Local History, Local Heritage

Course Description: 

Reading and practicing local history is less marginal for modern scholarship than one might think at first sight. Most topics in social and economic history, the history of everyday life as well as heritage issues have a strong local relevance. Collecting research material, choosing the most appropriate lines of investigation, and communicating the results to a wide public can all benefit from the knowledge and critical use of the achievements of local history.

To have a better understanding, however, one must be aware of the fact that local history is an autonomous sub-discipline with methods that often run contrary to those applicable to general history. It puts greater emphasis on small details, it has a periodization of its own according to the significance of local events, and altogether it operates on a different scale. The authors and the audience of local history may also be different from those of history in general: beside fully qualified academics, amateurs with an interest in the local past often also contribute to the research. Due to the fragmentary preservation of the sources, several general questions concerning past times need to be investigated first and foremost on a local level. This justifies that historians and experts of cultural heritage alike be familiar with the methods and potentials of local history.

      The aim of the course is to make the participants conscious of the values and limitations of sources and publications on local history, to enable them to produce and disseminate high quality works in this field, and to initiate the integration of the achievements in their own region into an international scholarly network.

Learning Outcomes: 

- Ability to integrate multidisciplinary perspectives: Ability to explore previously unknown areas of historical studies. Assessment: in-class topical presentations and handing in the written version of one of them.
- Ability to take part in a group discussion on the basis of common readings and individual research. Assessment: answers to questions formulated on the basis of expected readings.
- Ability to incorporate ancillary materials: Ability to design a Power Point presentation. Assessment: Topical oral presentations.
- Ability to critically assess publications. Assessment: review assignment
Ability to orient oneself in local publications and web resources. Assessment: bibliography assignment.


- present a published or unpublished case study that demonstrates the use of one of the groups of sources discussed in the class
- write a review on at least one fairly recently published volume on the history of a chosen settlement or region and survey one local history journal, preferably from one’s home country
- compile an overview on the research in local history in one’s home country (journals, important monographs, institutions, associations, specific topics) on a locality or region that you are familiar with