DOI link for Introduction
In this chapter, we map out an interdisciplinary approach to historical experience, understood as the affects and sensations activated when people, in a given present, enter into relationship with the past. In the nineteenth century, professional historiography arose by embracing principles of the scientific method such as rationality, impartiality, and a dispassionate approach to research, thereby displacing genres such as poetry, art, and literary fiction that had previously conveyed knowledge of the past in more sublime modes. While the dichotomy between subjective empathy and objective understanding continued to be negotiated within the history profession, in wider society people continued to engage in all manner of sensory relationships with the past, including spiritualism, psychometry, and occasional bouts of Stendhal Syndrome. Technologies such as photography, phonography, and film provided new media that incited yet richer sensorial and sentimental experiences of the past. With the advent of video games and virtual reality beginning in the late twentieth century, yet more immediate engagements with the past have proliferated. This chapter surveys this variety of historical experiences in Western societies, their social relationship with professional historiography, the present(ist) demand for a personal experience of the past, and the future of historical experience portended by digital technologies.