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March 2000


The professionalization of history was tightly bound to nationalism. Historians in early modern Europe distinguished between story and inventory: chronology and chorography. The latter was the domain of the local antiquarian and county historian.3 Nineteenth-century historians sought to validate their narratives as the story of something important, the growth of the nation-state. The earliest professional journals and organizations-The English Historical Review (first published in 1886), the American Historical Association (founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889)-were national. Even as local history professionalized and cut its antiquarian/chorographical roots, the profession still marginalized it, and local history was mainly published by antiquarian or local societies. Thus, for example, even though the Transactions cf the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club included Herefordshire history when it began publishing in 1852, The English Historical Review claims to be "the oldest journal of historical scholarship in the English-speaking world." Even those who carved out a field distinct from national history, such as the German genre of Landesgeschicte (regional or provincial history), were considered subordinate if not actually suspect endeavors by the profession. Recently, however, European historians have embraced the locality and the region not just as a convenient sample or area of analysis, but as the salient tool to understand continental historical development. In contrast to the modernizing thesis of works from the 1960s and 1970s, such as Eugen Weber's Peasants into Frenchmen: the Modernization of Rural France, /87U- JY l.f (Stanford, I 979), recent books include Celia Applegate, A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat (Berkeley, 1990) and Alon Confino, The Nation as a Local Metaphor: Wiirtemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 (Chapel Hill, 1997). More recently, Celia Applegate delivered a paper on "A Europe of Regions" as part of an American Historical Review Forum "Bringing Regionalism Back to History."


This article was originally published in Research and Review Series, no. 7.

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