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  • Att skapa historiska sammanhang: Exemplet Thomas Mores Utopia

    Magnus Rodell

    Chapter from the book: Bergwik, S et al. 2022. Konsten att kontextualisera: Om historisk förståelse och meningsskapande.


    Creating historical contexts: The example of Thomas More’s Utopia

    This chapter argues that the concept of context as it is commonly used in historical textbooks for explaining historical phenomena and events is problematic as it implies an historically fixed structure. Instead, the chapter suggests meaning-making contexts, and seeks to render visible the activity involved in creating historical contexts and to demonstrate that it is always the historian who produces these meaning-making contexts. Implicitly or explicitly, historical textbooks produce and use different types of contexts. The chapter explores nine different textbooks on Thomas More’s Utopia. It discusses three different ways to describe the meaning-making contexts that the authors of these textbooks create. Firstly, diachronic lines are formulated both forwards and backwards. Secondly, the textbook authors formulate synchronous contexts that focus on the historical conditions that prevailed when Utopia was written. Thirdly, the chapter brings light on an “occidental narrative” of progress, based on nineteenth and twentieth century historiography that the textbooks use for contextualization. In addition, the chapter draws attention to how the contexts in the textbooks are more often implicit constructs rather than explicitly developed tools of analysis. The aim of the chapter is to indicate how a discussion about these ways of contextualizing historical material can contribute to making visible how certain notions of context always influence history writing. As historians, we have everything to gain from actively describing and discussing how we produce and use different historical contexts to understand, explain and bring order to the multifaceted polyphony of the past.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Rodell, M. 2022. Att skapa historiska sammanhang: Exemplet Thomas Mores Utopia. In: Bergwik, S et al (eds.), Konsten att kontextualisera. Stockholm: Stockholm University Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16993/bbt.d

    This is an Open Access chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (unless stated otherwise), which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Copyright is retained by the author(s).

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    Additional Information

    Published on April 12, 2022


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