Extending historical consciousness: Past futures and future pasts

Andreas Körber


The concept of Historical Consciousness which played a prominent role in modernising history education in many countries was introduced into the debate of history education in the mid 1970s. The fact that after 40 years, no single definition is unanimously agreed upon, need not be a drawback for the concept’s further fruitfully instigating research and discussion. In a first part, this article exemplifies the productive challenge which can be exerted onto the conceptualisation of historical learning processes and tasks by a specific version of Historical Consciousness, being a psychological corollary of theoretical insights into the orientating function of history in individuals’ and groups’ life by interlinking interpretations of the past, perceptions of the present and expectations for the future (Jeismann). In a second part, then, the concept of Historical Consciousness itself is focused. It is argued that its understanding as a mental disposition for historical thinking, however fruitful, still does not meet the full extent of the requirements to temporal orientation. An extension of the presented tri-partite formula to integrating both ‘past’ expectations for ‘the future’ as well as anticipations of retrospective views of us as part of a past is recommended, drawing, inter alia,on reflections from psychoanalysis and current essay writing. An effort to reflect on possible consequences of such an extension for history education and learning tasks completes the argumentation. 


Historical Consciousness; History Education; Learning Tasks; Past/Future.

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Copyright (c) 2021 Andreas Körber

Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

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ISSN 2203-7543