liv. Stockholm: Institutionen för didaktik och
pedagogiskt arbete, Stockholms universitet, 2010.
Rodell, Magnus. ‘Fallna Svenskar Och Fortifikationer i Vildmarken: Om Det
Ryska Hotet Och Medielandskapet Kring 1900’. In Berättande i
Olika Medier, edited by Leif Dahlberg and Pelle Snickars. Vol. S. 79
115. Berättande i olika medier 2008, 2008.
Rüsen, Jörn. ‘Historical Consciousness: Narrative, Structure, Moral
Function, and Ontogenetic Development’. In Theorizing Historical
Consciousness, edited by Peter Seixas, 6385. Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 2006.
Schechtman, Marya. The Constitution of Selves. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell
University Press, 2007.
Seixas, Peter. Introduction’. In Theorizing Historical Consciousness, edited
by Peter Seixas, 320. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.
202
The Concept of Historical Consciousness as an Interpretive Frame for Historical Media
Thorp, Robert. The Concept of Historical Consciousness in Swedish History
Didactical Research’. In Yearbook (of the International Society for
History Didactics), edited by Joanna Wojdon, 119. Schwalbach:
Wochenschau Verlag, 2013.
Wineburg, Samuel S. Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts:
Charting the Future of Teaching the Past. Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 2001.
Young, James E. The Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and
Meaning. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Chapter
Full-text available
This article presents a study of how the concept of historical consciousness is defined, applied and justified in Swedish history didactical research. The study finds that there is a common ground for understanding what a historical consciousness is, but that the concept is applied in a variety of ways. It is suggested that this variation is one reason why the concept is generally believed to be difficult to define and apply, since the application of the concept influences how a historical consciousness is interpreted. It is suggested that the concept could be rendered more versatile by further theoretical investigation into how the concept’s definition and applications are connected.
Book
Two simple but profound questions have preoccupied scholars since the establishment of history education over a century ago: what is historical thinking, and how do educators go about teaching it? In Thinking Historically, Stéphane Lévesque examines these questions, focusing on what it means to think critically about the past. As students engage with a new century already characterized by global instability, uncertainty, and rivalry over claims about the past, present, and future, this study revisits enduring questions and aims to offer new and relevant answers. Drawing on a rich collection of personal, national, and international studies in history education, Lévesque offers a coherent and innovative way of looking at how historical expertise in the domain intersects with the pedagogy of history education. Thinking Historically provides teacher educators, and all those working in the field of history education, ways of rethinking their practice by presenting some of the benchmarks, in terms of procedural concepts, of what students ought to learn and do to become more critical historical actors and citizens. As questions regarding history education impinge upon educators with greater force than ever, this timely study explores different ways of approaching and engaging with the discipline in the twenty-first century.
Book
Ämnet historia står inför stora utmaningar. Ökad globalisering, migration och mångkultur präglar i dag det svenska samhället, vilket får konsekvenser för tolkningen av historieämnet i skolan. Andra krav på förändringar inom historieundervisningen är behovet av individualisering och av att ge en röst åt tidigare marginaliserade grupper, tolkningar och perspektiv. Dessa utmaningar uppmärksammas också i skolreformen GY 2011 och i den nya lärarutbildningen. I den här boken söker historikern Vanja Lozic svar på frågor om ämnets innehåll och syfte genom att intervjua elever, lärare och läroboksförfattare. Han gör även en översyn av viktiga historiedidaktiska metoder, teorier och begrepp som har satt sin prägel på kursplaner i historia, historiedidaktisk forskning och undervisning. Mötet med gymnasieeleverna visar att det finns ett starkt band mellan historiemedvetande och identitet. För att belysa denna fråga studerar författaren vilken betydelse etnicitet har för elevernas identitetsskapande och hur etniciteten i förlängningen påverkar deras syn på historieämnets innehåll och syfte. Författaren förespråkar ett kritiskt förhållningssätt till historiebruk och historieförmedling och ger förslag på olika undervisningsstrategier som utvecklar elevernas kritiska förmåga och skapar en dialog om hur historisk kunskap skapas, används, förmedlas och uppfattas.
Article
Since the early 1990s, the concept of historical consciousness has been central to didactic research in Sweden. It has mostly been used as a theoretical framework on a macro-level or as an attempt to identify students' historical consciousness. This article applies the theoretical concept of historical consciousness to tangible source material: history textbooks from the twentieth century. It focuses on whether Swedish history textbooks for lower secondary school have articulated contexts that may be conducive to developing historical consciousness. The article employs a number of theoretical concepts—narratives, multichronology, identity, and values—in order to analyze perspectives that can be utilized to trigger historical consciousness.
Article
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Lunds universitet, Historiska institutionen, 2003. Includes bibliographical references (p. 327-372) and index. Includes summary in English (p. 373-378).