Rhetorical History: Giving Meaning to the Past in Past and Present

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Rhetorical history explores the process by which stakeholders interpret the past to explain or give meaning to their present, thereby pursuing individual or collective goals. Rhetorical history has been discussed as both a theory and a method. This chapter explores the methodological choices made in this field so far and the open questions scholars face. It specifically highlights not only the mechanisms but also the contexts of rhetorical history. Mechanisms show how the past is made meaningful, through analogy, strategic ambiguity, outpasting, or forgetting. Contexts focus on the impact and development of rhetorical histories over time, by engaging with the role of audiences, the relevance of prior narratives to contest or confirm, and the importance of social practices. Both pose methodological questions, specifically how uses of the past can be studied as stories told in the context of other stories and by seeing them both "in time" and "over time."
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Historical Methods for Management
EditorsStephanie Decker, William M. Foster, Elena Giovannoni
Number of pages11
Place of PublicationCheltenham
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Publication date2023
ISBN (Print)9781800883734
ISBN (Electronic)9781800883741
Publication statusPublished - 2023
SeriesHandbooks of Research Methods in Management series


  • Narratives
  • Outpasting
  • Forgetting
  • Strategic ambiguity
  • Memory
  • History

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