Everyday public history

Huw Yiannis Halstead*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Public history is often viewed rather narrowly as something that ‘happens’ in familiar places at particular moments in time under the watchful eye of a ‘professional’. This is the public history of the impact and engagement statement: bounded, controlled, measurable. Conversely, I argue for a more ecumenical, diverse and anarchic understanding of public history. Drawing on observations from oral history, participant observation and digital ethnography, I present public history as something that suffuses the everyday lives of historians and non-historians alike as they continually construct their own histories through myriad sources and methodologies. This ‘everyday public history’ is diffuse, noisy, messy, often confusing, sometimes troubling; but never singular, straightforward, or authoritative. By studying this everyday public history, historians gain a fuller understanding of the power of the past in society, a greater capacity to comprehend and challenge problematic historical narratives, and a more productive entanglement between their work and people's everyday lives.
Original languageEnglish
Article number13260
Pages (from-to)235-248
Number of pages14
JournalHistory: The Journal of the Historical Association
Issue number375
Early online date7 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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