Historical consciousness: the enigma of different paradigms

To make historical consciousness beneficial for history education research we need to disentangle its multidisciplinary backgrounds so that contradictory approaches and outcomes can be avoided. The aim of this article therefore is to clarify the enigma of its different paradigms. We will discuss two interrelated paradigms: one interpreting historical consciousness as a collective phenomenon that is characteristic for modern Western society, and the other treating historical consciousness on an individual level as a cognitive-epistemological category. We will show that several misunderstandings in educational research about historical consciousness result from the conflation of both conceptualisations and its underlying paradigms. Yet, by highlighting Hans-Georg Gadamer’s notion of Wirkungsgeschichte (historical effect) we will argue that both conceptualisations are not entirely mutually exclusive. Including historically effected consciousness in the notion of historical consciousness does offer a wide range of opportunities, for history education scholars as well as history educators.