Public History (of Education) and Applied History Manifestos’ 2011-2023

This paper is a written contribution to my intervention during the Roundtable on “The Public History of Education Manifestos” in the III SIPSE Conference about “The historical-educational heritage as a source for the Public History of Education. Between good practices and new perspectives,” which was held from 14 to 15 December 2023 at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, Italy.

This contribution aims to describe briefly what is Public History and how this sub-field of the history discipline (from now on PH), with its historical path in the last fifty years, its methods, and applied practices, can enrich the knowledge of History and Memory as a participative an applied activity for the present. One of these activities is the Public History of Education, for which PH fosters the need to engage locally with students and their families also outside the classroom and looking at how the past and memories are displayed in public spaces and emphasizing the importance of direct involvement of local communities with their pasts and memories. Public History and its sub-field of public History of education are applied disciplines in and for the present. However, good practices and ethical methods are sometimes summarized when producing disciplinary manifestos. This essay will engage with different history manifestos and their importance in describing the hermeneutic of Public and Applied History in the 21st century



1. Introduction: Let us clarify what public History is about.

2. The awareness of places and their heritage communities: the Faro Convention (2005)

3. The premises of the Italian Public History Manifesto

4. Public/Applied History Manifestos’ 2016-2023

  a. Applied History Manifestos

b. The Italian Association’s Public History Manifesto (2018)

c. A PH-oriented Public History of Education Manifesto (2018)

d. A Communicative Public History of Education Manifesto (2023)

5. Participative PH of Education v. Communicative one

6. Conclusion: How do ChatGPT and generative IA define the field of Public History of Education?


  1. Introduction: Let us clarify what public History is about.

The discipline of public history aims to share a “public sense” of history for a better society that is publicly aware of its past. [1] Doing this implies using a non-trivial reflection on how to work with the past in museums, exhibitions, historic parks, archives, libraries, archaeological sites, re-enactments, and commemorations or through all media outlets. Public History has followed its path and methods in each country and developed at different times.[2]

PH has long been part of the methodological toolkit of many professionals dealing with the historical and memorial dimensions of education, Memory, material, and intangible heritage. PH is an international “glocal” discipline. It engages with local communities using universally applicable methods. [3] Even though there were earlier practices in the early 20th century,[4] PH emerged as a discipline of History only in the 1970s, thanks to the pioneering work of American and British historians.

Public historians are a different type of historian compared to academic historians. A university historian almost always works alone, uses traditional archives, prefers specialization in research topics, writes books and essays, and often distrusts technology. The audience he addresses comprises colleagues and students; the recipient is passive, and he is the only research authority for whom History is the true testimony of the past. In contrast, a “public” historian works in a group, uses all types of sources, is interdisciplinary, writes, films, draws, takes photographs, and communicates history in many ways, even in museums and digitally and with every media available. He is at ease online, and with digital media, he addresses every type of audience, making sure to identify them; he interacts with the communities and the different publics with which he works. For a public historian, making History is part of a collective process that presupposes sharing authority with the public and other professionals. Historians practicing PH may serve both the public and private sectors in many ways, such as doing original research and consulting on the past for different types of clients. Most importantly, a “public” historian thinks that his work on history and Memory is valuable and serves the present.

Public History can be briefly summarized through 10 propositions:

  1. Public History has a different history in each country and promotes glocal practices with the past and Memory in the public and private spheres
  2. PH can be taught in universities but is carried out outside the academy, not necessarily by non-academics.
  3. PH investigates individual and collective memories in the present.
  4. PH promotes applied and collaborative practices in society with the public and other professionals and with “amateur” historians.
  5. PH practices often lead to sharing authority and building historical knowledge with others, the public, and local communities.
  6. PH tends towards interdisciplinarity in its collaborative practices.
  7. PH communicates content using all media for its narratives and accomplishments.
  8. PH produces and communicates new documents and sources and conducts original and innovative research with and for local communities.
  9. PH is practiced in and with all territorial heritage institutions that deal with the past.
  10. Whoever practices PH promotes the usefulness of all pasts—from the whole Anthropocene—in and for the present.
  1. The awareness of places and their heritage communities: the Faro Convention (2005)

PH operates globally, emphasizing that history is alive, relevant, applicable to the present, and publicly valuable for dealing with individual and collective memories and cultural and anthropological identities. It can also be applied in educational contexts. Its main characteristics include its professional practitioners’ interdisciplinary openness to engaging in participative activities with communities willing to contribute to their history, heritage preservation, and memoryscapes. This concept could indicate the presence of the past and Memory in public spaces.

Public historians studying intangible individual and collective memories connected to places and landscapes fit the purposes of the UNESCO (2003) and Council of Europe (2005) conventions on cultural heritage as social assets directly inherited from the communities they belong to. Involving citizens actively in the management of that heritage is implicit in the provisions of the Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.[5] The Faro Convention, signed by Italy in 2020,[6] updated the 2003 UNESCO convention on intangible heritage, adding the role of local communities in identifying heritage, underlining the intrinsic relationship between cultural heritage and heritage communities, made up of a “set of resources inherited from the past that populations identify as a reflection and expression of their continuously evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions.”[7]

The Faro Convention starts with the idea that knowledge and use of heritage are part of citizens’ right to participate in cultural life, as they are concerned with human rights and democracy. The Convention promotes a broader understanding of heritage and its relationship with communities and society and encourages us to recognize that urban and landscape objects and places are not, in themselves, what is essential about cultural heritage but are necessary because of the intangible meanings and uses that people and education attribute to them and because of the social and cultural values they represent.

The Convention thus highlights the History rather than the aesthetics of heritage when it says, “Cultural heritage is a group of resources inherited from the past which people identify, independently of ownership, as a reflection and expression of their constantly evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions. It includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time.”[8]

The intention was to move from a bureaucratic and administrative definition of material cultural heritage to a public and participatory one of heritage communities, which gave an essential and continuously evolving value to the History of heritage. The mourned Massimo Montella, who was professor of Economics and Management of Cultural Heritage, wrote that «the survival and ultimate meaning of cultural heritage depend on society’s way of thinking, rather than on that formalized in institutions and legal provisions which may no longer respond to the need…” A landscape heritage historian like Rossano Pazzagli underlines the importance of the participation of local populations in the “awareness of the place” or in the construction of an identity heritage that also involves a collective memory of the local communities’ industrious.”[9] Their communities’ so-called “awareness of local places” can be achieved by learning about the past using applied participative activities developed in the public History of education applied to and with local communities that inherited their historical heritage.

