A History/Memory Matrix for History Education

Eine Geschichts-/Gedächtnis-Matrix für den Geschichtsunterricht


A new matrix? What is the role of state-based history education in open, democratic societies, in respect to the memories that arise from the collective phenomena of war, oppression, displacement, injustice, trauma, nation building, or, indeed, everyday life? On what grounds do the interventions of school history rest? Why not simply accept “spontaneous” community memory, family myth, commercially produced narratives (e.g., Hollywood cinema) or other state-sponsored memories (e.g., national commemorations) that contribute to people’s understandings of the past?



The disciplinary matrix of history


Allan Megill, “Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry,” History and Theory 31, no. 1 (1994): 39-60, here 49.

In order to make clear the various roles of history education (actual and potential), it is helpful to begin with basic elements from what Jörn Rüsen called a disciplinary matrix, as interpreted by Allan Megill.[1] The matrix—actually a cycle— provides a way of thinking about the relationship between the discipline of history and the larger cultural circumstances within which the discipline is practiced. That is, individuals, groups and nations have needs for orientation in time. These provide the genesis for historians’ work. Historians address questions that arise from these needs, mobilizing theories and employing methodologies that have been developed within the discipline. In turn, the products of historians work, their representations of the past, feed back into the larger culture’s understandings and orientations. There is thus a dialogical relationship between the disciplinary practices of history (above the dotted line) and what gets translated from the German as “life practice” (below the dotted line).

By way of introduction, Megill contrasts Rüsen’s orientation to Hayden White’s hostility to the discipline. Quoting Rüsen, “[historiography] transcends the particularity of the ‘commonsensical’ orientation of action within the life-world.”[2] That is, though they are embedded in particular social and cultural landscapes (and therefore subject to change over time), there is a critical, truth-seeking value to the theories, methods and representations of disciplinary history that goes beyond ideologically and situationally driven representations of the past.

History and memory

Both Rüsen and Megill wrote before “memory” and memory studies had come into their full flowering. It is widely acknowledged that there is no such thing as “pure history,” a science devoid of the characteristics of collective memory. And yet it is helpful to pose a distinction: memory is deeply felt; it affirms community ties, collective identities, and common foes; and it thrives on preservation and enhancement. History is analytic and intellectual; it belongs to “everyone and no one” (in Pierre Nora’s phrase) and thrives on evidence-based critique and revision.[3]

Superimposing this distinction on Rüsen’s disciplinary matrix, we have a conceptual scheme that puts memory practices “below the line,” where they contribute to identity formation and community building. And, particularly where there are fractured communities and cosmopolitan societies, they give rise to questions that might be constructively taken up by the critical, evidence-based, truth-seeking methods of history. From there, if all works well, new representations of the past can feed back into popular memory. Over time, new mixes of peoples and new political sensitivities will generate needs for new kinds of orientation in time, giving rise to new modes of historical investigation. Perhaps we can call this a “history/memory matrix.”


© Peter Seixas 2016, all rights reserved.

“Red” and “blue” versions of school history…

Now we return to school history with a new tool. It allows us to examine practices beyond the too simple question, “which (or whose) story is being told?” by history teachers, textbooks and curricular prescription. It helps to make sense of the forms in which history is taught in schools. Is it confined to the red bottom semi-circle, unabashedly aimed at shaping public memory; is it confined to the blue top half, promoting students’ disciplinary skills; or is located in the purple transitional band?

The quintessential “red” school history consists of a well-defined narrative, with particular events and actors legislated or otherwise mandated through state mechanisms. Built into such a prescription are the interpretive valences that point unambiguously towards meanings of the narrative for the present. Origins, triumphs over adversity, the defeat of enemies from within and without, and the core beliefs, values and character traits that made triumph possible are all embedded in such a narrative.[4] The main use of such curriculum is to unite and strengthen collective identity, without too much of a window for critical discussion and debate.

Alternatively, “blue” school history programs focus on competency in the disciplinary practices of history—the interpretation and reading of primary sources and the construction and critique of historical accounts. These have been far less common, but have occupied an important place, particularly since the 1970s. The British Schools History Project, launched in 1972, provides a good example, as does the current Stanford University’s “Reading like a historian.” They downplay the relationships between school history and students’ identities or the uses of history for the present.

…and a “purple” one

The third possibility is that history education is located in the “purple” bridge between historical practices and memorial beliefs, where skilled teachers have considerable autonomy to address the memorial cultures of the students in their classes and where community memories—perhaps even divided memories—are subjected to and enlarged by critical, historical scrutiny, feeding back into public memory. In this perhaps ideal conception of school history, the history/memory matrix runs smoothly, firing in all sectors of the cycle. Is it possible? Several European projects currently under way, including the Swedish National Curriculum, the German FUER model, and Dutch researchers at Erasmus University, aim towards just such history education.



  • Körber, Andreas. “German History Didactics: From Historical Consciousness to Historical Competencies–and Beyond?”. In: Historicizing the Uses of the Past: Scandinavian Perspectives on History, Culture, Historical Consciousness and Didactics of History Related to World War II, edited by Helle Bjerg, Claudia Lenz and Erik Thorstensen, New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2011, 145-164.
  • Megill, Allan. “Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry.” History and Theory 31, no. 1 (1994): 39-60.
  • Nora, Pierre. Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996.

Web Resources


[1] Allan Megill, “Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry,” History and Theory 31, no. 1 (1994): 39-60.
[2] Ibid, 51.
[3] Pierre Nora, Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past., trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), 3.
[4] Chris Lorenz, “Towards a Theoretical Framework of Comparing Historiographies: Some Preliminary Considerations,” in Theorizing Historical Consciousness, ed. Peter Seixas (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).


Image Credits

Two matrices of historical Thinking, first one out of Allan Megill, “Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry,” History and Theory 31, no. 1 (1994): 39-60, page 49; second on by Peter Seixas, original work, © 2016 all rights reserved.

Recommended Citation

Seixas, Peter: A History/Memory Matrix for History Education. In: Public History Weekly 4 (2015) 6, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2016-5370.

Eine neue Matrix? Welche Rolle spielt staatlich gewährleisteter Geschichtsunterricht in offenen, demokratischen Gesellschaften in Bezug auf die Erinnerungen, die aus Kollektivphänomenen wie Krieg, Unterdrückung, Umsiedlung, Unrecht, Trauma, Staatsbildung oder sogar dem alltäglichen Leben entstehen? Auf welchem Fundament ruhen die Interventionen des schulischen Geschichtsunterrichts? Warum sollten wir nicht einfach “spontane” Erinnerung der Gemeinschaft, Familienmythen, kommerziell hergestellte Narrative (z.B. des Hollywood-Kinos) oder andere staatlich geförderte Erinnerungen (z.B. nationale Gedenkfeier) akzeptieren, die zum allgemeinen Verständnis der Vergangenheit beitragen?


Die disziplinäre Matrix


Megill, Allan: Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry. In: History and Theory 31 (1994), H.1, S. 39-60, hier S. 49.

Um die verschiedenen tatsächlichen und potentiellen Rollen von Geschichtsunterricht zu verdeutlichen, ist es hilfreich, mit grundlegenden Elementen dessen zu beginnen, was Jörn Rüsen eine disziplinäre Matrix nannte, hier in der Interpretation von Allan Megill.[1] Die Matrix — tatsächlich ein Kreislauf — bietet eine Denkweise, die Beziehung zwischen akademischer Geschichte und den weiteren kulturellen Umständen, innerhalb derer sie praktiziert wird, zu betrachten. Das heißt, Einzelne, Gruppen und Nationen haben Bedürfnisse nach Orientierung in der Zeit. Diese Bedürfnisse sorgen für den Ausgangspunkt der Arbeit von HistorikerInnen. HistorikerInnen behandeln Fragen, die diesen Bedürfnissen entspringen, in dem sie Theorien aktivieren und Methoden einsetzen, die innerhalb der Disziplin entwickelt wurden. Umgekehrt wirken die Ergebnisse, die aus der Arbeit von HistorikerInnen resultieren (ihre Darstellungen der Vergangenheit), in die Verständnisse und Orientierungen der sie umgebenden Kultur zurück. Somit besteht eine dialogische Beziehung zwischen den disziplinären Praktiken von Geschichte (oberhalb der gestrichelten Linie) und dem, was im deutschen “Lebenspraxis” genannt wird (unterhalb der gestrichelten Linie).

