The Ubiquitous Presence of the Past? Collective Memory and International History

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This article explores the relationship between international history and memory studies. It argues that collective memory demands to be taken much more seriously than it has been by international historians to date and clarifies what this might involve. It comprises four sections. The first provides an overview of the growth of memory studies, identifying some recent trends and conceptual issues. The second explores how international historians have engaged with it hitherto, revealing that while memory has emerged onto the agenda of the discipline, analysis of it still remains rather patchy and underdeveloped. It also contextualises a putative turn to memory against the on-going ‘cultural turn’ in international history. The third lays out a research agenda by identifying some of the core topics to be differentiated in the study of memory within international history, exploring the conceptual issues these entail and pointing to relevant resources from within the memory-studies literature that speak to them. A final section anticipates and discusses some potential objections to the argument of the article. It concludes that taking the challenge of memory studies seriously may demand a thoroughgoing reorientation of our practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-472
Number of pages30
JournalInternational History Review
Issue number3
Early online date07 Oct 2013
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2014


  • collective memory
  • international history
  • cultural turn
  • historography


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