PH traces individual and collective meanings and shapes plural identities made of material heritages and, even more, intangible ones. The research and storytelling of territorial community life stories mentioned earlier -often through the application of oral history practices and digital PH methods- are based on a transdisciplinary analytical perspective, focusing on the changing cultural role of past experiences in shaping new multiple identities and social affiliations.[10] Public historians and other social scientists analyze how memories have reached the present and actively focus on their changing perception or persistence through generations, feeding into the intangible heritage and shaping the definition of identity, as investigated by Levy-Strauss.[11]

The field of cultural and historical heritage is part of the definition of Public History as a new sub-discipline of the past. Giuliano Volpe, professor of archaeological research methodology, wrote a 2015 cultural heritage manifesto in which an interdisciplinary approach to such a path involves the direct participation of citizens and their communities.[12] In his Manifesto, creating archaeological parks and museums for a “renewed awareness of places” has become essential to local communities’ social and economic identity.[13] This can be done by promoting cultural paths in a territorial eco-system that privileges the historical identity of the territories and their populations through various participatory cultural activities that apply perfectly in the educational eco-system and its components, teachers, pupils, families, local cultural heritage institutions (museums, archives, libraries) and cultural associations based in specific territories and their active communities.

What does this Manifesto have in common with the many other manifestos published during the 21st century following the crisis of the history profession that was also affected by the overwhelming impact of the new digital technologies and web-based platforms? Maybe one specific aim: the need to deal with profound social changes and the creation of new knowledge that must be shared, open, and participative and take care of both the transformation and globalization of societies but also of the impact of the digital revolution which promoted individuals as social actors through web-based portals.

  1. The premises of the Italian Public History Manifesto

Before looking at the different published manifestos concerning public and applied history, let us get back to the historical definition of a manifesto from its first use and the word’s etymology.

A Manifesto is “a mission statement or other document written and disseminated by an individual or group to enumerate or expound the guiding principles and beliefs that inform their actions:”[14] The word “manifesto” -as a substantive- derives from Italian. In Niccolò Tommaseo’s Dizionario della Lingua Italiana, for “manifesto” we read: “scrittura fatta da chicchessia per fare pubbliche le sue ragioni, una sua impresa, un libro…“.[15] In Italian, “manifesto” was used for the first time between 1640 and 1650[16] in declarations during the Franco-Spanish wars, as explained in Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie.[17] In the Encyclopedia Britannica,[18] a manifesto is “a document publicly declaring the position or program of its issuer. A manifesto advances a set of ideas, opinions, or views but can also lay out a plan of action. While it can address any topic, it most often concerns art, literature, or politics. Manifestos are generally written in the name of a group sharing a common perspective, ideology, or purpose rather than in the name of a single individual. Manifestos often mark adopting a new vision, approach, program, or genre….”

Carl Marx’s 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party[19] and the “non-communist Manifesto” written by Walt Whitman Rostow, which talks about the stages of economic growth, announces the future based on an analysis of the present.[20] The Manifesto Futurista was written before WW1 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and published in 1909. André Breton’s 1924 Manifeste du Surréalisme will celebrate its centenary in October 2024.[21] In art, literature, or the political realm, manifestos announce a turnover, a new era, and the passing of the past. They are often promoted by minorities, an avant-garde announcing what is coming.

Due to the new millennium digital revolution that renovated methods and practices also in the field of History, the Manifeste des Digital Humanities, discussed collectively and launched during THATCamp Paris in 2010, must be mentioned as a significant declaration that considers what changed in the Humanities (and History) following the digital turn.[22] The Manifesto announced many issues that would be discussed in the Public and Applied History Manifesto some years later, especially the opening to citizens’ forms of direct engagement and collaboration of the public in producing, learning, and teaching knowledge in the humanities. The digital turn (and the digital public turn) has profoundly transformed public history practices and how historians work with archives. They co-produce knowledge about the past and collective memories in open and participative ways with their public and communicate such knowledge for and with the public.

In 2014, Tommaso Detti -an Italian contemporary historian and former president of the Italian Society for the Study of Contemporary History, SISSCO-wrote that History has to offer applied public goals for explaining the present.[23] According to Detti, contemporaneity in Italy intertwines different temporalities that define a specific Italian vision of the national past. Due to this convergence of all pasts towards the present, the importance of a “longue durée” time dimension in explaining contemporary issues remained unaltered. Detti stigmatized historians as having lost their social role and capacity to promote such a complex interpretation of the past and the difficulty for academic historians to engage with a broader public and make the past relevant in contemporary culture.

A year later, in 2014, the crisis of history and the history profession was discussed in a pamphlet by Jo Guldi and David Armitage, which has been widely commented on worldwide, translated, and commented on in Italy.[24] Armitage and Guldi ask historians to move on and adapt their methods and skills to fight for a well-recognized and more effective public role: one that they have lost, entrenched as they are in their academic certainties and petty low-range historiography and trapped in a dialogue with few peers, ignored by the wider public. Aiming to open historians’ knowledge to the broader public and incorporate new digital technologies, the History Manifesto denounced the short-termism of historical research today and the lack of “longue durée” necessary “to understanding the multiple pasts that gave rise to our conflicted present. »

Public History and Digital Humanities/History partially answer the identity crisis of the Humanities and History. New or renewed methods, and even more so, a brand-new discipline, effectively address the digital turn that has profoundly affected our societies. Indeed, digital history overhauls the field of history, revamping traditional ways of dealing with archives and producing academic scholarship. Digital public history integrates the role of the public into the virtual realm, web practices, and projects. Historians should take note of these global transformations in their discipline and raise their voices vigorously worldwide—the History Manifesto aimed at an international mobilization of the profession.[25] Armitage and Guldi ask historians to move on and adapt their methods and skills to fight for a better recognized and more effective public role: one which they have lost, entrenched as they are in their academic certainties and petty low range historiography and trapped in a dialogue with few peers, ignored by the wider public.