Indem er Rüsens Orientierung einführt, kontrastiert Megill diese mit der Abneigung Hayden Whites gegenüber der akademischen Disziplin. Um Rüsen zu zitieren: “[Historiographie] überschreitet die Partikularität der ‘vernünftigen’ Orientierung von Handlung in der Lebenswelt.”[2] Das heißt, obwohl sie in bestimmten sozialen und kulturellen Landschaften eingebettet sind (und daher über die Zeit Veränderungen unterworfen sind), weisen die Theorien, Methoden und Darstellungen der disziplinären Geschichte einen kritischen, wahrheitssuchenden Wert auf, der über ideologische und situationsbedingten Darstellungen der Vergangenheit hinausgeht.

Geschichte und Gedächtnis

Sowohl Rüsen wie Megill verfassten Ihre Überlegungen, bevor “Gedächtnis” und Gedächtnisstudien sich in voller Blüte entfaltet hatten. Es ist allgemein anerkannt, dass so etwas wie “reine Geschichte” nicht existiert: eine Wissenschaft frei von den Eigenschaften des kollektiven Gedächtnisses. Aber es ist trotzdem hilfreich, eine Unterscheidung vorzunehmen: Gedächtnis wird tief empfunden, es bekräftigt gemeinschaftliche Verbindungen, kollektive Identität und gemeinsame Feinde; und es gelangt mit Vorgängen der Bewahrung und Anreicherung zur vollen Entfaltung. Geschichte ist analytisch und intellektuell; sie gehört “allen und keinem” (in den Worten Pierre Noras) und gedeiht mit empirisch begründeter Kritik und Überarbeitung.[3]

Wenn wir die disziplinären Matrix Rüsens mit der eben getroffenen Unterscheidung überlagern, erhalten wir ein konzeptionelles Schema, das Gedächtnispraktiken unter der Linie platziert, wo sie zur Entstehung von Identität und Gemeinschaftsbildung beitragen. Und insbesondere dort, wo es fragmentierte Gemeinschaften und weltoffene Gesellschaften gibt, erzeugen sie Fragen, die von den kritischen, empirisch ausgerichteten und wahrheitssuchenden Methoden der Geschichte konstruktiv aufgenommen werden könnten. Wenn alles gut geht, können von dort neue Darstellungen der Vergangenheit in das kollektive Gedächtnis zurückfließen. Im Lauf der Zeit werden neue Zusammensetzungen in menschlichen Gemeinschaften und neue politische Befindlichkeiten Bedürfnisse nach neuen Formen von Orientierung in der Zeit erzeugen, die wiederum neue Arten von historischen Untersuchungen hervorbringen werden. Vielleicht können wir dieses Modell eine “Geschichte-/Gedächtnis-Matrix” nennen.


© Peter Seixas 2016, alle Rechte vorbehalten.

“Rote” und “blaue” Versionen von schulischen Geschichte …

Jetzt kehren wir mit einem neuen Werkzeug zur Geschichte als Schulfach zurück. Es ist uns nun möglich, Praktiken jenseits der viel zu einfachen Frage “Welche (oder wessen) Geschichte wird erzählt?” durch Lehrende, Lehrwerke und curriculare Vorgaben zu untersuchen. Es hilft uns, die Formen schulischen Geschichtsunterrichts zu verstehen. Beschränkt sich das Unterrichtsgeschehen auf dem roten Halbkreis unten, unverblümt darauf augerichtet, das öffentliche Gedächtnis zu formen? Ist es auf die blaue obere Hälfte beschränkt, um Fertigkeiten der SchülerInnen in der Disziplin zu fördern? Oder ist das Unterrichtsgeschehen dem mittleren Übergangsbereich in lila zuzuordnen?
Die wesentliche “rote” Geschichte in Schulen besteht aus einem klar definierten Narrativ, mit bestimmten Ereignissen und Akteuren, die durch staatliche Mechanismen gesetzlich oder sonstwie vorgeschrieben sind. Inhärente Bestandteile einer solchen Vorschrift sind die interpretierenden Valenzen, die unmissverständlich auf die Bedeutung des Narratives für die Gegenwart weisen. Ursprünge, Erfolge bei Widrigkeiten, Siege über innere und äußere Feinde wie auch der Kernglaube, die Werte und die Charaktereigenschaften, die solche Siege möglich machten, sind allesamt in einem solchen Narrativ eingebettet.[4] Der Hauptzweck eines solchen Curriculums ist die Vereinheitlichung und Stärkung der kollektiven Identität, ohne einen allzu großen Spielraum für kritische Diskussionen und Debatten zu lassen.

Alternativ hierzu fokussieren “blaue” Programme für den Geschichtsunterricht auf Kompetenz in disziplinären Praktiken des Fachs Geschichte: Lesen und Interpretieren primärer Quellen sowie der Aufbau und die Kritik von historischen Narrativen. Diese disziplinären Praktiken sind wesentlich weniger verbreitet, haben aber insbesondere seit den 1970-er Jahren einen wichtigen Platz eingenommen. Das British Schools History Project, das 1972 startete, ist hierfür ein gutes Beispiel wie auch das aktuelle Projekt Reading like a historian an der Stanford Universität. Sie messen der Beziehung zwischen schulischer Geschichte und der Identität der SchülerInnen oder der Verwendung von Geschichte für die Gegenwart eine geringere Bedeutung zu.

…und eine in “lila”

Die dritte Möglichkeit ist, dass Geschichtsunterricht auf der lilafarbenen Brücke zwischen historischen Praktiken und an Erinnerungsüberzeugungen steht, wo fähige Lehrpersonen über eine beträchtliche Autonomie verfügen, die Erinnerungskulturen der SchülerInnen in ihren Klassen zu thematisieren, und wo gemeinschaftliche Erinnerungen – eventuell sogar getrennte Erinnerungen – einer kritischen historischen Prüfung unterworfen werden und dadurch gar erweitert werden können, die dann in das öffentliche Gedächtnis zurückzuwirken vermögen. In dieser möglicherweise idealen Vorstellung eines schulischen Geschichtsunterrichts läuft die Geschichte-/Gedächtnis-Matrix reibungslos und zündet in allen Sektoren des Kreises. Ist es möglich? In mehreren europäischen Projekten, die aktuell im Gange sind, z.B. das schwedische National Curriculum, das deutsche FUER-Modell und Projekte niederländischer ForscherInnen an der Erasmus Universität, ist genau ein solcher Geschichtsunterricht das Ziel.



  • Körber, Andreas: German History Didactics: From Historical Consciousness to Historical Competencies – and Beyond? In: Berg, Helle / Lenz, Claudia / Thorstensen, Erik (Hrsg.): Historicizing the Uses of the Past: Scandinavian Perspectives on History, Culture, Historical Consciousness and Didactics of History Related to World War II, New Brunswick NJ 2011, S. 145-164.
  • Megill, Allan: Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry. In: History and Theory 31 (1994), S. 39-60.
  • Nora, Pierre: Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer, New York 1996.



[1] Megill, Allan: Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry. In: History and Theory 31 (1994) H.1, S. 39-60.
[2] “[historiography] transcends the particularity of the ‘commonsensical’ orientation of action within the life-world.” – Ebda, S. 51.
[3] Nora, Pierre: Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past., trans. Arthur Goldhammer, New York 1996, S. 3.
[4] Lorenz, Chris: Towards a Theoretical Framework of Comparing Historiographies: Some Preliminary Considerations. In: Seixas, Peter (Hg.): Theorizing Historical Consciousness. Toronto 2004.



