An ethic for a politic of history in a democratic setting

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    The article argues that the point of departure for the societal role of historians and of the science of history should be an ethic for a politic of history in a democratic setting designed to increase the individual's autonomous power to take action. The article discusses what this implies for choices of professional identity. The article's introductory section points out that the pre- and early modern concept of historia magistra vitae has not been replaced by a new, collective norm to guide the professional work of historians. The second section points out that lay people primarily are interested in a usable past and particularly use history to resolve matters, of moral and political conflicts. In the third section I reflect on my own interest in and use of history.

    Using three examples, the final section discusses how historians deal with existing communities of memory and the ways in which other groups use history. The standpoint of the article is that if we as historians want to contribute to qualifying people's use of history so they become more insightful, reflective, critical and imaginative users of history, then we must not solely be preoccupied with determining whether interpretations of the past are theoretically and empirically well-founded. We must also be interested in and have insight into whether the past is useful in a contemporary context. We should build up knowledge about how other producers and users of history think and how they use history in different life contexts and for different purposes. To play an informative, educative and critical role, we must meet other users of history where they are and avoid automatically assigning the science of history and ourselves normative priorities. Our dual role as professionals and fellow citizens, as well as our own use of history, must appear scientifically and normatively transparent.
    TidsskriftScandia: Tidskrift för historisk forskning
    Udgave nummer2
    Sider (fra-til)47-58
    StatusUdgivet - 2013

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