Unfortunately, these considerations were not direct premises for the Italian PH Manifesto because Guldi’s and Armitage’s History Manifesto remained blind to the many settings in which public historians are working outside universities, influencing the public sphere and public debates about the past and using and sometimes developing new digital tools.

  1. Public/Applied History Manifestos’ 2016-2023

a.Applied History Manifestos

Applied History[26] is a concept used before WWI by the American historian Benjamin Shambaugh (1871–1940), who fostered historical knowledge for solving economic and political issues. Rebecca Conard, in her biography of Shambaugh, stresses that he was interested in how to apply History in different contexts.[27] Shambaugh promoted the publication of a series of history books named “Apply History Series,” a collection of applied historical research to the state of Iowa.[28]

Two years after Armitage and Guldi’s Manifesto,[29] and a century after Shambaugh, two historians of international relations, Graham Allison and Niall Ferguson at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, wrote what they called an Applied History Manifesto launching in 2018 the Harvard’s Applied History Project. They wanted “to revitalize applied history by promoting the production and use of historical reasoning to clarify public and private challenges and choices.” Applied History stands out here for promoting a historical approach to political issues, revisiting the relationship between historiography and politics in an original way. “According to applied History, History is not only about interpreting the past but is also an orientation for present and future political strategies. […] The theorists of applied History have isolated three instruments typical of a historiographical investigation which, in their opinion, would be of utmost importance for political analysis: periodization, contextualization, and analogy».[30]

Harvard’s Project certainly took care of the activities and goals of another applied history association founded in the United Kingdom in 2002, History and Policy,[31] a “non-profit network of over 500 academic historians committed to promoting better public policy through a greater understanding of history.” These projects and network think tanks, like the History Manifesto earlier, were intended to answer the crisis of history as an academic discipline of the past, suggesting that the study of history could offer important arguments and solutions for solving political and international issues. The Harvard Project built on the reflections of Ernest May and Richard Neustadt in their 1980 book Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers.[32]Applied History, they wrote, is the explicit attempt to illuminate current challenges and choices by analyzing historical precedents and analogs. Mainstream historians begin with a past event or era and attempt to explain what happened and why. Applied historians begin with a current choice or predicament and attempt to analyze the historical record to provide perspective, stimulate imagination, find clues about what is likely to happen, suggest possible policy interventions, and assess probable consequences.”[33]

In 2018, the publisher Brill launched a new journal, the Journal of Applied History, which looks at the definition of the field.[34] The editors wrote an op. ed. describing why they decided to launch the journal and described how applied History was to find a space within the discipline of History.[35] A “Dutch Applied History Manifesto” was also published in 2020 [36], which “applied history as a form of public action whereby historians use their knowledge of the past to assist politicians and policymakers in tackling major contemporary problems.”[37] Applied historians “generally want the results of their historical research to bear on the present, on the issues that (should) concern us today. It promotes historical thinking as an essential element of discussions about our societies’ challenges.”

Why should we differentiate Applied and Public History? The “public v. applied history” debate is useless for many reasons. It takes much energy and arbitrarily divides communities of practitioners. Both etiquettes are equivalent and define practices with History outside universities. Therefore, we can all use the name chosen historically in the USA and present in non-English speaking countries. It is not about the name itself but about how to use history and its methods of dealing with the past in public and with/for all the components of a civil society.

Concepts, practices, and goals mentioned in the Applied History Manifesto are similarly written in the Italian PH manifesto, which will be described below. Nothing new under the sun. Why is it so? This discipline focuses on the public need for history as a shared public good, applies and promotes history in very different settings, and utilizes an extensive palette of practices dealing with history. Public and Applied History manifestos describe how history can be helpful in the world and deal with the same issues, practices, and aims. All the defined goals and methods were already part of the intentions of those who institutionalized the need to “apply” history in society under different formulas at the end of the ’70 because the knowledge of history is needed not only to solve many issues in the present but is also fundamental to foster democracy and an active and participative citizenship.

The profound crisis of history/humanities as a valuable area of discipline within our societies questioned the role and relevance of traditional history. Our governments want sciences to be directly helpful; that is why economists, political scientists, or sociologists serve to interpret our world, making wrong previsions and short-term ones when the study of the past could be an essential asset for long-term explanation. Eventually, using the term “applied” is more valid today because it tells who is financing projects, hiring researchers, and creating new intellectual networks to be heard, and that history (this discipline is now often neglected everywhere) can solve problems. At least, this is how Applied History publicizes well what was already available through PH practices. Applied historians do not offer different methodological options: those policy practices that most recent applied historians promote separately are all dealt with in the Italian Public History Manifesto, written with the public using forms of shared authority and crowdsourcing during conferences in Turin and Milan. Thanks to the Manifesto, every public or applied historian should be able to recognize themselves in this discipline.

Being useful in the present was precisely the wish of those who, first in the UK, then in the US, invented new “public” practices with the past. Forty-five years ago, pioneers asked themselves: How can we interact with different publics in creating, fostering, and using the knowledge of history and the methods of historiography to have a real impact in society and have communities -and their knowledge- on board, too? We all want to use history outside of universities in many ways and with many different publics.

b.The Italian Association’s Public History Manifesto (2018)[38]

When founded in 2016, the Italian Association of Public History (AIPH) felt the need to offer some guidelines about what the discipline was bringing to the field of History in the country and how the definition of the field could be eventually distinct if compared to how public History had been developing in other countries.

For this writing, a manifesto summarized why and how this discipline should develop in the country and follow specific goals to promote in public, such as the knowledge of history. The Italian Manifesto answers these necessities and describes the characteristics of a particular Italian path to PH by proposing a valuable history for the present that can develop the common sense of the past through a better public knowledge of History. All historians have a social responsibility inherent in their profession. However, this social responsibility is fully expressed in promoting History and contextualizing Memory according to PH-applied practices engaged with reference communities.

