Living History: A Generational Divide?

December 11, 2008

I have recently been giving some thought to the opposition between history and heritage. Raphael Samuel and Patrick Wright covered this subject very engagingly in the 1980s and 90s and I have been largely drinking in their ideas. It was only last night when it struck me that as part of the first generation of historians (born 1980) to have been brought up on Living History, my own experience must necessarily differ from theirs. Rather than observing the growth of the popular heritage industry from afar, I have been immersed in it for as long as I can remember. I experienced recreation and reconstruction long before reading history books and contemplated Historical Re-enactor as a career choice before really knowing about the existence of Historians. This must have a bearing on the way that historians of my generation view their craft. Is ‘resurrectionism’ more natural, less suspect to us than to our mentors? Or have we been sucked into the formalities/prejudices of the discipline?

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