The truism that young people know nothing about history has been successfully challenged by research. When surveyed using methodologies that interrogate understanding, rather than those with simplistic quizzes and factual tests, young people often reveal that they know a good deal about the past. Many can build historical narratives that address the past experiences of their culture, society or nation, and demonstrate that they not only know things about the past but are able to organise this knowledge. However, research also reveals that historical narratives crafted by young people, and the knowledge built from them, are structured as much by cultural and national myth‐histories – passed on through interaction with peers, family, culture, schooling and the media – as by formally agreed histories. Their rich historical learning can therefore result in deep historical misunderstanding, leading to the appearance that young people ‘know nothing’.  

This special feature in the London Review of Education will explore the multiple sources of young people’s historical knowledge – through collective memory and social conversation as well as in the formal history classroom – and the implications for historical education that young people are not passive assimilators but active builders of historical sense.  

We seek papers that examine the relationships between young people, schools, identity and cultural/other histories in national, intranational, international and supranational contexts, in any part of the world. We welcome submissions that adopt empirical and/or theoretical approaches to young people’s knowledge of the past, including studies of young people’s historical consciousness and papers that address the implications, for pedagogical practice, of that fact that young people’s ‘ignorance’ is a complicated matter.

Articles are subject to full peer review. Please send abstracts, outlines and expressions of interest by 31 January 2016 to Dr Arthur Chapman ( The deadline for submission of manuscripts is 30 June 2016. Informal enquiries to the editors about possible paper submissions are welcome and should be addressed to the contact above. Articles in this feature will be published in January 2017.

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Dans: knowledge of history

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