As we have argued briefly, looking at the History Manifesto (2015), the social role of historians as experts in public and private settings and as potential influencers of contemporary debates was profoundly eradicated from the public sphere. The role of Public History today is to foster an active presence of historians and the promotion of history as a social good and a fundamental human right. In 2018, the Italian Association of Public History (AIPH) felt the need to promote a Manifesto explaining why and how history should become public, based on public historians’ practices and participative methods with local communities promoting a critical and informed knowledge of the past in society.

The Manifesto resulted from a discussion between the board of the AIPH opened to and further amended during two different public conferences in Turin and Milano.[39] The aims of the Italian Public History Manifesto are like the goals of the History Manifesto in fostering the importance of History and historians for society. The Manifesto states that public historians should take the lead in bringing back history’s civic and public role. PH contemporizes all pasts in Italy, and these different pasts should serve to understand how today’s issues and solutions may benefit from the knowledge of History. The Manifesto of Italian Public History asserts that the whole Anthropocene (also archaeology and ancient History) connects with our present through PH practices.

The Italian geographers also discussed and rewrote the AIPH Manifesto structure for their professional cause during their September 2018 association’s annual assembly. Geographers confront the same social and academic crisis regarding the role of their discipline. They wrote their own Public Geography Manifesto openly, as public historians had done some months before.[40] The Public Geography Manifesto (2018) considers Italian geography as an open discipline oriented towards social utility, called to welcome, share, and offer knowledge to the public and build more effective interaction and scientific communication with the territory and civil society.

The AIPH Italian Manifesto, in its revised version at the end of 2023[41], opens by saying that Public History wants to generate a common public sense of history. If the past is everywhere present in the public space, a history that makes sense of the past is often absent from public discourses. Our societies increasingly deal with memory issues central to PH practices, but we need to remember the mediation of public historians in dealing with their relevance for local communities. Public historians, as mediators of the past and memories with and for the public, foster the presence of history in many settings on the Peninsula and contribute actively to elaborating collective memories through knowledge of history and shared authority practices. The AIPH manifesto explores the complexity of the field and the difficulty of structuring what public History means in an Italian context. What is Public History is indeed the first question raised. The answer takes care of the specific Italian context. PH “activities are carried out with and for different audiences, both inside and outside academic and institutional settings, in the public and private sectors. ».[42] The Manifesto lists different purposes of Public History for society and confronts the concepts used to talk about the past publicly. The terms “past” and “memory” are often commonly used (and misused) today. History seems to refer to something controlled outside interested communities by people with no capacity to share their knowledge with the people and differentiate their forms of narrating it. This is where the public historian’s role comes into action, and the AIPH felt the need to write a Manifesto.

The Manifesto lists, amongst others, some characteristics of applied professional skills present in different professional public and private contexts. Public historians can play an essential informative role in the private sector and governmental bodies and institutions. On the other hand, the Manifesto informs us of the vital purposes of the foundation of an Italian association and of a public historians’ professional hermeneutic that should lead to the creation of a new academic sub-discipline and to:

-promoting historical knowledge and research methodologies with different audiences, encouraging multidisciplinary dialogue.

-the valorization of practices and experiences that focus on the active involvement of groups and communities, even in the digital world.

-Promoting and valuing innovative and high-quality research, whose results are obtained through participative practices and methodologies that may consent to the emergence of new documents.

-to define and share professional and academic best practices, including standards for evaluating Public History scholarship.

-To provide professional growth and training to public historians who work outside academic circles, with professional expertise regarding historical research methodologies and the teaching and communication of history.

-the development of Public History as a new academic discipline.

-the contrast to the “abuses of history” meant the practices of mystification of the past to manipulate public opinion.

-the promotion of the Italian historical, material, and immaterial cultural heritage in all its forms

-Providing professional skills, such as critical knowledge and historical research methodologies, is necessary for resolving today’s issues.

These goals represent a challenge to the traditional profession of historian today in Italy: being able to change narrative registers, integrate the web and all media in daily practices, be able to communicate smoothly to different audiences, and produce history for and together with communities are all central issues that define how PH should change the way we practice history in society. Digital technologies, the participative web, and social media are now fully integrated into the practice of history. They have nevertheless created an enormous gap between an old academic profession and the young generations of social actors on the web that digital public history participative practices are trying to shorten.

Knowledge of history is essential, as is its teaching and communication, but why is public history a resource? Making History in public with professional skills helps to develop “full and conscious citizenship … through a widespread awareness of the past […]. Public History practices offer occasions and tools for critically comprehending historical contexts and present processes, helping to confront their complexity and avoiding resentment-ridden solutions or resolutions induced by alleged “identitarian clashes.” Public History is a precious resource for social cohesion, promoting comprehension and encounters between people of different provenience, of different generations and with sometimes conflicting memories.”

Public historians share their historical methods with the public. In doing so, they reinforce broader critical thinking. They disclose the complexity of history and teach source evaluation and evidence of the past in their respective contexts; this crucial knowledge, applied within groups and communities, serves the purpose of a better understanding of the roots of collective memories through shared authority practices, a method close to how anthropologists work with communities. [43]

The final paragraph of the Manifesto deals with the specificity of an Italian tradition confronted with an international discipline. National paths to public history result from building national historiographies and understanding how historical institutions and historians’ practices have developed historically in each country and continent.[44]

c. A PH-oriented Public History of Education Manifesto (2018)

Influenced by the promotion of the AIPH Manifesto, Gianfranco Bandini, Professor of the History of Pedagogy at the University of Florence and author of a Manifesto of Public History of Education in 2018, has listed a series of pedagogical questions and activities belonging to the field of Public History of Education and that engages both the teachers, their classes, and the communities in the building of a participative knowledge in the field of History that characterizes Public History practices. Each of these proposals questions the relationship with the public involved in the educational process in local communities and territories. The assessment of pupils, the adult-child relationship, the production and use of textbooks, the active teaching methods, the impact of new technologies, the multicultural classroom, and the multi-faith classes.[45]