Zwei Matrizen des historischen Denkens: Die erste aus Allan Megill: Jörn Rüsen’s Theory of Historiography: Between Modernism and Rhetoric of Inquiry. In: History and Theory 31 (1994), H. 1, S. 39-60, hier S. 49; die zweite von Peter Seixas, Original © 2016 Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Empfohlene Zitierweise

Seixas, Peter: Eine Geschichts-/Gedächtnis-Matrix für den Geschichtsunterricht. In: Public History Weekly 4 (2016) 6, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2016-5370.

Copyright (c) 2016 by De Gruyter Oldenbourg and the author, all rights reserved. This work may be copied and redistributed for non-commercial, educational purposes, if permission is granted by the author and usage right holders. For permission please contact the editor-in-chief (see here). All articles are reliably referenced via a DOI, which includes all comments that are considered an integral part of the publication.

The assessments in this article reflect only the perspective of the author. PHW considers itself as a pluralistic debate journal, contributions to discussions are very welcome. Please note our commentary guidelines (https://public-history-weekly.degruyter.com/contribute/).

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DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2016-5370

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16 replies »

  1. The matrix “reloaded”

    Jörn Rüsen’s disciplinary matrix, as Peter Seixas contends, “provides a way of thinking about the relationship between the discipline of history and the larger cultural circumstances within which the discipline is practiced.” It was originally designed to show, in circular form, (a) how the practice of historical scholarship deals with questions that are informed by societal culture and needs of practical life, and (b) the way in which some of this scholarly knowledge also informs the practical functions of life-orientation (Lebenspraxis).

    In the context of history wars, in which “popular history” and “disciplinary history” are often construed in sharp opposition, Rüsen proposed an integrative theoretical framework capable of subsuming these two related domains into a sophisticated theoretical model of historical consciousness–the “matrix.” But Rüsen never intended his model to be applied directly to history education. Seixas’ contribution to the field is thus more than welcome as several scholars–myself included–have also struggled with the transposition of these ideas to history education. By superimposing on Rüsen’s matrix an additional layer of memory/history practices, he offers an alternative model to look at how history education can be integrated into the scheme. Instead of being either a practice of history or of practical life, history education becomes a “bridge between historical practices and memorial beliefs, where skilled teachers have considerable autonomy to address the memorial cultures of the students in their classes and where community memories are subjected to and enlarged by critical, historical scrutiny, feeding back into public memory.”

    The challenge
    In my opinion, the challenge with this new model is on two related grounds. First, Seixas redefines the matrix by adding two features in the history “blue zone” and in the memory “red zone”:[1]
    (a) the process of historical scholarship as defined in terms of the design of research questions, use of methods, and production of historical representations; and (b) the spaces of public memory and community interests and identity. These additions are extremely important on their own but problematic when put together in a progressive, circular model. On the one hand, it is misleading to claim that scholarly knowledge directly and systematically informs the needs of practical life and public memory. In many ways, professional historians generate interpretations within a community of inquiry and, as a result, produce a “theoretical surplus” beyond the needs for life orientation and identity. On the other hand, the “blue zone” deals with a specific practice of historical scholarship while the “red zone” is about general contexts within which history lives its practical life. It thus unclear to me how history education is supposed to bridge the two zones since they are conceptually distinct. What would be needed, in my view, is a more elaborated set of practices used for real-life situations that would explain how public memories are constructed and shared – in the same way history is defined by a set of scholarly steps in the model. Seixas gives a hint at these “red zone” practices when he refers to “well-defined narrative,” but this remains largely absent from the model itself.

    Second, the model of Seixas places history education right at the intersection of history and memory in the “purple zone.” While this arrangement helps explain the potential influence of both zones on education, this is equally problematic because it implies that history education is equally informed and governed by these two realms. But in real-life context, as Sirkka Ahonen (2014) rightly observes, history education is “a part of the public culture of history. It is not a spring-off of academic history, as it its contents are defined by state and society.”[2] Moreover, the form of knowledge produced in history education is largely determined by pedagogical considerations, not scholarly needs. As a result, we need to find a better way of recognizing the role and influence of history in the “blue zone” on educational practices. Seixas’ new model offers a useful, additional contribution to the dialogue on the role and impact of history education on the ways in which we live our practical life as citizens and community members.

    [1] Interestingly, to my movie analogy, Seixas’ uses of the red and blue zones corresponds to the same red and blue pills that Neo, the character in the Matrix movies, is invited to swallow in order to understand the complex real/virtual world in which he and his compatriots find themselves into.
    [2] Ahonen, S. (2014). “The lure of grand narratives.” Paper presented at the International Conference “Memory vs. School”, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague, October, 2014.

  2. Jörn Rüsen’s disciplinary matrix: Public History and historical learning – a short reply to Peter Seixas

    Peter Seixas offers a very useful contribution towards the establishment of a modern history education, which helps students to reflect on their own historical identities. He makes also clear that Jörn Rüsen’s disciplinary matrix is highly relevant to historical learning processes. Moreover, his modified version of this matrix is a valuable heuristic instrument of defining the discipline of Public History. As I pointed out a few months ago [1], it is very astonishing that many proponents of Public History do not consider Rüsen’s theory of history, namely his matrix, first published in 1983 [2]. There, history in life praxis – as some Public Historians understand the term – and history as an academic discipline have always referred to each other. This is a fundamental theoretical insight that helps to overcome simple dichotomies and also to include the didactis of history in the scientific discourse on Public History [3].

    [1] Cf. Holger Thünemann: Public History – 9 Theses. In: Public History Weekly 3 (2015) 2: http://public-history-weekly.oldenbourg-verlag.de/3-2015-2/public-history-sublation-german-debate/#comment-2240
    [2] Jörn Rüsen: Historische Vernunft. Grundzüge einer Historik I: Die Grundlagen der Geschichtswissenschaft. Göttingen 1983, pp. 20-32, notably p. 29.
    [3] Cf. Jörn Rüsen: Lebendige Geschichte. Grundzüge einer Historik III: Formen und Funktionen des historischen Wissens. Göttingen 1989, pp. 76-135.

  3. I feel very much honored by the attempts, to apply my idea of a disciplinary matrix of historical studies to history didactics. I totally agree with Peter Seixas’ scheme of such a matrix of didactics. It come very close to my own concept of a disciplinary matrix of history didactics.

    I have published this concept in Rüsen, Jörn: Historisches Erzählen, in idem.: Zerbrechende Zeit. Über den Sinn der Geschichte. Köln 2001, p. 67.

    Recently I have completed this scheme of history didactics in an article which will be published in a book edited by Holger Thünemann (Ed.): Geschichtsdidaktik in der Diskussion.

    Disciplinary Matrix of Geschichtsdidaktik / History Education by Jörn Rüsen (2016)

    Editor’s note: We will supply you as soon as possible an English translation of this scheme.

  4. The work of Peter Seixas has been highly influential in Anglophone history education research for some time, particularly since the publication of the collection Knowing, Teaching, and Learning History, which he edited with Peter Stearns and Sam Wineburg. In that collection, Seixas’ own contribution explored the question of whether postmodern history had a place in schools.[1] His response included an articulation of a different but related tripartite scheme that could be used to understand history pedagogy. In this earlier scheme, Seixas envisaged three approaches to history teaching. The first he described as “Collective Memory” in which a teacher presents to students the single best story about the past that we have available. The message, as he described it, was that “historical knowledge appears as something fixed by authority”.[2]

    The second approach, which Seixas clearly favoured, was the idea of history as “Disciplined Knowledge” in which an educated citizenry learn to use the tools of historical thinking to arrive “independently at reasonable, informed opinions”.[3] His third and final approach in that chapter was what he called the “Postmodern Challenge” to history, which was critical of all historical knowledge, and at best helped students to position “all historical accounts in relation to the current interests of their narrators”,[4] and at its most problematic, left students unable to adjudicate between rival historical narratives.

    I have used this earlier scheme of Seixas as something of a touchstone, seeing it as following a parallel logic to that used by Jenkins & Munslow[5] when they identified historians as Reconstructionists (equivalent to the “Collective Memory” approach), Constructionsists (matching the “Disciplined Knowledge” approach), and Deconstructionists (aligned nicely with the “Postmodern Challenge” approach).

