Finally Iain Robertson has succeeded in getting Heritage From Below published! In fact he was so excited by this that he then spent virtually the whole of his 20 minute slot at the recent Critical Heritage Studies conference in Gothenburg self-promoting it.
The way we use the past in the present (the heritage industry in other words) should be of interest to all historians. To paraphrase the great Raphael Samuel (in Theatres of Memory), the business of history is too precious to be left to the professionals alone as this ‘encourages inbreeding, introspection, sectarianism’ (p.3). The heritage industry does exactly the same. For Samuel and others who shared his opinions and philosophy the solution was to invent something called “history from below”. This movement took ordinary people and everyday lives as its main focus and sought to rescue them from “the enormous condescension of posterity”. We may well say that heritage from below is an attempt to rescue the ignored and uncelebrated from the enormous condescension of official heritage.
Heritage From Below is a collection of essays which seek to remind us that heritage is much more than the usual castles and palaces. Heritage is about more than visitors, audience and consumption. It is about more than access to economic resources. It is about ordinary, people, collectivity and individuals, and about their sense of inheritance from the past and the uses that sense of inheritance is put to. The collection is meant to provoke and the authors sincerely hope it does!