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Taking the question of history, memory cultures and meaning further…

May 7, 2012

In terms of research challenges,” Hawkey and Prior conclude in their article on the influence of memory cultures on the acquisition of British national history in History classrooms, “the complex picture that the findings reported here reveal suggests the need for additional lenses being applied to research data. Much of the enquiry to date has focused on more settled minority ethnic communities (see, for example, Epstein 2007, in the US, and Barton and McCully 2005, in Northern Ireland) with perhaps relatively established family and community perspectives on history. In contrast, the research reported here taps into a newer and emerging world of increasing migration and trans-migration which is much more varied and fluid than [-p.244] previously. The range of push and pull factors underpinning migration amongst different groups and individuals has become hugely varied. How far do the reasons for migration have an impact on migrant understandings of national historical narratives? How far do we need to distinguish migrant from either more settled immigrant communities or from indigenous communities in studies looking at perspectives on national historical narratives? These are important research questions which warrant further investigation beyond the research reported here.” (243-244)

I can’t help thinking here of Alison Wong’s As the Earth Turns Silver – and of Patricia Grace’s writing… why? because they are classed together as ethnic writers telling the (ethnic) story of their (supposed and imagined) respective communities… What role do fictions such as those by Wong and Grace play in the establishment of personal and/or national histories? Maurice Gee’s writing is already considered in terms of national histories… how is his body of work different to Grace’s or Wong’s in terms of national memory… how is it the same?

Ref: Hawkey, Kate and Prior, Jayne (2011) ‘History, memory cultures and meaning in the classroom’, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43: 2, 231 — 247

Questions to pursue

The questions Hawkey and Prior asked of their participants offer a useful guide into considering the tensions they explored… in other classrooms.

“Appendix B: Interview images task

These images summarize many of the topics you have learned in history at school. You will also have learned history from other places such as family, friends, and films. Drawing on all your experiences of history, we want to know what you think about these questions:

What is the big picture of history about?

Are there any main themes?

What sort of a story (or stories) does history cover?

This is NOT a knowledge test!

Appendix C: Interview questions on home and school history

What have family members told you about their lives when they were young?

What family stories have been handed down in your family?

What have family members told you about people in the past or events in history?

What people or events have you learned about from your family that you have not learned about at school?

How is history you learned about at home different from the history you learned about at school?

Who in history do you /members of your family admire? Why?

How have any groups been treated unfairly in the past?

Do you believe any groups are treated unfairly today? Why or why not?” (p.247)

References made (and which look interesting) include:

These are some of the references listed in Hawkey and Prior’s article. They may be worth pursuing…

Aldrich, R. and Dean, D. (1991) The history dimension. In R. Aldrich (ed.), History in the National Curriculum. University of London. Institute of Education, Bedford Way Series. (London: Kogan Page), 102.

An, S. (2009) Learning US history in an age of globalization and transnational migration. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 41(6), 763–787.

Andrews, R., McGlynn, C. and Mycock, A. (2008) National pride and students’ attitudes towards history: an empirical analysis. Paper presented at the Political Studies Association Annual Conference, University of Wales, Swansea.

Barton, K. (2001) ‘You’d be wanting to know about the past’: social contexts of children’s historical understanding in Northern Ireland and the USA. Comparative Education, 37(1), 89–106.

Barton, K. and McCully, A. (2005) Learning history and inheriting the past: the interaction of school and community perspectives in Northern Ireland. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 5, 1.

Carrington, B. and Short, G. (1998) Adolescent discourse on national identity – voices of care or justice? Educational Studies, 24(2), 133–152.

Duvenage, P. (1993) Studies in Metahistory (Pretoria: Human Science Research Council).

Egan, K. (1997) The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape our Understanding (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

Elliott, J. (1998) The Curriculum Experiment: Meeting the Challenge of Social Change (Buckingham: Open University Press).

Epstein, T. (2000) Adolescent perspectives on racial diversity in US history: case studies from urban classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 37(1), 185–214.

Epstein, T. (2007) The effects of family/community and school discourses on children’s and adolescents’ interpretations of United States history. International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research, 6(1), 1–9 (online journal).

ESRC (2005) British Island Stories: History, Identity and Nationhood. ESRC grant L219252035-B.

Grever, M., Haydn, T. and Ribbens, K. (2008) Identity and school history: the perspectives of young people from the Netherlands and England. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56(1), 76–94.

Howson, J. (2007) Is it the Tuarts and then the Studors or the other way round? The importance of developing a usable big picture of the past. Teaching History, 127, 40–47.

Klein, K. (2000) On the emergence of memory in historical discourse. Representations, 69(1), 127–150.

Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (New York: Cambridge University Press).

Lee, P. (1992) History in schools: aims, purposes and approaches. A reply to John White. In P. Lee, J. Slater, P. Walsh and J. White (eds), The Aims of School History (London: Tufnell Press), 20–34.

Phillips, M.S. (2004) History, memory and historical distance. In P. Seixas (ed.), Theorizing Historical Consciousness (University of Toronto Press), 86–102.

Ribbens, K. (2005) History teaching, historical culture and national borders: public expectations and professional practices. Paper presented at the conference Beyond the Canon – history for the twenty-first century, Rotterdam, 17th June.

Rosenzweig, R. and Thelen, D. (1998) The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life (New York: Columbia University Press).

Rüsen, J. K. (2005) History: Narration, Interpretation, Orientation (New York: Berghahn Books).

Seixas, P. (2009) History teachers considered less trustworthy than family stories: study. Newspaper article published 13th Feb 2009. Available online at:, accessed 3 April 2009.

Stuurman, S. and Grever, M. (2007) Beyond the Canon: History for the 21st Century (London: Palgrave McMillan).

Wertsch, J. V. (1998) Mind as Action (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

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