    It could be argued that Seixas has simply updated this scheme. However, I am inclined to see this new framework as a significant improvement on the earlier schema. There is undoubtedly a direct relationship between the “Collective Memory” approach to teaching history and Seixas’ “Red Version” of school history with its focus on memory practices. There is also an unquestionable relationship between the “Disciplined Knowledge” approach of Seixas’ early work and the “Blue Version” of school history with its concentration on disciplinary history. One might even argue that the “Purple” zone is just the kind of deconstructive space in which the “postmodern challenge” takes place, where various kinds of historical practices collide or co-exist and sit in tension with each other.

    However, Seixas appears to have evaded his earlier concern with postmodern relativism in this latest offering. Drawing on Jörn Rüsen’s thoughtful conceptualisation of the workings of “history culture”, Seixas’ latest contribution provides the possibility for critical engagement with rival historical representations as they emerge from the variety of historical methodologies in the blue zone, and critical engagement with the plethora of collective memories in the red zone. Here a question arises. Is this what Seixas intends as activities in the purple zone? Or, despite describing the encounter between history and memory as “enlargement”, does Seixas see the purple space as one in which disciplinary history corrects collective memory? I think this is the kind of question alluded to by Lévesque in his response above. I would be interested to hear Seixas explore this further.

    What we have here is as much a ‘history culture’ or ‘public history’ matrix as it is a History/Memory matrix, that I am sure will be useful to history teachers in their role as public historians.

    [1] Seixas, P. (2000). Schweigen! die Kinder! or does postmodern history have a place in the schools? Knowing, teaching, and learning history: National and international perspectives. P. N. Stearns, P. Seixas and S. Wineburg. New York, New York University Press: 19-37.
    [2] Ibid, p. 23.
    [3] Ibid, p. 25.
    [4] Ibid, p. 30.
    [5] Jenkins, K. and A. Munslow (2004). Introduction. The nature of history reader. K. Jenkins and A. Munslow. London, Routledge: 1-18.

  5. Apparently such models fulfil their function – they focus thought and discussion on relevant aspects, highlighting their relation in a specific way. Thanks to Peter Seixas and him placing his new suggestion here, the debate goes on internationally immediately. I think that’s what we need.
    Just some comments, therefore, from my side:

    First to Stéphane Lévesque and Jörn Rüsen: Lévesque’s assertion that there was no circular matrix of historical teaching as there was in the initial model on historical research Seixas quoted via Megill, has been partly corrected by Rüsen himself in his answer. There is, however, one aspect which might be focused: While the “academic” version[1] moulds a circular process, the matrix for history teaching Rüsen refers to is void of this procedural notion. That certainly is a feature not a bug, but is has to be noted.
    Seixas’ new matrix, however, still has the procedural character inherent in the initial matrix. (In fact, there was a procedural model of historical learning which Jörn Rüsen proposed in 1985[2] which seems to be directly moulded from the 1983 academic matrix.[3]

    There is, however, another procedural model of historical thinking which focuses not only on academic research but on “out of academia” orientation in the temporal dimension also, and which underpins a model of “historical thinking competencies”. It is the procedural model Wolfgang Hasberg and myself derived from Rüsen’s intital matrix of 1983 in 2003[4] and which forms the basis for the “FUER model” of historical competencies.[5] This model also moulds a circular process of historical orientation and thus makes this process of orientation and its conceptual basis as the focus of historical learning and teaching (via the design of a non-procedural area of competence in the centre of the circle).

    This leads to the second comment on Peter Seixas’ new model directly:
    The differentiation between “red” and “blue” history and “purple” not being just their intermingling but their reflective inter-relation may be something one might get used to, but it helps. It has, however, also its limits, depending on whether we understand the model as an analytical, descriptive one or as normative.

    – “Red” history as an analytical category surely describes an often to be found, rather traditional focus of history teaching. Just whether such “well-defined narrative, with particular events and actors legislated or otherwise mandated through state mechanisms” is feasible and possible in modern, post-traditional societies in the singular, or whether this perspective needs to be pluralized also (by way of purple history) will have to be discussed further.

    This need for further clarification also encompasses whether – as Robert Parkes suggests above – there really is a direct relation between “collective memory” and “red history”. For him, “red” history also refers to the “plethora” of (apparently: different) collective memories, not just the single narrative, but which — so he asks — might be meant to be “corrected” by the single standard narrative.

    – “Blue” History, then seems to be kind of “the opposite” of the “red” one – at least it is on the other side of the fence. referring to “memory” as the disciplinary basis of it, a kind of “grammar of historical argumentation” etc.

    But when Parkes hints at there being not just one but a plethora of “red” histories competeing, being in tension etc. – what about the “blue” one? Is there just one grammar, one “proper” way of reading, thinking writing “like a historian”, which is to be promoted in schools?

    If so, then the one “red” history produced applying the “blue” methods and criteria could indeed just “correct” all the other ones. “Memory” were (quite as M. Halbwachs portrayed it in 1926[6]) – the dry, abstract “knowledge” whereas (collective) memory was maybe faulted and blurred by interest and perspective, but full of relavance for identity. And then? Would the criteria in the “blue” field even apply to them? Could one not argue that criteria for assessing narratives, developed in academia, only were applicable to the academic but abstract “red” story, not to the other ones?

    I therefore always have held that the opposition of “history” and “memory” as in Halbwachs is erroneous when focusing the function and structure. Both inside and outside academia, (more or less) valid historical orientation is produced in form of narratives. The difference between them is gradual, not in principle. Academical historical thinking, though, has the advantage of being specifically controlled (hopefully) by application of methods which can be discussed, by integration of perspectives etc. Therefore, to my view, Rüsen’s initial circular matrix, Seixas cited via Megill, can be applied to both academic and non-academic historical thinking.[7]

    Here, then, to my view, is what characterized the “purple” bridge (not fence): It enables reflection and teachin as well as diagnosis and assessment to focus on the interrelation between the realm of conceptual and methodological structures for historical thinking as a process and of narratives as the result. And it provides for an area in which the diverse relations between different versions and qualities of such criteria and the narratives they underpin or inform can be discussed.

    The “blue” history then can and must relate to an equally manifold field of ideas about history, as the “red” one does to the “plethora” of existing narratives.

    [1] Rüsen, Jörn (1983): Historische Vernunft. Grundzüge einer Historik I: Die Grundlagen der Geschichtswissenschaft. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (Kleine Vandenhoeck-Reihe, 1489).
    [2] Rüsen, Jörn (1985): Ansätze zu einer Theorie historischen Lernens. Teil I. In Geschichtsdidaktik / Probleme, Projekte, Perspektiven 10, pp. 249–265, here p. 254.
    [3] For a translation see Körber, Andreas (2015): Historical consciousness, historical competencies – and beyond? Some conceptual development within German history didactics. p. 29. http://www.pedocs.de/volltexte/2015/10811/pdf/Koerber_2015_Development_German_History_Didactics.pdf (Last accessed March 1 2016).
    [4] Hasberg, Wolfgang; Körber, Andreas (2003): Geschichtsbewusstsein dynamisch. In Andreas Körber (Ed.): Geschichte – Leben – Lernen. Bodo von Borries zum 60. Geburtstag. Schwalbach/Ts: Wochenschau-Verlag (Forum Historisches Lernen), pp. 177–200.
    [5] Körber, Andreas; Schreiber, Waltraud; Schöner, Alexander (Eds.) (2007): Kompetenzen historischen Denkens. Ein Strukturmodell als Beitrag zur Kompetenzorientierung in der Geschichtsdidaktik. Neuried: ars una Verlags-Gesellschaft (Kompetenzen, 2); for an English version see Körber 2015 (footnote [3]).
    [6] Halbwachs, Maurice (2006): Das Gedächtnis und seine sozialen Bedingungen. [2. Aufl.]. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp (Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft, 538). http://www.gbv.de/dms/faz-rez/FD120060807761105.pdf (Last accessed March 1 2016).
    [7] cf. Körber 2015, 27 (see Footnote [3]); maybe this is compatible to what Thünemann meant above by stating that “history in life praxis – as some Public Historians understand the term – and history as an academic discipline have always referred to each other”.

