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The Oxford History of Historical WritingVolume 5: Historical Writing Since 1945$
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Axel Schneider and Daniel Woolf

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199225996

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199225996.001.0001

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History and Memory

History and Memory

(p.36) Chapter 2 History and Memory
The Oxford History of Historical Writing

Alon Confino

Oxford University Press

This chapter describes how memory has shaped the academic discipline of history. In the past two decades or so, ‘memory’ as a category to analyze and understand the relation of human beings to their past has become a nearly ubiquitous concept. Triggered jointly by the general crisis of representationalism and by a specific historical experience—the Holocaust—‘memory’ has replaced for some scholars a rather linear and monodimensional concept of ‘society’. Whereas in the past, memory was considered to be subjective and unreliable, it has now moved to centre-stage: it is in individual and collective memory that the past remains present in the contemporary agent. Memory, captured in methodological approaches such as oral history, also foregrounds the historical experience of ordinary people and thus carries the potential to counterbalance official, state-focused, and politically legitimate historical narratives, as well as those more broadly sanctioned by the academic enterprise.

Keywords:   memory, history, representationalism, historical experience, Holocaust, oral history, individual memory, collective memory, historical narratives

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