We are delighted to announce that Professor Stefan Berger has kindly granted us permission to share the recording of his recent seminar at Deakin University for the Contemporary Histories Research Group, ‘National History Writing and National Identity Formation- Global Perspectives’. The full seminar is available on our YouTube channel.
National history plays a central role in constructions of national identity. The professionalisation of historical writing from the late eighteenth century onwards accompanies the development of powerful national historical master narratives in large parts of the world, starting in Europe, North and South America. In the twentieth century, anti-colonial movements picked up the idea of national historical master narratives to underpin their anti-imperialist struggle. The global victory of national historical master narratives was confirmed in the post-colonial world that emerged after the end of the Second World War. During the Cold War, both the Communist and capitalist worlds produced powerful national historical master narratives that incorporated transnational elements. In the post-Cold War world, we see, if anything, a revival of national(ist) historical master narratives in many parts of the world – at the same time as we see a development towards growing neo-liberal forms of globalisation. This paper will survey the relationship between professional history writing and the construction of national historical master narratives, focussing on the narratological patterns establishing the national vis-à-vis other spatial and non-spatial narratives, e.g. class, religious, cultural, ethnic, racial and gender narratives as well as local, regional, European, imperial and global narratives. The paper will conclude with some considerations about how historians today should position themselves towards the ongoing attractiveness of strong national historical master narratives in many parts of the contemporary world.
Stefan is the Director of the Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, and Chairman of the committee of the Library of the Ruhr Foundation. He is Professor of Social History at the Ruhr University. He specializes in nationalism and national identity studies, historiographyand historical theory, comparative labour studies, and the history of industrial heritage