'The concept that dares not speak its name': Can we rehabilitate 'empathy' as a disciplinary concept by re-theorising its curricular goals and value to pupils in light of the 'cultural turn' in history? A theory-seeking case study with Year 9 exploring the experience of a soldier in the First World War.
This paper explores a theory-seeking case study that aimed to investigate the potential for rehabilitating the troubled concept of empathy as a curricular construct by re-theorising it in close relation to the cultural turn in academic history. The case study centred on an eight-lesson enquiry in which Year 9 pupils engaged with an extended historical source in a manner inspired by cultural history, using the concept of 'historical perspective' – a re-theorisation of the concept of empathy developed throughout the enquiry. Findings suggest that empathy re-theorised as 'historical perspective' can provide a rigorous means of rehabilitating the aims of empathy and translating the complementary aims and approaches of cultural history into school history. Ultimately, the paper argues for the value of rehabilitating empathy in such a way and concludes with recommendations for further development of 'historical perspective' as a concept and for the wider inclusion of cultural history within school history.