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Seixas, Peter. "What Is Historical Consciousness?" In To the Past: History Education, Public Memory, and Citizenship in Canada, edited by Ruth W. Sandwell, 11-22. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.


In this chapter, Peter Seixas explores the meaning of historical consciousness by looking at how it intersects with public memory, citizenship, and history education. Seixas grounds his definition in a series of everyday questions that typify the idea of historical consciousness and claims that although they are difficult to answer, it is natural for people to ask about the link between the past, present, and future which should form the basis of how to teach and learn history. Building on the work of British researchers, Seixas expands the list of “second-order concepts,” or the tools used by historians to construct historical accounts, which he argues should be privileged in history education; these concepts are evidence, significance, continuity and change, progress and decline, empathy/perspective taking, moral judgement, and agency. Although he acknowledges that it is a challenge to emphasize these second-order concepts and shift priorities in history education from content to action, he claims that this emphasis will teach students skills that are integral for negotiating our multinational, pluralist society.

Samantha Cutrara