In many ways the development of the heritage concept as seen in Power of Place (English Heritage 2000a) and similar initiatives is concerned with alerting individuals to their rights and responsibilities as citizens in a 21st century Western democracy. The relationship between heritage, using the tangible and intangible assets that survive from the past, and the concept of democratic citizenship is symbiotic. Being a fully participating citizen includes having rights and responsibilities towards heritage(s) and heritage(s) provide(s) a cultural dimension for citizenship. Considering the present concern with the teaching of democratic citizenship in schools and in the wider community, it is surprising that this important aspect of identity is neglected in the detailed prescriptions of the curriculum in the various parts of the United Kingdom. The study of heritage in the curricula of primary and secondary schools, especially, could contribute significantly to citizenship education and offer experiences and insights that could not be gained through other aspects of the curriculum.

While the MORI investigation into attitudes to the historic environment among adults (English Heritage 2000b) found significant support for its role in education, leisure and personal identity, it was also discovered that heritage is not at the forefront of people's minds. The MORI poll did not investigate the idea of heritage as a fundamental aspect of citizenship with rights and responsibilities. Perhaps if these adjuncts of heritage were made more explicit then its significance to the population might be increased. Power of Place suggests that we need to broaden the audience and widen understanding of heritage which relates to the rights of individuals, and it also proposes that there needs to be real participation in decision making which would give responsibilities towards heritage (English Heritage 2000a, 25-8). Such actions would not only benefit heritage but also extend the citizenship ethic into a neglected area of life.

Possible actions include:

  1. To raise awareness of the role of heritage as a component of citizenship, and to forge firmer links between the concept of heritage, identity and place
  2. Wider dissemination of the results of citizenship and heritage education initiatives such as the English Heritage Education Service Citizenship projects and the 'Young Roots' project of the Heritage Lottery Fund
  3. Influencing DfEE to include examples of the use of heritage education in its exemplars for teaching citizenship
  4. To identify and produce resources that will help schools and communities to improve understanding of the role of heritage in citizenship (a search of the relevant websites for government and education produced no examples of recommended resources in the cultural development areas at any Key Stage in the curriculum outlines for England, Scotland or Wales)
  5. Emphasise the citizenship aspect for bids for Heritage Lottery Fund grants.


I am grateful to Kate Clark and Anita Pollack of English Heritage for helpful discussions on the future of heritage. Annachiara Cerri of the Cultural Heritage Section of the Council of Europe is also thanked for providing the opportunity to research the relationship between citizenship and heritage.


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Last updated: Wed Jul 10 2002