All these pedagogical questions can be answered through the lens and methods of PH. “1) PH is a great resource that belongs not only to historians but to all those who, whether a specialist or not, from their specific cultural competencies, wish to adopt its dialogical style, social engagement, and methodologies. History is an instrument of intellectual knowledge that cannot be reserved only for a group of specialists. […] 2) PH, as understood in this way, moves from social needs and tries to provide ways of co-constructing knowledge, moving away from the usual idea of divulgation, dissemination, and transmission […]. 3) In education and helping professions, PH constitutes an approach that allows one to emphasize the relationship between the university and the territory, starting from the best practices implemented so far, even if not named as PH […]. 4) The PH of education activities has a natural affinity with didactics and the school world: they can effectively enhance learning and generate cultural change in the surrounding area. Educational activities, particularly those aimed at studying history and geography, have a privileged relationship with the territory that can be emphasized precisely by a public history approach […]. 5) PH in the educational and helping professions can be used as a powerful tool for training, both in the initial and in-service training phases. Reflexivity is an important competence of teacher education and can be greatly enriched by historical awareness. […]. 6) PH activities will favor direct contact and the involvement of interested persons while developing digital communication and interaction technologies under the banner of globalism and social empowerment. […] 7) Schools, museums, archives, libraries, and local authorities are the natural stakeholders of public history activities. The world of education has long since been established and often had important relationships with cultural institutions in the area. […] Institutions on the ground, together with the university and in an equal way, are the cultural infrastructure necessary for PH to develop and take root in the social fabric. The primary aim of the relationship with local communities, in participative and dialogue-based forms, is to enhance and promote the cultural heritage. 8) Historical research and education offer many opportunities and ways to build effective and engaging PH activities. Nevertheless, a privileged role, which must be particularly emphasized, is played by oral history practices, life stories, and autobiographical writings….”

Bandini and Oliviero’s proposals for a PH-oriented PH of Education (2019)[46] take great care of the methods and hermeneutics of PH, bringing education and pedagogy to the level of participative requirements that define PH with and for different communities. Because of the need to summarize their scientific and intellectual path in this paragraph, we could state that connecting their scientific and intellectual path to the educational sphere to a PH-oriented history of education is essential to recognize that education today has become “one of the most interesting areas for a public history approach.”[47] PH of Education embraces all the vital elements defining how PH engages with communities beyond the mere didactic approach to teaching history in the classroom. The history of education is open to society much better through a PH approach to the past. It is essential when engaging with contemporary societal issues like marginalized minorities, ethnic conflicts, civic education, or the importance of heritage in local territories, all topics that aren’t at all external to the field but, on the contrary, some of its essential components. This is why Bandini thought it was highly relevant to the field of Education to integrate it into the broader field and practices of PH, writing a specific Manifesto derived from the Italian PH Manifesto and applied to the educational sector and its specialized professional actors, like the teachers, the social workers part of educational processes and other helping professions.

d. A Communicative Public History of Education Manifesto (2023)

In their 2023 essay, Towards A Public History of Education: A Manifesto, Frederik Herman, Sjaak Braster, and María del Mar del Pozo Andrés understand Public History of Education as dealing with renovated communication processes of the importance of the history of schools and school teaching influenced by the digital.[48] Supporters of a communicative turn within the Public History of Education see three “roughly sketched” phases for the need to let more public know about school history: “the establishment of many school museums and the (more) structural involvement of historians of education in these institutions”; the usage of digital communication technologies in digitalizing archives for better public use also through popular/accessible exhibitions; the creation of documentaries. [49] These media used better in the history of education are focused on communication processes for different publics: “How do we attract audiences? How do we keep them interested? and how do we make history accessible to them?” The answer is again embedded in renovated communicative strategies and “become key forcing them more than ever to also think in terms of the musealization, mediatization, digitalization, aestheticization as well as playification of the history of education.”[50]

What I would call a “communicative” History of Education Manifesto (2023) is about the importance of communicating the heritage and history of education in society. It is based on eight proposals, none of them describe how to build new participative knowledge about the history of education, sharing authority practices with specific social groups, the teachers, the families, the pupils, and the neighborhood, a reflection about societal issues which would connect the history of education directly with local communities. On the contrary, the creation of new knowledge, bottom up, and together with local communities would transform the premised of this history of education manifesto and engage it much better with a public history dimension of the history of education. In this case, the public would co-build knowledge, share heritage, create archives, and participate as peers in learning processes. This activity is taken for granted and described in one of the essays published in this collective book.

In their chapter “Future Pasts: Web Archives and Public History as Challenges for Historians of Education in Times of COVID-19,Karin Priem and Ian Grosvenor focus on web archives in general, and they consider web archives -what has been called “rapid response archives” also as public history projects characterized by the collaborative processes that started the creation of a community-based archive dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.[51]Web Archives as Public History Collecting as many voices as possible means establishing collaborative processes with public audiences when preserving, curating, editing, and presenting history. Such collaboration entails negotiating and producing narratives of the past that connect archival sources with their communities and constitute meaning that may challenge archival classification systems and the work of historical experts. These principles are also at the core of public history, and it is not surprising that most COVID-19 web archives are labeled as public history projects; they are based on community response and dedicated to the idea of making history together.”[52]

From their perspective, Priem and Grosvenor understood very well the reasons and circumstances that led, all over the world, to the creation of new digital archives of communities (also in their curatorial structures) with the need to share the memory of Covid and also to offer social recognition of the people suffering and of their need to heal from their traumas.[53] The authors underline how much these bottom-up archives created worldwide and connected through different platforms oblige us to “rethink our concepts of history, archiving, and curating. Web archives … can be characterized by collaborative processes, by networked data within a flattened structure, and by interconnected hardware and software environments. Web archives are user-friendly and flexible; they invite us to get involved and to develop new historical dimensions”.[54]

The first proposal of the 2023 manifesto perfectly defines the field (communication sciences) and its goals, letting concerned historians understand and know better that they have to share the history of schools publicly, their role in society, and how to mobilize and exhibit material and immaterial heritages.[55] For the authors of the 2023 PH of Education manifesto, the public history of education is, above all, managing an audience that has to be informed of critical historical issues dealing with the history of education. They must make “available histories of education, nothing more, and nothing less.” Academics/historians of education have always done it, but now, with the idea of reaching multiple audiences and collaborating with different publics.

