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Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts of History Textbooks

Susanne Grindel

History education has been a powerful instrument in the formation of nation since the rise of the modern nation state at the end of the nineteenth century (Berger & Lorenz, 2010; Carretero, Asensio, & Rodriguez Moneo, 2012; Carrier, 2013). It plays a pivotal role in disseminating knowledge about and in securing a sense of belonging to a community. At the same time, history education is a contested field when it comes to the question of what kind of history should be taught in schools (Carretero, 2011; Davies, 2011; Grever & Stuurman, 2007). This is all the more the case for today’s societies characterized by migration, which challenge the traditional notion of the nation state. The ongoing debates around history curricula in Europe and beyond bear witness to this observation. As much as history education secured the construction of the nation in the first place, it is to the same degree that it is called into question today. Globalization threatens to deconstruct it and, after the end of empires, has shattered imperial master narratives in the former colonial states, as well as in states with the experience of being on the receiving end of colonialism.

We might, then, perceive “educating the nation” (Noiriel, 2001), as a decidedly delicate endeavor viewed in the light of the various issues that the teaching of history and, as its principal media, history textbooks face: the academic input of new turns or approaches in historiography, the public impact of cultures of memory and the multicultural classrooms that actively shape students’ and teachers’ perception of the national self. Engaging with these issues, this chapter will cover colonial and postcolonial contexts of history textbooks with a specific focus on three aspects of the subject. That is on historiographical debates (I), on public uses of history (II) and on the dissemination of historical

S. Grindel (*) Marburg, Germany

© The Author(s) 2017

M. Carretero et al. (eds.), Palgrave Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education, DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-52908-4_14

ideas in educational media (III). Furthermore it will draw on twentieth and twenty-first century history textbooks for secondary education from England, France, Belgium and Germany and on their dealings with modern European colonialism in Africa.

 
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