Concluding Remarks

This chapter scrutinized diverse forms of echoing in history textbooks in order to contribute to the debate about persistence and change in textbook narratives from a different angle. The repetition and endurance of particular national narratives in textbooks is often explained by instrumental factors, such as state interventions and state control over textbook content and production. Although such factors are still important, this chapter aimed to shed some light on other factors that also influence specific textbook structures. History textbooks function and are produced in broader cultural dynamics, which help to explain the persistence of certain narratives. A certain version can persist as long as a narrative fits the cultural canon or suits the cultural formation. This chapter mainly focused on text production, but consumers of texts produce forms of echoing and narrative templates as well. For example, US students who were interviewed about their knowledge of American history were inclined to tell narratives of freedom and to omit parts that did not fit this overarching story (Barton & Levstik, 2004).

Stories across different media and forms of remembrance can echo and reinforce each other. Therefore, it is important to analyze history textbooks not only in relation to academic forms of historiography but also in relation to more popular or evocative forms of historical representation, such as poems, plays, songs or films. For example, textbook authors have quoted fictional poems and narrated history from their perspective. A fictional genre can reinforce textbooks’ ideological content and form: poems shape history in a memorable way, and their sticking power has had a great influence on cultural remembrance. Cultural dynamics, therefore, need to be taken into account in explaining change or persistence in textbook narratives.

Next to inter-genre forms of echoing, specific textbook narratives can resonate each other. The same pattern of narration may underlie diverse narrations of various events in unique contexts. This resonance or underlying pattern is based on a schematic narrative template that organizes different historical problems, events and difficulties around one plot in a specific cultural setting. In this chapter, I have taken history textbooks to illustrate my argument, but diverse forms of echoing in national narratives in educational settings are not necessarily bound to printed texts. History textbooks may now refer to historical films or websites, for example, and interact with these ‘new’ genres. It is important, therefore, not to regard history textbooks as poor substitutes for academic historiography but as mediators and adapters of discourses: as a genre, specific and complex in itself, fitting into a larger cultural formation.

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