Memory and History

I have spent some time considering the idea of history and memory. I came across this interesting article from the University of California’s History department written by Kerwin Lee Klein.

It discusses the fairly recent use of the term ‘memory’ as a linguistic practice among historians to define and describe history. Memory had previously been considered a primitive, autobiographical term personal and particular to individuals. But this article discusses how historians have begun to substitute history for terms like ‘collective memory’ or ‘public memory’ initially as a way of improving prose or to humanize the ideas but Kerwin Lee Klein discusses how this could confuse our understanding.

In our minds history is objective but memory is subjective, we think of memory as “a property of individual minds” but he states that ‘Memory is not a property of individual minds, but a diverse and shifting collection of material artefacts and social practices.’ Individual items and habitual activities act to remind us of our individual and collective pasts.


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