Westernization of History
Studies have found that across diverse cultures European history and Western events are considered to be most historically significant (Glowsky, Ellerman, Kromeier, & Andorfer, 2008; Liu et al., 2009; Pennebaker, Paez, & Deschamps,
Fig. 26.1 Conceptual map of the chapter
2006). Events recalled as important for world history are predominantly related to Europe and North America (e.g. world wars) (Pennebaker et al., 2006). Noticeably, European and Western historical events and figures are also generally rated more positively compared to other events and figures (Glowsky et al., 2008; Liu et al., 2005; Pennebaker et al., 2006). In the same vein, history education scholars claim that the content of history books is focused on the ingroup and mainly on Western history (Lopez & Carretero, 2012; Tutiaux- Guillon, 2012). Together, such findings reflect the representational power of the West.
Wars and political and military leaders are also cross-culturally perceived as historically significant. Revolutions and wars are mentioned in the world history (Liu et al., 2009) or in the last millennium (Pennebaker et al., 2006) as the most important events, whereas science and technology (e.g. industrial revolution) are secondary in importance. In 24 nations from America, Europe and Asia collective violence accounted for 48 % of events nominated as important, whereas 45 % of leaders named where known for their roles in violent acts (Liu et al., 2009). Even though wars produce only 2 % of the twentieth century death toll (Layard, 2005), people tend to overvalue the role of political violence in world history because of the catastrophic impact extreme and negative events like wars have. Anchoring violence as a main factor in SR of history is congruent with nineteenth-century historiography, where historians concentrated on idiographic descriptions of politics and war. For instance, the German historian von Ranke perceived wars as main agents for change, arguing that only in war a nation becomes a nation (Iggers, Wang, & Mukherjee, 2008). Being emotionally loaded, traumatic events are especially narratable, forming a plot that tells a people the story of themselves, often in relation to an outgroup and current challenges facing the ingroup (Liu & Laszlo, 2007). Political assassinations, terrorist attacks, natural disasters or financial crisis provoke intense shared emotions as surprise, anger, sadness, fear and anxiety and subsequently induce mass media rehearsal. These events are largely socially shared, by means of commemoratory rituals mass media and interpersonal rehearsal. These SR are also congruent with the dominance of violence and drama historical textbooks where wartime periods usually receive more space (Pingel, 2000; Zerubavel, 2003).