Putting the past into action: How historical narratives shape participation in collective action

Samuel H. Freel, Rezarta Bilali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why do some people perceive more injustice, feel more anger, or hold higher collective efficacy beliefs, and thereby are readier to engage in collective action than others? Our understanding of collective action is incomplete without a better understanding of what shapes variation in its antecedents. In this article, we highlight and elaborate historical narratives’ role in driving engagement in collective action. By integrating research and theory on historical narratives and collective action, we propose a theoretical model specifying historical narratives’ impact on three main predictors of collective action—perceived injustice, group efficacy beliefs, and group identity—as well as on forms of collective action. We elaborate on how different dimensions of historical narratives (e.g., historical trajectories, historical attributions) influence each antecedent of collective action and shape action choice. This article contributes to literature by establishing a theoretical basis that explains how historical narratives can either impede or foster collective action tendencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-222
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • collective action
  • collective identity
  • collective memory
  • historical narratives
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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