This article is an initial exploration of possibilities opened up by considering trust relations as central to the teaching of history in schools. It is an extension of an investigation into epistemological problems to see whether ‘trust’ is a more fruitful concept to use than ‘truth’ in dealing with those problems and is based on an assumption that trust is more than a moral notion. In recent times, the mining industry has developed the concept of ‘a social license to operate’ within a context of trust-based relations that complements legal, moral and contractual obligations. Three aspects of schooling are identified where this concept may be usefully applied; macro level, classroom level and the teaching of history. Applying this way of seeing to the teaching of history in schools may be more fruitful than some more standard views such as ‘transmission of important facts for citizenship’, ‘transmission of accepted judgments of professional historians’ or ‘empower the young to fight for social justice’. The nature of the particular social license to operate, in its context of trust-based relations, provides criteria for curriculum content selection, teaching methods and standards for assessment.