Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The article discusses the identity, roles, and duties of the professional historian in an era in which the historical dimension is no longer a historian's monopoly. It is argued that the standard modern framework of understanding a historian as someone highly specialized in the production of 'new' history has to give way to a new understanding that situates the historian in historical culture, which is defined as the communicative arena in which a society evaluates which history is worth researching, teaching and learning, exhibiting and debating, and which is not. It is the author's conviction that the historian has a crucial role to play in this, but a serious professional rethink is needed before it can be secured. Different aspects of the communication and reception of history must be included into the historian's self-understanding. The task of informing society by taking part in a much larger history work, which also must include debates and writings on the great historical narratives, must be taken seriously. Two main obstacles are identified. The first is the inclination to restrict the historian's focus to national history. There are, however, some indications that this deeply rooted national bias is likely to disappear. The other problem is that the historian, because of the protracted processes of professional specialization and fragmentation, has stopped reflecting on history as a common scholarly project. This unfortunate development has little to do with the popularity of postmodern ideas, with their dissociation from the idea of history as a unified narrative, and far more with the fact that history has turned into a discipline governed by identity needs and interests, often reinforced by ideological and moral arguments. To assert themselves among strong competitors in current historical culture, it is imperative that historians go back to discussing the basics of their endeavours.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History


  • dialogue, historian's identity, historical culture, methodological, nationalism, fragmentation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-89
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch