top of page

The History teacher as public historian


Robert J. Parkes, Debra J. Donnelly, & Heather L. Sharp


Educators have long been aware of the role that schools, and specific school subjects, play in nation-building, including the ways in which national consciousness is perceived to be shaped within the classroom. This makes the historical narratives that future history teachers mobilise of particular interest to researchers. This paper draws on research from the Remembering Australia’s Past (RAP) project conducted with pre-service History teachers from the University of Newcastle, who studied history at school during the period of the ‘history wars’ (Clark, 2008). Drawing on a methodology developed by Létourneau (2006), 97 pre-service History teachers (consisting of 27 males and 70 females, the overwhelming majority of whom identified as either or both European and Anglo-Celtic) were asked to “Tell us the history of Australia in your own words.” The participants were given 45 minutes to write their personal account of the nation’s past. The analysis of the stories of the nation collected from the pre-service teachers, reveal that they have largely adopted popular discourses circulating in contemporary Australian society, demonstrating that our pre-service History teachers are successful consumers of public history in general, and the dominant discourses of Australia’s past in particular; and that given the opportunity, it is these dominant discourses that they readily mobilise. This underscores the importance of engaging public history directly in the classroom, in order to assist pre-service history teachers to deconstruct the narratives ‘truths’ they have inherited and taken for granted.


History Teachers, Public History, Collective Memory, Historical Narratives

Download Article

Date Published

6 March 2023

How to Cite

Parkes, R. J., Donnelly, D. J., & Sharp, H. L. (2023). The History teacher as public historian, Historical Encounters, 10(1), 30-43.


  • First Article in Issue Published 6 March 2023

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0​ License

bottom of page