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The purposes of school history

History to develop international harmony and discourage crude national stereotyping and the perpetuation of nationalistic grudges and grievances

‘History lessons ought not to be made a vehicle for international grudges in the discussion of foreign politics. The English spirit of fair play to opponents condemns alike the republican propaganda carried on in the schools of one great continental nation, and the anti-socialistic crusade which is maintained in the schools of another. Institutional bitterness may be kept alive for generations by unfair or unwise history teaching.’

Withers, H.L. (1904) The teaching of history and other papers: 171-2.

‘The child should be brought to realise the solidarity of mankind and to have a feeling of community, indifferent to class or nation or race.’

Drummond, H. (1929) History in Schools: 81.

‘By bidding us to apply not less exacting standards to the conduct of our own country than to that of other men, history disciplines and purifies our patriotism. The study of other epochs, races, nations, religions, institutions and customs leads us to a wide hearted appreciation of higher values; to respectful toleration of differences, and to a conception of civilisation as orchestral, the fruit of effort working along many lines.’

Gooch, G.P. (1936) History as a training for citizenship, in The new era: 66-72, quoted in O.E. Shropshire, The teaching of history in English schools.

‘In the teaching of the past, historical truth has often been sacrificed in the interests of national pride, and history has often been distorted in order to arouse patriotic emotions. Children have often been left with the idea that contacts between nations in different parts of the world are inevitably connected directly or indirectly with war. The chauvinist has made history serve the purpose of his nationalism; the history textbook, with its unavoidable generalisations and necessary simplifications, has frequently been turned into a powerful instrument of this nationalism.’

UNESCO (1951) A comparative study of curricula in history geography and social studies: 108. Quoted in Hill, C.P. (1953) Suggestions on the teaching of history.

‘It would seem that a history syllabus that is entirely centred on British history will only reinforce these ethnocentric attitudes, and foreigners, who only appear on the scene to be defeated, enslaved and exploited for the glory of one’s own group. Will hardly be seen more tolerantly when encountered in another context. If the subject does range beyond the British people in our schools we concentrate almost entirely on western/Christian civilisations and on the activities of the Caucasian racial group. This will produce a view of history that does less than just ice to other civilisations. If we draw on other cultures only incidentally we also devalue their achievements and importance. America begins to exist when Columbus discovers it… Indians emerge when they are to be defeated by Clive and later when they dare to mutiny. Often there is an element of surprise that others achieved anything.’

Hannam, C. (1970) Prejudice and the teaching of history, in M. Ballard (Ed) New movements in the study and teaching of history: 31-4.

‘To examine the history of warfare over the last 300 years intelligently and objectively is a greater contribution to peace studies than peace studies itself.’

Kenyon, J. (1984) Observer, 4 March.

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