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Local history is the study of history in a geographically local context and it often concentrates on the local community. It incorporates cultural and social aspects of history. Historic plaques are one form of documentation of significant occurrences in the past and oral histories are another. Local history is often documented by local historical societies or groups that form to preserve a local historic building or other historic site. Many works of local history are compiled by amateur historians working independently or archivists employed by various organizations. An important aspect of local history is the publication and cataloguing of documents preserved in local or national records which relate to particular areas.
In a number of countries a broader concept of local lore is known, which is a comprehensive study of everything pertaining to a certain locality: history, ethnography, geography, natural history, etc.
Local history tends to be less documented than other types, with fewer books and artifacts than that of a country or continent. Many local histories are recorded as oral tales or stories and so are more vulnerable than more well known issues. Artifacts of local history are often collected in local history museums, which may be housed in a historic house or other building. Individual historic sites are inherently local, although they may have national or world history importance as well. Many however have little overall historical impact but add depth to the local area.
The British Association for Local History in the United Kingdom encourages and assists in the study of local history as an academic discipline and as a leisure activity by both individuals and groups. Most historic counties in England have record societies and archaeological and historical societies which coordinate the work of historians and other researchers concerned with that area.
Local history in the UK took a long time to be accepted as an academic discipline. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was widely regarded as an antiquarian pursuit, suitable for country parsons. The Victoria History of the Counties of England project begun in 1899 in honour of Queen Victoria with the aim of creating an encyclopaedic history of each of the historic counties of England. The project is coordinated by the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. The first academic post related to local history was at Reading University which appointed a research fellow in local history in 1908. There was a department of local history (but without a professor) at Leicester University from 1947. H. P. R. Finberg was the first Professor of English Local History. He was appointed by Leicester in 1964. Local history continues to be neglected as an academic subject within universities. Academic local historians are often found within a more general department of history or in continuing education.
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