Glossary

This blog is an MA project that discusses public history and the ways of doing public history as well as historical representation in video games. While I hope the blog will be accessible to newcomers, there will be some specialist terminology in my analyses. Hence, a glossary of specialist terms, and the specialist meanings some generic terms have in the context of academic discussion.

If you come across a term in a blog post you don’t recognise, please leave a comment or send me an email asking about it, and I’ll add it to this list.


  • History: “History”, like “Science”, has a variety of different, but overlapping, meanings depending on context. Historians tend to use “History” to refer to the process and product of inquiry into the human past. Thus, a book about the Second World War is a book of History, and the process of research and writing is the doing of History. History is not a set canon of facts and texts; it is a constantly-moving discussion in which interpretations of evidence are proposed, refined, or discarded as new evidence, methods of analysis, or modes of thought are introduced. This conveniently keeps historians in a job.

 

  • Historiography: If “History” is a word for a work about the past, “Historiography” is the collective term for works of history. We might refer to the historiography of the Second World War, or describe a trend away from class-based economic analysis towards cultural analysis in historiography. Historiographical work is that which engages with the body of historical work, either analytically or descriptively. Every work of history contributes to historiography, and indeed historical work in general can be understood as an extended historiographical debate.

 

  • Heritage: Heritage, or the Heritage Industry, is a term used to describe the network of institutions engaged in the communication of the past to people via physical sites and artifacts. Heritage institutions include museums, stately homes, and other sites of historical interest or communication.

 

  • Pedagogy: Relating to teaching or education, especially in an academic context.

 

  • Public History: If History is the process and product of research into the past, then Public History is the process and product of communicating that research and its findings to the public. Public Historians work in museums, on the internet, at heritage sites, as advisers to creative industries, and as public commentators. Our work involves communicating of the past and driving interest in it, but Public Historians should not necessarily be understood as simple gatekeepers of history; the discipline encourages the ‘democratization’ of history, and the acknowledgement and exploration of the histories of multiple differing communities, while retaining the rigour and accuracy of the historical discipline.