Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Everyone has a personal connection to the past, independent of historical inquiry. So, what is the role of the historian? Making History argues that historians have damagingly dissociated the discipline of history from the everyday nature of history, defining their work only in scholarly terms. Exploring the relationship between history and society, Kalela makes the case for a more participatory historical research culture, in which historians take account of their role in society and the ways in which history-making as a basic social practice is present in their work.

Making History not only asks provocative questions about the role of the historian, it also provides practical guidance for students and historians on planning research projects with greater public impact. This book is vital reading for all historians, lay and professional, and will be an essential text for undergraduate and postgraduate courses on historiography and research methods.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Second Thoughts about History

Abstract
History is an everyday matter, and everyone really has a personal connection to the past, independent of historical enquiry. But there are, in every society, also historians, and it is reasonable to ask why they are needed. Examining this actuality, the relationship between the two, is what Making History is about.
Jorma Kalela

2. Historical Research

Abstract
It is the choices historians make that define the parameters of their studies and this gives them a great responsibility. They are, in relation to their own society, guardians of sound knowledge of the past, and in relation to past societies, instrumental in making sure that justice is done to the people they are studying. On both counts, their moral principles are constantly tested by the predicament embedded in the past-present relationship. The challenge is to respond to current concerns — but not at the cost of presenting a fair description of the people studied.
Jorma Kalela

3. The People Addressed

Abstract
The rationale of historical research is, from the historian’s perspective, to call the audience’s attention to one’s selection and arrangement of particular past matters in order to demonstrate their present relevance. From the vantage point of history-in-society the same rationale can be given another formulation: historians meet the demand for knowledge concerning the past. This perspective has, however, been underrated by the profession.
Jorma Kalela

4. The Politics of History

Abstract
’setting the record straight’ is for quite a few historians the rationale for their work. Others speak of demonstrating ‘that’s not how it was’. Whatever the expression, criticism of prevailing knowledge is the absolutely essential element of a historian’s work. If the findings do not demonstrate that something is contrary to what was claimed or was believed to have been the case the research project does not make sense.
Jorma Kalela

5. Cultural Critics

Abstract
The historian’s job is to comment on existing histories in a way that opens up new perspectives for the audience and gives them fresh insights into their culture by comparing it with past ones. Historians have, however, viewed their role in far narrower terms, as that of scholarship. They have not, as George G. Iggers and Q. Edward Wang argue, fully recognized that their work is ‘very much a part of a broader historical culture’. One result of this has been allowing ‘research techniques to support national myths’, but the weightiest part of the point Iggers and Wang make is broader: ‘the interconnectedness of historical writing with other aspects of society’ has been forgotten.1
Jorma Kalela

6. The Impact of Historical Research

Abstract
The current outlook on history-in-society dominates the final chapter of this book. From the professional’s angle, two challenges predominate. One is to formulate an adequate response to the proliferating attempts by different funders of historical research to steer the study of the past, and the second is to make sure that ready-made interpretations of the past are not imposed on citizens and substituted for histories created by the people themselves. Historians have to ensure that questions about the past originating in the public sphere are critically evaluated, and they must find new ways of upholding history-making as a basic social practice.
Jorma Kalela
Additional information