    • I totally agree with your conclusion Andreas…. And if I was not clear enough, I see a plethora of historiographies as much as I see competing collective memories. In a Gadamerian sense, method is truth for me. That is to say, when I hear your narrative, I want to know the method you used to produce it. I do not think it is wise for us to assume that historical method is singular. Thus, I like your suggestion, if I have understood it correctly, that Rüsen’s circle applies to the production of any historical narrative, whether produced by historians or in a public arena.

  6. Editor’s note:

    I’m very glad to provide you for the first time with an authorized English translation of Jörn Rüsen’s recent “Schema der disziplinären Matrix der Geschichtsdidaktik” as mentioned above.

  7. Thanks! By the way: having so many models nowadays and many of them graphical also: Wouldn’t a collection of such models be useful, shortly presenting them (maybe by the author(s)) and then commented upon from at least two perspectives? Since models do not present the truth either but focus on structures, i. e. elements and relationd, these comments could focus on the “merits” and the limits, the highlighted as well as the shadowed aspects, also. And maybe some comment could also come from young researchers or master students focusing on their perspective, how a specific model is received?

  8. Do we need a “history/communication matrix”?

    I agree with the previous comments. The offered model helps us to stress the question, what is going on inside historical education processes. Furthermore, it underpins the function of history education as a “bridge” between history as academic discipline and social communication with history. Nonetheless, I see three challenges:

    1.) As Andreas Körber pointed out, Rüsen and other colleagues (e.g. Bergmann[1]) suggest that such academic model (e.g. Rüsens matrix), which fixes historical thinking, is a key to describe historical learning. Of course this is not unproblematic as Peter Seixas pointed out. In pragmatic perspective it could be that – to paraphrase Lee & Shemilt – such a concept is used not as a scaffold but as a cage for pupils’ learning. For empirical research it maybe leads us only to top down strategies and we ignore what we could find in our data. But on the other hand we need a theoretical ground for our work.

    2.) In this context, I agree with Stéphane Lévesque. History as a discipline and history education could not be described as separated spaces. It is true that historians often deal with questions which are unrelated to public discussions. But historians as humans live in their societies. And I am sure that they use their concepts which they have learned in different social situations when they are doing their job. But what we need are categories to differentiate these fields.

    3.) I am not sure if the concept of “collective memory” is helpful to understand how social communication with history works. “Memory“, as Demantowsky[2] and Ziegler[3] pointed out, is a subjective construct which is connected with our lifespan. But, if we understand history as narrative practice, we also talk about situations in the past, which happened before our “memory” started to work. In this perspective the construct of memorization maybe covers how and why we make history. Moreover, if we use it as metaphor for social processes, maybe we ignore the different functions between the social process of doing history and individual memorization. In German speaking history education many colleagues use “historical culture” as an alternative term (e.g. Rüsen). Marko Demantowsky[4] recently offered “public history”. But in reference to both approaches we could discuss new problems.

    In fact, it is a key problem of history education how individuals think about history in (different) social contexts. This is especially important, if we want to support powerful learning environments in history classes. Maybe in addition to the concept of “collective memory” we could use social constructivist theories (e.g. Siebert [5]) which focus on communication and social interaction to understand the “purple” zone of Seixas model (a “history/communication matrix”?). Asking what people do, if they use historical material (sources and – written/oral – historical narrations), and how they “communicate” with the material and other people, maybe leads us to differentiated terms to understand that process.

    However, this “history/memory matrix” offered by Peter Seixas, helps us to talk about our perspectives on history education in different language contexts. In the end, our understandings of historical education processes start with translations and explaining of the concepts we use, as Peter Seixas pointed out during his lecture in Basel in 2015. To this end I hope that I get the point.

    [1] Bergmann, Klaus (2008): Geschichtsdidaktik. Beiträge zu einer Theorie historischen Lernens, 3. Auflage, Schwalbach/Ts.
    [2] Demantowsky, Marko (2005): Geschichtskultur und Erinnerungskultur – zwei Konzeptionen des einen Gegenstandes. Historischer Hintergrund und exemplarischer Vergleich. In: Geschichte, Politik und ihre Didaktik 33 (2005), S. 11–20.
    [3] Ziegler, Béatrice (2014): “Erinnert euch!” – Geschichte als Erinnerung und die Wissenschaft. In: Gautschi, Peter & Sommer Häller, Barbara (Hrsg.): Der Beitrag von Schulen und Hochschulen zu Erinnerungskulturen. Schwalbach / Ts.: Wochenschau, S. 69-89.
    [4] Demantowsky, Marko (2015): “Public History” – Aufhebung einer deutschsprachigen Debatte? In: Public History Weekly 3, 2, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2015-3292.
    [5] Siebert, Horst (2004): Sozialkonstruktivismus. Gesellschaft als Konstruktion. In: Journal of Social Science Education, 2, S. 95‒103.

  9. Thünemann, Holger

    Andreas Körber is completely right. A commented collection of the models being discussed would be enormously helpful. The models developed in the recent four decades by Jörn Rüsen, Karl-Ernst Jeismann [1], Bodo von Borries [2], Peter Seixas, Peter Gautschi [3], Jannet van Drie and Carla van Boxtel [4] have had an influence on our historical thinking processes and on our academic discourse in general which can’t be overestimated. On the other hand, some of these models have never been described, discussed or criticized as profoundly as necessary. Let’s start working on this important point!

    [1] Karl-Ernst Jeismann: Grundfragen des Geschichtsunterrichts. In: Günter C. Behrmann/Karl-Ernst Jeismann/Hans Süssmuth: Geschichte und Politik. Didaktische Grundlegung eines kooperativen Unterrichts. Paderborn 1978 (Geschichte – Politik, Studien zur Didaktik, vol. 1), pp. 76-107, p. 93. Cf. Bernd Schönemann: Geschichtsbewusstsein – Theorie. In: Michele Barricelli/Martin Lücke (Eds.): Handbuch Praxis des Geschichtsunterrichts. Vol. 1. Schwalbach/Ts. 2012, pp. 98-111, p. 103; Holger Thünemann: Probleme und Perspektiven der geschichtsdidaktischen Kompetenzdebatte. In: Saskia Handro/Bernd Schönemann (Eds.): Aus der Geschichte lernen? Weiße Flecken der Kompetenzdebatte. Berlin 2016 (Geschichtskultur und historisches Lernen, vol. 15), pp. 37-51, p. 42.
    [2] Cf. e.g. Schönemann, Geschichtsbewusstsein, p. 108.
    [3] Peter Gautschi: Guter Geschichtsunterricht. Grundlagen, Erkenntnisse, Hinweise. 3rd ed. Schwalbach/Ts. 2015 (Geschichtsunterricht erforschen, vol. 1), p. 51.
    [4] Cf. Carla van Boxtel: Insights from Dutch Research on History Education. Historical Reasoning and a Chronological Frame of Reference. In: Manuel Köster/Holger Thünemann/Meik Zülsdorf-Kersting (Eds.): Researching History Education. International Perspectives and Disciplinary Traditions. Schwalbach/Ts. 2015 (Geschichtsunterricht erforschen, vol. 4), pp. 236-262, p. 242.

    • Maybe that would be a suitable subject for a common, inter-university (maybe even inter-national) Master’s seminar in which international groups of students first present and comment a model individually and then compare their descriptions and comments and integrate them in a way which does not only display the lowest common denominator but also highlights points of differences and discussions – as well as the (sometimes common, sometimes differing) links the aspects moulded in the models have to other works in their respective national discussions. They would then present their common product for commenting by the plenaries of the joint seminars.
      Just an idea.

  10. As a relatively new history education scholar whose work has been influenced by those commenting here, I’ve been following the debate that has ensued with interest since Peter Seixas released his model. While I respectfully acknowledge that I do not have the experience and stature of those commenting before me, I see our current time and place in history, the democratization of academia through this type of blog, and Körber’s comment last night, as an open invitation for new scholars (especially one from the xx chromosome set) to chime in. In my forthcoming dissertation, and a recent paper, I echo some of the challenges made by the commentators and explore a potential way forward that I hope garners some critical feedback here.

