ID 144
Title Textbook Diplomacy (1)
Broadcast 2010-01-27 00:00:00
Network World Service
Presenter Mark Whitaker
Producer Mark Whitaker
Precis In Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia historians are struggling to produce school textbooks that will help overcome deep-seated misunderstandings and hatreds between neighbouring states. This week - South Africa
Duration 20
Txtime 1899-12-30 10:00:00
Description In Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia historians are struggling to produce school textbooks that will help overcome deep-seated misunderstandings and hatreds between neighbouring states.

Can historians help in the process of overcoming long-standing tensions between neighbouring states ? Can they contribute in a concrete way to diplomatic efforts at understanding and reconciliation ? Can they teach history in a way that will help children break out of old cycles of mistrust or hatred ? They are certainly trying, but it's not easy in a world of resurgent nationalisms. This series explores the challenges for 'textbook diplomacy' in two different contexts [part 1] South Africa and [[art 2] Europe, particularly the Balkans.

To some extent developments in Western Europe have shown what can be done.

i) Last autumn students at French and German secondary schools started using a common history textbook - the fruit of five years' work by a high-level Franco-German Textbook Commission. With the exception of a few paragraphs the German and French texts are identical : the few fundamental differences (over the USA in particular) are explained. A new Commission is now at work on the 1918-1945 period, focusing on the complexity of arriving at a common understanding of the Second World War.

ii) This summer saw the completion of a five-year project, funded by the European Science Foundation, entitled Representations of the Past : the Writing of National Histories in 19th and 20th Century Europe. Overseen by a German historian working at the University of Manchester (who says historians all too often "have blood on their hands"), it starts from the premise that professional history as a discipline arose out of 19th nationalism, and grapples with how to get beyond it. It recognises that as the European Community has expanded, the tension between 'Europeanness' and nationalism has intensified - especially in eastern and south eastern Europe.

The base for these initiatives is a remarkable institution, the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in the German town of Braunschweig. It brings together scholars and educators from countries who cannot agree on a shared past - to brainstorm, and to come up with concrete initiatives in schools. It's dealing with Germany/Poland, with Poland/Russia, and - most adventurously - with Israel/Palestine.

Salzburg is home to the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation. Also with a base in Washington, the Institute sees its job as seeking 'to dispel public myths about historic legacies that are frequently exploited to inflame nationalist prejudices : the IHJR is developing a methodology for consensus building around disputed historical legacies.'

Programme 1 [this week] looks at South Africa,and the efforts now being made by academics and teachers to produce textbooks that adequately reflect the very different histories of black nationalism and afrikaaner nationalism, particularly difficult when history was given little importance in schools for many years following the end of apartheid.

Programme 2 [next week] focusses on Europe and in particular Bosnia, where efforts are being made in Bosnia to replace school history books that perpetuate racial hatred. Olli Rehn, the European Commissioner for Enlargement, is pushing for a common Balkans history textbook : and an international group made up of historians from the Balkans, the US, Canada and Europe is setting out to 'address historical flashpoints created by the conflicts, with the goal of writing a scholarly history by consensus.'

Each programme features interviews with historians, teachers, politicians, pupils and parents : each explores the contradictions between history and politics and between schools and communities.

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