What Is History For?

By Furtado, Peter | History Today, April 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

What Is History For?


Furtado, Peter, History Today


CAN YOU LEARN TO BECOME A GOOD CITIZEN--or even a loyal subject of the Queen--through the study of history? Can you teach someone what it means to be British through the study of history? If so, how?

Eric Hobsbawm once argued that governments the world over make their young study history in school, 'not to understand society and how it changes, but to approve of it, to be proud of it, to be or become good citizens'. There is no question in my mind that if you set out explicitly to teach citizenship (as we have recently begun to do once again), then a strongly historical approach is vital. But what is the relationship between citizenship, patriotism and historical enquiry?

These questions have come to the fore again recently, as putative successors to the present government limber up for their leadership campaigns by bringing issues of national identity back up the agenda, while academics and teachers consider the implications of their dicta for what goes on in the classroom.

The contemporary historian and commentator Timothy Garton Ash has described that famously elusive concept, Britishness, as a comfortable old overcoat which hides a multitude of sins. In many ways this is an attractive metaphor, but it sits uncomfortably with the politicians' desire that its essential elements can ever be revealed by historical analysis.

Many teachers feel that teaching Britishness is not only an impossible task, but that it is also one that betrays the essence of the discipline by unjustifiably raising a voguish concept to the status of a term of universal analysis.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

What Is History For?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?