    Levesque stated “While [Seixas’] arrangement helps explain the potential influence of both zones on education, this is equally problematic because it implies that history education is equally informed and governed by these two realms”. If Seixas intends as Parkes suggests the “purple space [as] one in which disciplinary history corrects collective memory”, I ask, how do we account for the fact that, frequently and perhaps unwittingly, public communicators (teachers, curators, designers of monuments etc.) are so firmly rooted in their templates of historical understanding that their capacity to see the past in a manner that differs from dominant narratives is limited? As Nitsche stated yesterday, “historians as humans live in their societies . . .they use their concepts which they have learned in different social situations when they are doing their job”.

    Much has been written about how master national narratives are formed through personal (familial, ethnic, religious) experiences and sites of public pedagogy (classrooms, textbooks, monuments, museums, etc.).[1] Wertsch pointed out that imbedded in dominant national narratives are “schematic narrative templates”.[2] As Létourneau (2007) argues, these collectively held narrations produce binary notions of insiders/outsiders, stereotypes and other representations that “act as a basic matrix of understanding of comprehending the complexity of the past (and the present)”.[3]

    I write about how recent discussions have also implicated the discipline of history itself. Scholars have expressed concern over how historical consciousness is translated into pedagogical projects based on disciplinary models and also its foundation on normative, privileged, Euro-Western notions of evidence.[4] Körber asked, “is one grammar, one ‘proper’ way of reading, thinking writing ‘like a historian’ to be promoted in schools?”

    Levesque wrote “a more elaborated set of practices […] that would explain how public memories are constructed and shared – in the same way history is defined by a set of scholarly steps in the model” is needed. He noted that Seixas hints at these “red zone” practices referring to a “well-defined narrative,” but this remains absent from the model. Körber hints at theories for understanding the purple zone that ask “what people do, if they use historical material (sources and – written/oral – historical narrations), and how they ‘communicate’ with the material and other people, maybe leads us to differentiated terms to understand that process”.

    I argue that a potential way forward lies in curricular imperatives that examine and deconstruct what Wertsch called a nation’s schematic narrative templates — the multiple, contested, and overlapping versions of a country’s national narratives that emerge from deliberations in the blue and red zones that have existed throughout time and are being formed in the current historical moment. What I emphasize, however, is that such heuristic frameworks would by no means be universal. Unique to each nation, they might assist in uncovering the structures beneath the stories nations tell, and nurture a more historically informed citizenry.

    My work outlines what this might look like in the Canadian context. It presents a matrix that captures and critiques Canada’s foundational meta-narratives, labeled National Narrative 1.0 (NN 1.0), National Narrative 2.0 (NN 2.0), and Counter National Narratives 3.0 (CNN 3.0). NN 1.0 communicates a progressive, unified, Euro-Western, colony-to-nation storyline of Canada; NN 2.0 conveys Canada as a progress-oriented, tolerant, multicultural mosaic, tied to a trajectory of human rights; and CNN 3.0 presents partial narratives of competing, forgotten, or silenced aspects of Canada’s past and present via parallel or alternate histories and stories that contest, rebuke or intervene in NN 1.0 and 2.0. These three narratives, which are shaped, but not defined by historiography, are fluid, malleable, and continually evolving as we move forward in the current historical moment.

    The intent of such matrices is not to offer new catechisms of the national narrative. Fresh storylines of the past, although perhaps more persuasive and engaging, continue to be framed by the lens of the current historical moment and are problematic once fixed. Rather, national narrative matrices might offer a starting point for debates and discussions to assist citizens and those working in sites of pedagogy, whether curators, teachers, textbook writers, or professors to probe the intentions behind the stories nations tell and challenges them to re-evaluate the narratives to which they adhere. They also have the potential to open history education to Rüsen’s argument that historical learning involve “narrative competence” and an understanding of how moral values imbedded in these narratives are moulded into a “‘body of time’”[5] – how they provide guidelines for behaviour in the present and courses of action for the future. I believe this narrative dimension would fit nicely into Rüsen’s new scheme and would like to hear more about his Narrative (historical) Competence.

    [1] Carretero, M. (2011) Constructing patriotism. Teaching of history and memories in global worlds. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. // Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of learning: Media, architecture, pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge/Falmer. // Neatby, N., & Hodgins, P. (Eds.). (2012). Settling and unsettling memories: Essays in public history. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. // Nora, P. (1996). Between memory and history. In Realms of memory: The construction of the French past (A. Goldhammer, Trans.; pp. 1–20). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
    [2] Wertsch, J. (2011). Specific narratives and schematic narrative templates. In P. Seixas (Ed.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 49–62). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. (Original work published 2004), p. 57.
    [3] Létourneau, J. (2007). Remembering Our Past: An Examination of the Historical Memory of Young Québécois. In Ruth M. Sandwell (Eds.), To the Past: History Education, Public Memory and Citizenship in Canada (pp. 70-87). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press, p. 79.
    [4] Friedrich, D. (2014). Democratic education as a curricular problem. Historical consciousness and the moralizing limits of the present. New York, NY: Rutledge. // McGregor, H. E. (2014). Exploring ethnohistory and Indigenous scholarship: What is the relevance to educational historians? History of Education, 43(4), 431–449. doi:10.1080/0046760X.2014.930184.
    [5] Rüsen, J. (2011). Historical consciousness: narrative structure, moral function, andontogenetic development. In P. Seixas (Ed.), Theorizing historical consciousness (pp. 63-85). (Original work published 2004). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p. 67.

    The Narrative Dimension

  11. For those who have asked, and want more information about this model and my two other matrices: (1) A Matrix of Canadian National Narratives, and (2) A Model of Competence in History Education. See: https://ubc.academia.edu/StephanieAndersonRedmond

  12. Seixas’ matrix and the discussion that has ensued is highly interesting for many reasons and it points towards several areas within history didactics that are relevant to explore further. There is one aspect of Seixas’ matrix that I would like to comment on, however. Since the matrix seems to suggest that memory and history are two distinct but inter-related spheres and that a disciplinary approach (alluded to belong to the sphere of history) can be applied to “correct” (as remarked by Robert Parkes above) the inaduequacies of narratives relating to collective memory (characterised by closed grand narratives), it seems to assume that history as such is not affected by these problems. It seems to argue that if we apply sound historical thinking to narratives (i.e. turn them into history) they will become fit for history education. Following this logic, Seixas suggests that the field of history education is at the interplay between these two spheres and that history teachers’ job is to mediate between them.

    While this indeed is an important task for all history educators, I would like to suggest that the matrix could be perceived to be misleading regarding this since it seems to argue that the problems it highlights are extra- or inter-disciplinary when in fact they could be argued to be intra-disciplinary as well. All narratives are subjected to these problems, be they part of academic dissertations or nationalistic folklore, since they are all products of certain processes (academic or other). Hence I would like to argue that the tension in history education is not primarily a tension between history and memory (although there is such a tension), but rather a tension within the discipline itself: history is at the same time both a process and a product no matter what the narratives say or in what context they are conceived or received. In this sense it could be argued that the matrix should not only involve memory and history, but also matters pertaining to history as both a product and a process at the same time.

    With this view, it could be argued that there are more things going on in the disciplinary sphere than what Seixas admits. History is not only a matter of applying historical thinking or a particular historical method onto various sources, but also a matter of dialectically engaging with one’s own positionality and prejudices as a researcher (cf Parkes 2011). Thus, history is not only about rendering scientifically sound narratives emanating from the application of a certain historical method or critiquing certain narratives that belong to collective memory, but also a matter of engaging with what topics we deal with, what questions we ask and what perspectives we choose to apply (among other things). Indeed it could be argued that this is exactly what Seixas wants to say with the matrix, but I feel that there is a risk that it directs our attention to where it should not be. In my view, history teachers’ primary task is not to negotiate between collective memory and history, but rather between history as a product and a process of historical inquiry. In a sense I would like to argue that the narrative competency referred to above should primarily be perceived as an interpretive competency that applies a meta-historical approach to historical narratives. With this view it becomes less important to ask whether a narrative should be perceived as historical or relating to memory, than to ask whence the narrative came from, by whom it was written, and by what measures it was conceived.

