Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Editorial

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Editorial

Article excerpt

ALL societies have a past, but not all of them have evaluated the,'r past in the same way, nor used the same procedures to recall it. The kind of questions people ask about former times have been-and still are-stimulated by happenings in their own society. Attitudes towards memory itself have varied widely in different civilizations, depending on social structures and power systems, on whether or not writing was used, on the nature of the dominant religion, on relationships with time and death, and on many other factors.

The conventions of modern historiography are so widely accepted today that we take them for granted and find it hard to appreciate that there are many other possible approaches to the past. Not all societies have, for example, organized their recollections chronologically.

Modern historiography seems to be experiencing something of a boom. Not only are the stories of kings and princes, peoples and nations still being told and retold, but virtually every group and institution seems to want its history to be written. Another widespread modern trend is the fashion for "instant history". Once upon a time the historian did not begin to piece together the historical record until events had fallen into some kind of perspective. …

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