This chapter examines how the study of local history as an “act of self-reassurance” has grown in importance as societies have become mobile and people are less tied to a specific location. Historian Helmut Flachenecker writes of modern society that one is no longer the citizen of a location primarily by birth, but rather by history. This is true to an extreme degree of the Polish city of Wroclaw, whose society came into being as the result of a complete population exchange. Societies of this kind typically yearn for tradition just as much as they lack it. Only by identifying collectively with the history of the city could a coherent citizenry develop out of a random assortment of settlers thrown together by the population shifts of postwar Poland.
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