  13. Peter Seixas’ “purple zone” might indeed be a valuable contribution and starting point for a deepened discussion on History teaching and learning – not only within the field of school history but also when we look at history teaching and learning in higher education.

    The “purple zone” may be the place where the sometimes frustrating gap between the German, more philosophical focus on historical consciousness (Geschichtsbewusstsein) and the Anglo-American focus on History as procedural knowledge or “a form of knowledge” can be bridged.

    In my opinion, the last decade has offered important contributions, not least from Peter Seixas and from Andreas Körber and his colleagues in the FUER project. When Seixas and Tom Morton stresses the importance of History’s ethical dimension and gives it a place among the “Big Six”[1], they also remind us of history’s importance in everyday life. Likewise, when Körber and his colleagues identify the competencies involved when we actively and consciously (!) make use of our historical consciousness and historical knowledge, the affinity between the German and the Anglo-American tradition becomes evident when Körber writes that subject matter competence should be understood as “the command over/ability to use and apply rather abstract first and second order concepts, categories, knowledge of procedures and methods etc.[2]

    This is important and promising, since (at least from a Scandinavian perspective) Rüsen’s discreetly dotted line separating the disciplinary field from the field of everyday life has sometimes evolved into a deep trench, where school history (and history in higher education) exclusively focus on the former. The history of everyday life is thus dismissed as “heritage” or “memory” or “myth”, a “false consciousness” that should be corrected by “real history”.

    The obvious risk is that students on all levels lose interest in the subject since they cannot see how the knowledge about the past, handed down by the teacher, can contribute to the orientation competence mentioned by Körber and his colleagues. This is highly unfortunate. History is a compulsory school subject, but very few students will become professional historians. Even when we look at university students with a Bachelor degree in history, a minority will have their professional future in the blue semi-circle. Their knowledge is valuable if, and only if, it can be put to relevant use in everyday life.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Andreas Körber when he writes in his blog post that “the opposition of “history” and “memory” as in Halbwachs is erroneous when focusing the function and structure” and that the purple bridge “enables reflection and teaching as well as diagnosis and assessment to focus on the interrelation between the realm of conceptual and methodological structures for historical thinking as a process and of narratives as the result. And it provides for an area in which the diverse relations between different versions and qualities of such criteria and the narratives they underpin or inform can be discussed”.

    [1] Seixas, Peter, Morton, Tom (2013). The Big Six Historical Thinking Concepts. Toronto: Nelson Education.
    [2] Körber, Andreas (2011). “German History Didactics: From Historical Consciousness to Historical Competencies–and Beyond?”. In: Historicizing the Uses of the Past: Scandinavian Perspectives on History, Culture, Historical Consciousness and Didactics of History Related to World War II, edited by Helle Bjerg, Claudia Lenz and Erik Thorstensen, Bielefeld: Transcript, 145-164.

  14. [Die deutsche Übersetzung findet sich unter dem englischen Text.]

    Author’s Reply | Replik

    I am delighted by the range and depth of responses to “The History/Memory Matrix.” They offer important challenges and questions, supportively and collegially.

    The most extensive contribution to the discussion is Stéphane Lévesque’s thoughtful contribution, “Going beyond ‘narratives’ vs. ‘competencies’.” Lévesque notes two shortcomings of my matrix:
    1. “…it is misleading to claim that scholarly knowledge operates in a singular mode that directly and systematically informs the needs of practical life”.
    2. “Seixas’ ‘red zone’ deals only with general contexts within which history lives its practical life. It lacks the practices and methods used to generate cultural and public narratives.”

    The first is a misreading that is repeated, with variations, in several other comments; there is nothing direct or systematic about how disciplinary history relates to practical life, nor did I make such an assertion. Robert Parkes thinks that I claim that “disciplinary history corrects collective memory.” Robert Thorpe writes, “[Seixas] seems to argue that if we apply sound historical thinking to narratives (i.e. turn them into history) they will become fit for history education.”

    The words I actually use are “feed into,” rather than “correct” or “make fit for.” But my words are too vague. What the discipline has to offer, and what distinguishes it from identity-building memory practices, is an open, critical, evidence-based approach to investigating the past. The methods and dispositions that follow from a disciplinary approach to historical knowledge—rather than a particular narrative that historians might arrive at—provide the generative benefit for history education. Thus, I agree with Andreas Körber’s conclusion (like Levesque) that the “’blue’ history…can and must relate to an equally manifold field of ideas about history.” Academic history, of course, produces many narratives, using many methods, but necessarily with openness to critique, review and revision.

    As to Lévesque’s second criticism, I concur. The matrix addresses the various positions where history education might be located (red, blue or purple) in relation to disciplinary history and to the broader historical culture, without unpacking how the latter works. Martin Nitsche makes a similar point about the need for further attention to “historical culture” or “public history” or “collective memory” in the “red” zone of the matrix. While that would be useful, I am not convinced that it is necessary for the purpose of this limited model.

    Lévesque claims three benefits for his revision to the matrix:

    1. It allows us to see how the various cultures [i.e., scholarly, broader public, and educational] are related and potentially inform each other.
    2. It places history education at the intersection of disciplinary history and cultural life practice…
    3. It places these communities within the historical culture.

    My original matrix accomplished 1) more simply. As to 2), I wrote that history education should be located at the intersection of disciplinary history and life practice, but that it is not necessarily, or even most often, found there. As to 3), of course.

    I was thrilled that Jörn Rüsen joined in this discussion, and that we now have, through Marko Demantowsky, a translation of his matrix. However, “methods of research” is not specific enough: is this “history education research” or “historical research?” If the former, we would have a matrix of history didactics that fails to express a relationship (or set of possible relationships) to the disciplinary practices of history.

    Andreas Körber draws our attention to the circular process in the FUER model, also derived from Rüsen’s matrix. I have been inspired by Körber’s work and believe that Anglophone history educators have much to learn from it. But the FUER graphic diagram is daunting, at least in its English translation. Körber also seems to call for the visual scheme that Lévesque offers: “…Rüsen’s initial circular matrix…can be applied to both academic and non-academic historical thinking.” He asks more questions and offers more amendments than I can address here, but see my final comment below.

    I am fascinated by Parkes’ drawing the relationship between the History/Memory Matrix and my “Schweigen, die Kinder!” The connection is strong, though for me previously entirely unconscious. Parkes asks, what happened to my worry in 2000, about postmodern relativism? Those concerns now take a back seat, with the fading of most Anglophone academics’ infatuation with French theory. But the question he raises, of the encounter between history and memory is crucial. As noted above, Parkes does not quite capture my position with the idea that “disciplinary history corrects collective memory. ” Yet his alternative proposal—engagement with “a variety of historical methodologies… and … a plethora of collective memories” is also problematic in its apparent suggestion (if I read it correctly) of history and memory as epistemologically equivalent. The History/Memory Matrix aims for something that splits the difference between those two positions. Holger Thünemann provides a simple and accurate description: “history in life praxis…and history as an academic discipline have always referred to each other. This is a fundamental theoretical insight that helps to overcome simple dichotomies.”

    Körber and Thünemann suggest assembling a collection of graphic models, with critique and comparison. I can imagine that such a volume—or seminar—would be both exciting and very useful in advancing the field. Another outcome of such an effort might be the articulation of criteria to help with model-building in the future. I would suggest the following, as a starting point: comprehensiveness balanced with clarity and simplicity, in relation to specific questions and purposes. One model can’t do everything for everybody.


    Ich bin hocherfreut über das Ausmaß und die Tiefe der Kommentare zur “History/Memory-Matrix”. Es sind bedeutsame Problematisierungen und Nachfragen offeriert worden, und das auf eine unterstützende und kollegiale Weise.

