In Finland, the trend towards a new kind of history teaching emphasizing the understanding of historical knowledge and historical thinking skills began in the mid-1990s, when history teaching objectives were defined much more broadly in the curriculum than previously. In this article, we examine how, in over twenty years since the changes in curriculum objectives were made, general upper secondary school teachers have come to value the curriculum objectives of history teaching and how these have impacted on their teaching. The data for this article were collected by a semi-structured survey in 2016. Using counts, percentages, means, standard deviations and medians, a descriptive exploration was made of history teachers' perceptions of the essential objectives in teaching history and how often they were put into practice in related student activities. To investigate the balance between the objectives the teachers emphasized as the most essential and the teaching methods they actually used, we applied the Kruskal–Wallis test and the Friedman test. According to the results, what the teachers considered essential for teaching history did not correlate with their teaching methods. In addition, according to the results, this state of affairs is still undergoing change; old traditions and new objectives of history teaching are creating tensions. The results were interpreted in the light of the cultural viewpoints of Finnish teaching, the position of matriculation examinations in Finnish general upper secondary schools and the challenges the curriculum is setting for history teachers.