Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Memory and the construction of History

I was discussing Margaret MacMillan's lectures, I wrote about earlier this week, with podcaster Tony Cocks of BTHP. He pointed to another podcast. A co-production of the Open University and BBC's radio four: The Things We Forgot To Remember. Here we have yet another history podcast that is looking into how history is made.

The podcast is styled like BBC's In Our Time, as a panel discussion with specialists, but in stead of digging into an entirely new subject each week, as IOT does, The Things We Forgot to Remember has a detectable linkage between issues. Two of the episodes that are currently in the feed, deal with memories and the question how memories contribute to history. This meta-standpoint vis-a-vis history is maintained as the subject of memory is finished and the series moves on. There is a build up from the individual up to the supra-national. A returning example for analysis is how the history of the Great War was constructed. It is shown how the narratives depend on perspective, how they take on a national meaning. When, for example, a historian dared to describe his own nation as the war-monger, his work turned into the hottest controversy. Here we see what MacMillan also pointed out: where history allegedly is about sources, collecting and ordering data into a narrative, sooner or later it turns into a story with great meaning that acquires a near religious value. Invariably, that is where history as a science perishes.

More on history:
The big idea of History,
BBC's In Our Time (podcast review),
Thinking Outside the European Box,
The battle of Tours,
Islam and Europe - LSE podcast review.

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