Original Research

How to make sense of the past – salient issues of Metahistory

Jorn Rusen
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 3, No 1 | a316 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v3i1.316 | © 2007 Jorn Rusen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 March 2016 | Published: 11 April 2007

About the author(s)

Jorn Rusen, Vaal Triangle Faculty at North-West University, South Africa

Full Text:



This aerticle provides an overview of current issues in metahistoty. Basic categories of historical thinking, such as memory and historical culture, or historical consciousness, are outlined and contextualised in the field of historical studies. The leading question adresses the process of historical sense generation and its fundamental principles and criteria. In respnse to the traumatic historical experiences of crimes against humanitiy in the 20th century two culturally established procedures of sense generation are applied to historical thinking: mourning and forgiving. The author tries to widen the horizon of historical thinking into the dimension of intercultural communication. In the process he responds to the challenge of globilization. There is an accent on the need to pursue new approaches in history.


Metahistory, memory, sense generation, historical consciousness, Holocaust, trauma, mourning and forgiving, Globalisation, intercultural communication.


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