Noteworthy knowing with which public to work is also a way to avoid “politicizing history of education (ab)using the past but allowing it to become one of the frames of reference that might make a difference in peoples lives (e.g., by addressing the painful, voicing the unspoken, questioning the unquestioned).” This proposal refers more closely to the activist part of PH methods and practices. Still, it is again limited to the necessity to reach minorities and silenced communities, not to work with them to deliver new knowledge using the sharing of an authority principle directly with targeted communities. The contents of this bunch of proposals (Manifesto 2023) and the following essays that aim to foster better public knowledge of history and educational heritage lie entirely in describing projects and activities that bring schools outside their walls using different media.

Eventually, when the authors of the Manifesto speak about collaborative tasks, it seems they propose new forms of cooperative learning and sharing dealing with the history of education, not the direct participation of the public in the learning-teaching process of history as such. In conclusion, it could be said that storytelling, exhibiting, and digitalizing the history of education and its archives that are described in the many international chapters of the book all deal with a series of relevant cultural projects aimed at publicly sharing in different ways, such a cultural heritage and broadening their public reception. This is the key proposal of what we can call, without any critical or derogatory intention, a communicative way to understand new developments in the history of education.

  1. Participative PH of Education v. Communicative one

 With the 2023 Public History of Education Manifesto, Sjaak Braster wants to make available histories of education. What matters is school and pedagogical history, school heritage, and the promotion of new sources, mainly new digital archives that enrich the study of educational and pedagogical processes. It is about giving more importance to school heritage and teaching practices through the history of different epochs and geographical eras for today. The public is an audience here, and the public should be informed and interested in the history of education through various media and narratives.

Instead, in the 2018 Bandini and colleagues Manifesto of PH of Education, the history of schools, pedagogical practices, and public promotion of school heritage is not the only goal but, eventually, one of the elements of a PH of education wishing to engage with local communities, develop civic participation and critical thinking. The second Manifesto also focuses on teaching a form of participative history at school that could be influenced and reason about complex contemporary issues affecting the communities like migration, gender, sexuality, environment, urban spaces, wars, etc. In doing so, educational communities (formal and informal) should directly contribute to the process of learning in participative ways. These territorial communities include a network of local heritage and cultural institutions, the schools themselves, and different publics belonging to these communities: the pupils and their families engaged in a public and participative process during the learning activities.

This PH perspective of the History of Education is precisely the reason why thirty public history chapters were included in a new edition of Valerio Castronovo’s history textbook for the publisher Rizzoli Education (2023), thirty examples of applied practices with the local communities at school and outside the classroom, that deal with new ways of teaching history for Italian secondary schools. Valerio Castronovo has been the first textbook to include and describe how PH practices can be applied in public spaces, especially in urban spaces, and to show how history can be taught and included in a community-based learning process about different historical eras.[56]

PH of education, from a PH point of view, is not a tautology nor a misunderstanding of what PH and its application in the educational process are about. The premise of a PH-oriented PH of Education is fieldwork on a local community scale in which teachers also become public historians. School history reinforces the educational community in local territories when the process does not limit itself to the bare school history but engages with public spaces and communities and builds new practices and forms of participative education. In this context, the PH of Education shows how history is essential in explaining community heritage and memory, in which school heritage is only one example of the participative teaching process. PH of Education aims at reinforcing the educational role of history at school, but, like PH, this sub-discipline of the study of the past should also focus -if wishing to flirt with PH- on understanding current societal issues.

PH of Education mobilizes already existing pedagogical practices supporting participative activities and adds participative and citizen history practices to analyze the past through a mutual knowledge creation between teachers, their pupils, and their communities, which implies de facto forms of shared authority practices that are central for the whole discipline of PH.[57] PH of education fosters a better way to teach history and history methods for better teachers who also become public historians. So, PH of education from a PH point of view goes further in engaging society about disseminating school heritage and history using all available communicative media, even creating school museums. It is about how we can engage with educational communities and their public in forms of participation that should be inherent to the process.

From a Public History point of view, what is and is not PH of Education should be the accurate analysis parameter that must be used to make a necessarily abridged comparison of the two available manifestos (2018 and 2023) dealing with the PH of Education. The 2023 Manifesto intends to apply public history methods to communicate the importance of the history, culture, and memory of education to other public. Meanwhile, an oriented PH of Education is at the center of a pedagogical process of learning history, the interaction between different actors, teachers, pupils, and their communities in making local history relevant for them.

The PH of education from a PH perspective is also different from what Germans call Geschictsdidaktik, which deals mainly with how textbooks are written for teaching history, following school history programs, and looking at teacher’s training and pedagogical issues.[58] Instead, a PH-oriented PH of Education wants to improve history teachers’ classroom activities by introducing PH methods and practices, even in textbooks. These practices would better engage with the student’s interest in the past, like teaching history in participatory ways, connected to cultural networks in public spaces and local territories and with the inherited heritage of the communities following what we mentioned about the Faro Convention earlier, and to share historical methods with the pupils to improve civic education at school.

  1. Conclusion: How do ChatGPT and generative IA define the field of Public History of Education?

 ChatGPT[59] defines the field of Public History of Education as “the application of historical methods and perspectives to the study, interpretation, and communication of educational history for a broader public audience. It extends beyond academic settings to engage with diverse communities, making historical insights about education accessible and relevant. “Here are crucial elements listed and briefly analyzed by the AI chatbot (December 2023) that help define the field: Audience Engagement. – Accessible Communication. – Collaboration with Educational Institutions. – Preservation of Educational Heritage. – Memory and Identity. – Public Policy Impact. – Digital History and Technology. – Social Justice and Inclusivity.

Summarizing what an AI agent proposed, we can say that “the Public History of Education is a dynamic field that seeks to bridge the gap between academic research on educational history and the broader public. It involves active engagement, accessible communication, collaboration with educational institutions, and a commitment to preserving and interpreting the history of education for diverse audiences.” This last sentence describes how the 2023 Manifesto of PH of Education would define activities and practices, all limited to forms of communication to different publics. So, we asked ChatGPT to clarify what differentiates Geschitsdidaktik from the public history of education.

In essence, “Geschichtsdidaktik is more specifically focused on the pedagogical and curricular aspects of teaching history within formal educational institutions, while the public history of education has a broader focus on engaging the public through various platforms and initiatives beyond traditional classroom settings. The public history of education is characterized by its inclusivity, community engagement, and the use of diverse mediums to share historical narratives with a wider audience.”

