1. Chinn, Peggy L. RN, PhD, FAAN

Article Content

When you read this issue of Advances in Nursing Science (ANS 22:1), the last season of the year 1999 will be emerging-autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Because the end of the 1900s is drawing near, our attention is drawn to review what has transpired over the past century and to anticipate what might be in store for the coming century. This time breeds all manner of speculation, interpretation, reflection, and even hysteria concerning what has happened in the past and what it means for the future. One can locate almost any future prediction to suit your personal taste!


This issue of ANS is rich with material that I anticipate will stimulate rich discussion among nurse colleagues as the new century approaches. The issues that these authors present are broadly representative of nursing professional and disciplinary concerns, and an array of examples of approaches to historical scholarship. This issue also continues the journal's growing international scope.


As I reviewed these articles, I identified three themes that reflect the value of history. First, history provides evidence for a more complete understanding and appreciation of the complex dynamics that shape our world. These articles illustrate the interplay of a vast range of factors, including such diverse issues as ideology, politics, technologies, time, space, architecture, relationships, and world events. The nearsighted view of the present obscures our ability to see this rich complexity. But taken historically, we begin to see the unfolding layers of interaction and thereby appreciate the complexities of what is happening in our present time.


Second, history provides evidence to debunk myths that persist as damaging influences on current and emerging realities, and brings into view that which has been hidden. The ways in which certain actualities are distorted to create damaging myths, and still other actualities are hidden from view, continue to be a mystery beyond my imagination. Work that reveals what actually happened, and how it happened, is important work to re-direct our thinking about our future, and how it can be shaped. As an example, several of the articles debunk myths about what women and nurses did in the past, revealing the hidden accomplishments of nurses in past periods of time and their courage, creativity, and strength.


Finally, history is a valuable means of examining ideologies and their influence on emerging circumstances and situations. As we live from day to day, it is very difficult to realize the particular assumptions and ideologies that shape our thinking and our perceptions, and in turn shape our choices and actions. Work that examines, in retrospect, the ideological factors that shaped the past deepens our understanding of the power of ideologies and provides a lens through which to detect more clearly the ideologies of our own time, and to sense their persistent influence.


I hope that these articles will prompt many occasions for discussion and exchange of ideas. Each of us can participate in shaping a future we choose. Historical insights such as those presented in this issue of ANS can inform the directions that we seek.


-Peggy L. Chinn, RN, PhD, FAAN