We consider conceptions of history as schematathat integrate large portions and many aspects of knowledge. We describe the use of cognitive mapping for the identification of historical conceptions by examining whether adolescents’ historical knowledge can be characterized according to widespread lay distinctions between critical and traditional orientations towards the past. We present cognitive maps of three of 12 18-year-old students which were identified as possessing qualities that make them come close to serving as ‘ideal conceptions’ of Jewish history: the ‘theological’, ‘sociological’, and ‘critical/historical’. These conceptions are considered in relation to a discussion concerning (1) the applicability of cognitive mapping in the face of an apparent contrast between the seemingly linear character of historical knowledge and its spatial representation; and (2) the conception, held by many faith schools, of the development of historical knowledge as a contest between tradition and criticism.
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