Geschichtsdidaktik is “primarily concerned with the science of teaching history, including methodologies, instructional strategies, and curriculum development for history education in formal educational settings. It “typically directed toward educators, curriculum developers, and individuals involved in the formal education system.” They “place a strong emphasis on the pedagogical aspects of teaching history within schools and educational institutions. It is often concerned with how historical content is conveyed, assessed, and integrated into the curriculum.”

Instead, a PH approach to the PH of Education “encompasses a broader spectrum of activities related to the public engagement with the history of education, extending beyond formal teaching to include community projects, exhibitions, digital platforms, and collaborations with various stakeholders. The audience is broader because it extends beyond formal educators to include the general public, community organizations, museums, and diverse stakeholders interested in the history of education. It emphasizes making a historical narrative accessible to a broader audience through creative and participatory means through activities such as community collaborations, digital storytelling, museum exhibitions, and other initiatives that bring the history of education to diverse communities.”


[1] H. Kean, People, historians, and the public history: demystifying the process of History making, in Professional practices of Public History in Britain, in «The Public Historian,» 32, August 2010, n. 3, pp.25-38, (p. 27 on Raphael Samuel’s approach to PH) and from the same author, Public History as a Social Form of Knowledge, in The Oxford Handbook of Public History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017. Oxford Handbooks Online. See also P. Ashton-H. Kean (eds.), People and their pasts: public history today, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

[2] This paragraph is derived from Serge Noiret: The birth of a new discipline of the past? Public History in Italy, in Ricerche Storiche, XLVIII, n.3, September-December 2019, pp.131-165.

[3] Serge Noiret and Thomas Cauvin: Internationalizing Public History in Oxford Handbook of Public History edited by James B. Gardner and Paula Hamilton, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp.25-43, pp.26-27.

[4] Shambaugh, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin): Applied history, Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1912

[5] Council of Europe: Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, URL:

[6] Law of the 1st October 2020, n. 133, “Ratifica ed esecuzione della Convenzione quadro del Consiglio d’Europa sul valore del patrimonio culturale per la società, fatta a Faro il 27 ottobre 2005”,;133

[7] Council of Europe: Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, cit…

[8] Ibid.

[9] Rossano Pazzagli: Dalla storia della siderurgia ai beni culturali nell’alta Maremma…, cit., p. 110.

[10] See #Memorecord, the project to collect the memories of migrants in Luxembourg by Anita Lucchesi For a collection of migrants’ narratives of their journey toward Europe, see Luisa Passerini, Conversations on Visual Memory. European University Institute, Department of History and Civilization, 2018

[11] Claude Levi-Strauss, L’identité. Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1995.

[12] Giuliano Volpe: Patrimonio al futuro. Un manifesto per i beni culturali e il paesaggio., Milano, Electa, 2015

[13] See Rossano Pazzagli, Dalla storia della siderurgia ai beni culturali nell’Alta Maremma. Note sul contributo di Ivan Tognarini, in A. Nesti and M. Pierulivo (eds.), La siderurgia italiana. Tra storia economica e archeologia

industriale – In onore di Ivan Tognarini – Atti del Convegno di studi (Piombino, 4-5 marzo 2016), Pisa, Pacini Editore, 2017, pp. 107-114, here, p.109.

[14] Manifesto in,

[15] Manifesto in Tommaseo online,

[16] Manifesto in “Scrittura o dichiarazione pubblica, annunzio, avviso” in Ottorino Pianigiani: Vocabolario Etimologico della lingua italiana, Roma, Milano: Società editrice Dante Alighieri di Albrighi & Segati, 1907, 2 vols (Also available through the Internet Archive

[17] In the Encyclopédie, a «manifeste» is a «déclaration que font les Princes, & autres puissances, par un écrit public, des raisons & moyens sur lesquels ils fondent leurs droits & leurs prétentions, en commençant quelque guerre, ou autre entreprise; c’est en deux mots l’apologie de leur conduite.» MANIFESTE, s. m. (Droit polit.) dans The Project for American and French Research on the Treasury of the French Language (ARTFL): Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, University of Chicago, 2001 and also the Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres. Mis en ordre & publié par M. Diderot … & quant à la partie mathématique, par M. d’Alembert. Volume 19., Genève [Paris & Neufchastel], 1772; pp. 1754-72.

[18] André Munro, Manifesto,, last updated Feb 1, 2024.

[19] The communist manifesto by Marx and Engels, in Encyclopedia Britannica,

[20] Walt Whitman Rostow: The stages of economic growth: a non-communist manifesto., London: Cambridge University Press, 1971, 2nd edition.

[21] André Breton, Manifeste du surréalisme, Paris : Éditions du Sagittaire, 1924, new Edition, 1929.

[22] Marin Dacos, Manifeste des Digital humanities, à THATCamp Paris, 18th and 19th of May 2010, URL:

[23] Tommaso Detti, Lo storico come figura sociale, relazione inaugurale presso la Giunta Centrale per gli Studi Storici, L’organizzazione della ricerca storica in Italia, convegno, Roma, 16-17 dicembre 2014, in A. Giardina e M.A. Visceglia: L’organizzazione della ricerca storica in Italia: nell’ottantesimo anniversario della Giunta centrale per gli studi storici, Roma, Viella, 2018, pp. 247-309.

[24] Joe Guldi and David Armitage, Manifesto per la storia. Il ruolo del passato nel mondo d’oggi., Introduction by Renato Camurri and translation by David Scaffei, Roma, Donzelli, 2016. For the Italian debate about the History Manifesto, see Historians of the World, unite! Tavola rotonda su The History Manifesto, di Jo Guldi e David Armitage, in «Ricerca di Storia Politica», 13 of October 2015,; Serge Noiret: «The History Manifesto»: a discussion, introduction by Serge Noiret, with contributions by Ramses Delafontaine (ed.), Quentin Verreycken, Eric Arnesen, in «Memoria e Ricerca», 1/2016, pp. 97-126.

