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Comparing History Books in Europe

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In various parts of the Education Forum the topic "Nationalism and History" is discussed. You can find postings in the History section with the same headline and the topic also is a thread under the headline "History Textbooks".

Although the posters have very different opinions about "Nationalism/Internationalism" and the contents national textbooks one aspect is mentioned in nearly every posting: the selective description and percepion of our various neighbours.

I think it might be an interesting project to ask our students to analyse and evaluate how the neighbouring states and their histories are presented in the textbooks they work with in school.

Even though this is not really an oral history project but the students' surveys could be posted in the forum and form a database for comparing schoolbooks and maybe finding some ways of improving/"internationalising our textbooks.

According to my own experience with projects like this already younger students can do this and thus could be included in the forum and in an international debate. :blink:

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I think that is a very good starting point.

I will post a list of German textbooks for middle school and Sixth Form.

Maybe it would be helpful to agree on certain periods of history:



Cold War;

cliches and prejudices about immediate neighbours like France, Poland (for Germany)

I think my year 7 (a bilingual class; they are 12/13 years old and have been learning English for two years) would like to compare how the Middle Ages are portrayed in English and German textbooks. Telling them that their findings will be published on the internet will increase their interest and ambition.

Edited by UlrikeSchuhFricke
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I particularly like the idea of students doing the comparison. I currently have an IB student (17 years) comparing French and English textbooks on WWII. This will be published as a website, if he ever finishes it.

Even more interesting, I have a pre-IB Russian student who recently got hold of Stalin era textbooks. We are studying the origins of the Cold War at the moment (interestingly enough she sits next to American student in this class) and she enjoys translating passages for us on a Soviet perspective on the interwar years. I am hoping to persuade her to undertake a major assignment as part of her IB on Soviet era history teaching and textbooks. She has also agreed to participate in our online student debate.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would like to do this with you but I’m afraid that my student’s wouldn’t cope with it. There must be after all huge difficulties when dealing with schoolbooks written in foreign languages. If you decide on any specific way how to deal with this comparison of foreign school books I shall think it over and ask my students.

Edited by Dalibor Svoboda
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Actually, I haven't finished thinking the project trough, yet. I would like to do this with my "little ones" = year 7. During the last term the classroom language was still German but now it will be English and I want to have groups of students who compare the description of different aspects of the Middle Ages in an English and in our German textbook: bias; drawings, primary sources; secondary sources, assignments, how difficult/easy is the text etc. But I do not yet know exactly how to organise it.

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