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History, Heritage and Tradition in Contemporary British Politics : Past Politics and Present Histories

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History, heritage and tradition in contemporary British politics explores the use of the past in modern British politics. It examines party political perspectives on both British history and the philosophy of history, and also looks at the ways in which memory is instituted within the parties in practice - through archives, written histories and commemorations. It focuses in particular on a number of explicit negotiations over historical narratives: the creation of the National Curriculum for History, Conservative attempts to re-assess their historical role in 1997, the assertion of a 'lost' social democratic tradition by the SDP and New Labour and the collapse of the Communist Party of Great Britain's narrative memory in 1988-91. These episodes are examined as a process of negotiation between grassroots members and party leaders in which understandings of the past determined the options for the future.This book fuses scholarship on British political parties, collective memory, historical theory and heritage studies. It traces the decline of ideologically distinct approaches to history and argues that although the political past is no longer seen to make demands on the present- either of conservative duty or radical obligation- this is in line with wider social attitudes which see the past as an affirmation of the present, rather than as a legacy which can be honoured or betrayed. It shows how history, heritage and tradition are used to present parliamentary politics as intrinsically 'historic' and suggests that the disappearance of active political pasts leaves contemporary politicians unable to speak of radically different futures.

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