This book explores how societies put the past to use and how, in the process, they represented it: in short, their historical culture. It brings together anthropologists, historians, and literary scholars to address the means by which societies, groups, and individuals have engaged with the past and expressed their understanding of it.
The utility of the past has proven almost as infinitely variable as the modes of its representation. It might be a matter of learning lessons from experience, or about the legitimacy of a cause or regime, or the reputation of an individual. Rival versions and interpretations reflected, but also helped to create and sustain, divergent communities and world views. With so much at stake, manipulations, distortions, and myths proliferated. But given also that evidence of past societies was fragmentary, fragile, and fraught with difficulties for those who sought to make sense of it, imaginative leaps and creativity necessarily came into the equation. Paradoxically, the very idea that the past was indeed useful was generally bound up with an image of history as inherently truthful. But then notions of truth proved malleable, even within one society, culture, or period.
Concerned with what engagements with the past can reveal about the wider intellectual and cultural frameworks they took place within, this book is of relevance to anyone interested in how societies, communities, and individuals have acted on their historical consciousness.
About the Author
Peter Lambert is Lecturer in Modern European History at Aberystwyth University. He works on historical culture in Nazi Germany, and the professionalization of History in the twentieth century. Publications include Mass Dictatorship as Ever-Present Past (2013), Historikerdialoge (2004), and Making History (2003). He is currently completing a study on the reception of Widukind and Charlemagne in the Third Reich.
Björn Weiler is Professor in History at Aberystwyth University. A historian of high medieval Europe, he has held visiting fellowships in Bergen, Cambridge (UK), Freiburg im Breisgau, and at Harvard. Publications include England and Europe in the Reign of Henry III (with Ifor Rowlands, 2002), King Henry III of England and the Staufen Empire (2006), Kingship, Rebellion and Political Culture (2007), and Representations of Power in Medieval Germany (with Simon MacLean, 2006). He is working on a book on the experience of the past in high medieval Europe.
Table of Contents
Introduction, Peter Lambert & Bjorn Weiler
I. What is Historical Culture?, Peter Lambert
II. Themes in Historical Culture, Bjorn Weiler
1. Imagining Rome in Medieval Constantinople: Memory, Politics, and the Past in the Middle Byzantine Period, Dimitris Krallis
2. The Present and the Past in the Sagas of Icelanders, Haki Antonsson
3. Monastic Historical Culture and the Utility of a Remote Past: The Case of Matthew Paris, Bjorn Weiler
4. Legend and Historical Experience in Fifteenth-Century Ottoman Narratives of the Past, Dimitri Kastritsis
5. The Chronicler and the Count: Law, Libel, and History in the Early Modern Atlantic World, Richard Kagan
6. The Poetry of History in Early Modern India, Allison Busch
7. The Immediacy of a Remote Past: The Saxon Wars of 772-804 in the 'Cultural Struggles' of the Third Reich, Peter Lambert
8. Ancient Past, Modern Ceremony: Thailand's Royal Barge Procession in Historical Context, Matthew Phillips
9. La Rosca de Investigacion y Accion Social: Reimagining History as Collaborative Exchange in 1970s Colombia, Joanne Rappaport
10. Chinese History as a Constructed Continuity: The Work of Rao Zongyi, T.H. Barrett
11. Memory as Theatre: Using a Ghanaian Ritual to Recall Past Greatness and to Redress Recent Reverses, Richard Rathbone
Conclusion: Future Directions?, Peter Lambert & Bjorn Weiler