    Den ausführlichsten Diskussionsbeitrag stellt Stéphane Lévesques wohl überlegter Initialbeitrag “Going beyond ‘narratives’ vs. ‘competencies'” dar. Lévesque verzeichnet zwei Unzulänglichkeiten meiner Matrix:
    1. “… ist es irreführend zu behaupten, dass akademisches Wissen nur auf eine Weise funktioniert, die direkt und systematisch den Bedürfnissen des täglichen Lebens dient.”
    2. Seixas’ “rote Zone” “… behandelt … nur allgemeine Zusammenhänge, innerhalb derer Geschichte praktisch angewendet wird. Es mangelt an Praktiken und Methoden, die verwendet werden, um kulturelle und öffentliche Narrative zu erzeugen.”

    Die erste Anmerkung ist ein Missverständnis, das, in Variationen, in verschiedenen anderen Kommentaren wiederholt wird. Weder gibt es etwas Direktes oder Systematisches in dem Verhältnis von Geschichtswissenschaft und praktischem Leben noch habe ich eine entsprechende Behauptung aufgestellt. Robert Parkes denkt, ich behauptete, dass “Geschichtswissenschaft das kollektive Gedächtnis korrigiert”. Robert Thorpe schreibt, “[Seixas] scheint zu argumentieren, dass Narrative für historische Bildung geeignet werden, wenn wir gründliches historisches Denken auf sie anwenden (d.h. wenn wir sie zu historischen machen).”

    Die Wörter, die ich eigentlich benutze sind “einspeisen” statt “korrigieren” oder “anpassen”. Aber meine Worte sind zu unscharf. Was die Geschichtswissenschaft anzubieten hat und was sie unterscheidet von identitätserzeugenden Gedächtnispraktiken, das ist ein offener, kritischer und evidenzbasierter Ansatz zur Vergangenheitsuntersuchung. Die Methodik und die Regeln, die sich aus einem wissenschaftlichen Zugang zu historischem Wissen ergeben – weit mehr als ein spezielles Narrativ, zu dem sich HistorikerInnen vorarbeiten – versorgen uns mit einem produktiven Vorteil für die historische Bildung. Ungeachtet dessen stimme ich Andreas Körbers (wie auch Lévesques) Schlussfolgerung zu, dass “die ‘blaue’ Geschichte … ins Verhältnis gesetzt werden muss zu einem gleichermassen mannigfaltigen Bereich von Ideen über Geschichte.” Akademische Geschichte stellt natürlich viele Narrative her, benutzt dabei viele Methoden, aber notwendigerweise in Offenheit gegenüber Kritik, Begutachtung und Revision.

    Lévesques zweiter Kritik stimme ich zu. Die Matrix bezieht sich auf die verschiedenen Positionen, an denen historische Bildung verortet sein mag (rot, blau oder violett) im Verhältnis zur Geschichtswissenschaft und zur breiteren Geschichtskultur, ohne dabei auszuführen wie Letzteres funktioniert. Martin Nitsche argumentiert auf die gleiche Weise in Bezug auf den Bedarf zu weiterer Beachtung der Konzepte von “Geschichtskultur” oder “Public History” oder “Kollektives Gedächtnis” in der “roten” Zone der Matrix. Wenngleich das nützlich sein würde, bin ich doch nicht überzeugt, ob das für die Zwecke dieses beschränkten Erklärungsmodells nötig ist.

    Lévesque behauptet drei Vorteile seiner Revision der Matrix:

    1. Sie erlaubt uns die verschiedenartigen Kulturen zu erkennen (d.h. die akademische, die allgemein-öffentliche und die schulische), die miteinander im Verhältnis stehen und sich potentiell gegenseitig durchdringen.
    2. Sie verortet historische Bildung am Schnittpunkt von Geschichtswissenschaft und der Praxis des kulturellen Lebens …
    3. Sie verortet diese Gemeinschaften in der Geschichtskultur.

    Meine ursprüngliche Matrix deckten den ersten Punkt ebenfalls ab, nur einfacher. Was den zweiten Punkt betrifft, habe ich geschrieben, dass historische Bildung an der Schnittstelle von Geschichtswissenschaft und Lebenspraxis verortet werden sollte, und nicht, dass sie dort notwendigerweise oder auch nur meistens gefunden werde. Und zum dritten Punkt: selbstverständlich.

    Ich war begeistert, dass Jörn Rüsen sich in die Diskussion eingeschaltet hat und dass wir nun, dank Marko Demantowsky, eine Übersetzung seiner Matrix haben. Allerdings ist der Begriff “Methoden der Forschung” nicht konkret genug: Bezieht sich das auf “geschichtsdidaktische Forschung” oder auf “historische Forschung”? Sollte Ersteres gemeint sein, dann hätten wir eine Matrix der Geschichtsdidaktik, die allerdings das Verhältnis (oder die möglichen Verhältnisse) zu den geschichtswissenschaftlichen Praktiken nicht zum Ausdruck zu bringen vermag.

    Andreas Körber lenkt unsere Aufmerksamkeit auf den zirkulären Prozess des FUER-Modells, das aus der Rüsen’schen Matrix entstanden ist. Ich fühle mich angeregt von Körbers Arbeit und glaube, dass die englischsprachigen GeschichtsdidaktikerInnen viel von diesem Modell lernen können. Allerdings ist die FUER-Graphik entmutigend, mindestens in seiner englischen Übersetzung. Körber scheint auch nach der Visualisierung zu rufen, die Lévesque anbietet: “… Rüsens ursprüngliche zirkuläre Matrix … kann sowohl auf das nicht-akademische wie auch das akademische historische Denken angewendet werden.” Er stellt mehr Fragen und bietet mehr Ergänzungen an, als ich hier behandeln kann. Siehe dazu meine abschliessende Anmerkung unten.

    Ich bin fasziniert davon, wie Parkes ein Verhältnis zwischen der History/Memory-Matrix und meinem “Schweigen, die Kinder!” herstellt. Die Verbindung ist stark, obwohl sie mir bisher völlig unbewusst war. Parkes fragt, was mit meinen Sorgen bezüglich des postmodernen Relativismus’ aus dem Jahr 2000 passiert sei? Diese Sorgen sind inzwischen in den Hintergrund getreten – mit dem Nachlassen der Vernarrtheit der meisten englischsprachigen AkademikerInnen in die französische Theorie. Gleichwohl ist es eine wesentliche Frage, die Parkes nach der Begegnung zwischen Geschichte und Gedächtnis stellt. Wie ich schon oben festgestellt habe, hat Parkes meinen Standpunkt mit der Idee nicht ganz erfasst, dass Geschichtswissenschaft das kollektive Gedächtnis korrigiere. Und sein alternativer Vorschlag, von einem Ineinandergreifen einer “Vielzahl historischer Methodiken … und … einer Fülle von kollektiven Gedächtnissen” zu reden, ist ebenso problematisch in seiner offenkundigen Unterstellung (wenn ich es richtig lese) der epistemologischen Äquivalenz von Geschichte und Gedächtnis. Die History/Memory-Matrix strebt nach etwas, das diesen zwei Positionen auf halbem Wege entgegenkommt. Holger Thünemann hat eine einfache und zutreffende Beschreibung: “Geschichte in der Lebenspraxis und Geschichte als akademische Disziplin haben sich immer aufeinander bezogen. Das ist eine grundsätzliche theoretische Erkenntnis, die hilft, simple Entgegensetzungen zu überwinden.”

    Körber und Thünemann schlagen vor, eine kritische und vergleichende Sammlung der Modelle und ihrer Visualisierungen zusammenzustellen. Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass ein solcher Band (oder eine solche Lehrveranstaltung) sowohl ein anregendes als auch sehr nützliches Unterfangen wäre, um die Disziplin voranzubringen. Ein anderes Ergebnis solch einer Bemühung könnte auch die Formulierung von Kriterien zum zukünftigen Modellbau sein. Ich würde als Ausgangspunkt Folgendes vorschlagen: Definitorische Ausdehnung ins Gleichgewicht gebracht mit Klarheit und Einfachheit – im Verhältnis zu konkreten Fragen und Zwecken. Ein Modell kann nicht alles für jeden leisten.

    Übersetzung aus dem Englischen von Marko Demantowsky

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