[25] J. Guldi-D. Armitage, The History Manifesto, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014,

[26] See Jacqueline Nießer and Juliane Tomann (eds.) Angewandte Geschichte. Neue Perspektiven auf Geschichte in der Öffentlichkeit, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2014 e dalle stesse autrici, Public and Applied History in Germany: Just Another Brick in the Wall of the Academic Ivory Tower?, in «The Public Historian,» 2018, 40/4, pp. 11–27, and Thomas Cauvin, Public history: a textbook of practice … cit., pp. 12-14.

[27] Rebecca Conrad, Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2002), p.35.

[28] Benjamin F. Shamhaugh (ed.) Applied history., Iowa Applied History series, edited by Benjamin F. Shambaugh, Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1914.

[29] Applied History Project,

[30] My translation of Benedetta Giuliani, Dalla public history alla applied history. Ruolo pubblico e funzione politica della storia nel recente dibattito storiografico angloamericano, in «Diacronie. Studi di Storia Contemporanea», 32, 4/2017, 29/12/2017, URL <>, pp. 14-15.

[31] “Founded in 2002 by Cambridge scholars Dr Alastair Reid, Fellow of Girton College, and Professor Simon Szreter, Fellow of St John’s College, together with Professor Pat Thane, Research Professor at King’s College London, and Professor Virginia Berridge, Director of the Centre for History in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.”, On Public History, for policy and history, see Alix R. Green, History, Policy and Public Purpose—historians and Historical Thinking in Government, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. See also, John Tosh, In Defence of Applied History: the History and Policy Website,, February 10, 2006. For a brief discussion about public and applied history, see John Tosh, The Pursuit of History. Aims, Methods and New Directions in the Study of History, 7th ed., London: Routledge, 2021.

[32] Richard E. Neustadt and Ernest R. May: Thinking in Time. The Uses of History for Decision Makers., New York, Simon and Schuster, 1986.

[33] Applied History Project, cit.

[34] David Lowe, “Applied History Today.” Journal of Applied History1, n.1–2, 2019, pp. 42–52

[35] Harm Kaal and Jelle van Lottum, Applied History. Past, Present, and Future, in Journal of Applied History 3, 1-2 (2021),

[36] Beatrice de Graaf, Lotte Jensen, Rina Knoeff and Catrien Santing, “Aan de slag! Een manifest voor ‘applied history’. Wicked problems en de noodzaak van een diepe blik.”,, May 13, 2020

[37] Violet Soen and Bram De Ridder. “Applied History in the Netherlands and Flanders: Synergising Practices in Education, Research, and Society.” in BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review 136/4, December 2021, pp.27–57,

[38] This paragraph is partially based on Serge Noiret: The birth of a new discipline of the past? Public History in Italy, cit., pp.131-165.

[39] La Public History in Piemonte, Torino 7 maggio 2018, https://aiph. and La Public History in Lombardia. Seminario su studi e pratiche, Milano 20 November 2018,

[40] Manifesto per una Public Geography: discutiamone!

[41] Il Manifesto della Public History italiana, revised version in December 2023,

[42] Ibid.

[43] Francesco Faeta, Public History, antropologia, fotografia. Immagini e uso pubblico della storia, in «Rivista di

Studi di Fotografia», n. 5, 2017, pp. 52-63, DOI:

[44] See Serge Noiret, Internationalizing Public History, in Public History Weekly 2 (2014) 34, DOI:; Thomas Cauvin and Serge Noiret, Internationalizing Public History, in John B. Gardner and Paula Hamilton (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public History, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 25-43; Thomas Cauvin, The Rise of Public History: An International Perspective, in «Historia Crítica», n. 68, 2018, pp. 3-26, DOI:; Thomas Cauvin Public history: a textbook of practice, 2nd Edition revisited, London, Routledge, 2022, pp. 17-18; Serge Noiret, A proposito di Public History internazionale e dell’uso-abuso della storia nei musei, in Memoria e Ricerca Vol. 25, n.1, January-April 2017, pp.3-20, and David Dean and Andreas Etges, What Is (International) Public History?, in International Public History, 2018, Vol.1, n.1, DOI:

[45] Gianfranco Bandini: Public History of Education. A brief introduction. Firenze, Firenze University Press, 2023, pp.29-30.

[46] Bandini’s last work, cited in note 46, follows a previously edited book which contained the publication of the Manifesto Gianfranco Bandini and Stefano Oliviero, Public History of Education riflessioni, testimonianze, esperienze, Firenze, Firenze University Press, 2019,

[47] Public History of Education. A brief introduction, cit., p.90.

[48] Frederik Herman, Sjaak Braster and María del Mar del Pozo Andrés, Towards A Public History of Education: A Manifesto, in ibid., Exhibiting the Past: Public Histories of Education, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2023, pp.1-36.

[49] Ibid., pp.9-10.

[50] Ibid., p.12.

[51] Karin Priem and Ian Grosvenor Future Pasts: Web Archives and Public History as Challenges for Historians of Education in Times of COVID-19,in Exhibiting the Past: Public Histories of Education, cit., pp. 177-196.

[52] Ibid., p.187.

[53] On Covid Archives worldwide as PH projects see Tizian Zumthurm, “Crowdsourced COVID-19 Collections: A Brief Overview”, International PH, 4, n. 1 (2021), pp.77‒83,

[54] Ibid., p.193.

[55] Ibid, pp.15-16.

[56] Thirty rubrics dedicated to PH by Serge Noiret and Enrica Salvatori updated the edition of Valerio Castronovo, MilleDuemilaTrenta, Milano, Rizzoli Education, 2023,

[57] See the special issue dealing with PH of Education and the introduction by J. Wojdon, History Education and Public History – Introduction, in International Public History, vol. 6, no. 1, 2023, p. 1 ss,

[58] On this issue see also, Marco Demantowsky et al., Public History and School International Perspectives, Munchen, Wien, De Gruyter-Oldenbourg, 2018; Mario Carretero, Stephen Berger and Maria Grever (eds.), Palgrave handbook of research in historical culture and education. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

[59] Only ChatGPT v. 3.5 has been tested for this exercise,

Cite this blog post
Serge Noiret (2024, May 1). Public History (of Education) and Applied History Manifestos’ 2011-2023. Digital & Public History. Retrieved June 20, 2024, from

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search