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Historikernas betydelseunderskott och dess botemedel
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History of Technology, History of Science, Technology and Environment.
2013 (Swedish)In: Scandia, ISSN 0036-5483, Vol. 79, no 2, 19-33 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article provides a brief outline of Swedish historiography since the 1950s, and makes the case for a change of focus in the future. It is argued that Swedish historians have been relatively absent from significant roles as public intellectuals, and that they have not been much in demand as experts by government, public agencies or institutions, or social movements. This has been compounded by a cautious self-understanding that emphasizes methodological rigor and professional virtues, and a swing towards cliometrics and attempts to apply social-science theory between the 1960s and the 1980s. Since the 1980s there has been a marked change in the public role of historians who have increasingly appeared as writers of popular non-fiction; however, historians are still not much used for public advice or as experts.

The main thrust of the article is a critical, constructive discussion of how the unnecessary shortcomings of Swedish historiography might be remedied. Starting from the idea that history is 'useful because of its eclectic use of multiple sources of information, the author argues that historians have a unique capacity to take a `deprivileging' view of the relevant circumstances to explain and analyse current issues. Thus history could, and should, enhance its societal use and value significantly. Reference is made to Harry Collins and Robert Evans's, Reconsidering Expertise (2007), sociologists of science who distinguish between contributory expertise those at home in a community of primary knowledge producers and a wider community of interactional expertise. In the present article, it is argued that in future, Swedish historiography should put far greater emphasis on the latter. The forms and quality of interactional expertise should be cultivated, making history more relevant to society and citizens and addressing major societal challenges. Finally, the author identifies the desirable characteristics that will make this change materialize, not only in terms of historical knowledge overview, synthesis, translation, and responsible directionality - but also a set of professional virtues - understanding society in the present, communicative skill, embracing relevance, and critical reflexivity that should preferably distinguish the individual historian.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 79, no 2, 19-33 p.
Keyword [en]
historiography, Sweden, humanities, expertise, scientific advice, historical method
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-138023ISI: 000327918900003ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84891444324OAI: diva2:680225

QC 20140613

Available from: 2013-12-17 Created: 2013-12-17 Last updated: 2015-07-29Bibliographically approved

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