I am aware that the "narrative vs. narration" issue has emerged again. However, my question is a bit more specific.

When it comes to history and historiography and, in specific, to making reference to a certain "history of x institution from then to then", should we use "The present narrative... ", "The present narration... ", or something else - i.e. account, or recital?

The reason for my asking is the following: besides referring to a specific literature form, narrative in postmodern theory has come to denote that a certain approach (theory etc.) is "ideologically charged" and thus bears mythical elements - i.e. the "great narratives of the 20th century", the "Marxist narrative", etc.

Therefore, when one wants to refer to a scientific historical account of events, does it not undermine the validity and objectivity of the work to call it a "narrative"? Is not narration more proper a term?


  • No (see any dictionary). But what's wrong with "history"?
    – David
    Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


A narrative is a story. A narration is an act of telling a story.

History is built on stories (narratives), but different views, emphases, and perspectives will lead to different stories (narratives) predominating. This is also true of current affairs, and other things.

While people may actively choose to put forward a particular narrative (due to ideological or other reasons) and so arguably be engaged in narration, the word as used here is not about the telling of the story, but about the story told (and/or commonly taken as the guiding view). Hence narrative is the apt term, not narration.

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