This article offers some reflections on the cultural and epistemological challenges presented to historians and teachers by Wikipedia. The history of Wikipedia is examined via a consideration of the ‘policies’ set out by its founders, and how these fundamental rules can lead to certain contradictions arising during the process of the creation of the individual entries. By taking a series of examples, and by comparing different language versions, the article shows how controversial historiographical issues tend to attract individuals with a penchant for airing their own personal and political views. The purpose of the discussion is not to encourage the jettisoning of this extraordinary tool for the dissemination of knowledge. Instead, we would encourage Wikipedia to be understood as a complex social phenomenon, with its own practices and ideologies, embedded within its own national cultures. In turn, we hope to see more expert input from academics or, at the very least, a more critically aware use of Wikipedia in the future.
Keywords: Wikipedia, Public history, Public use of history, Digital humanities