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Open Access Why national narratives are perpetuated: A literature review on new insights from history textbook research

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National narratives have often served to mobilize the masses for war by providing myths and distorted interpretations of the past, while conversely wars were major sources for producing national narratives. Because national history is very likely to remain a central topic in history education, albeit in ways that differ from how the topic was used fifty years ago, it is important to gain a greater understanding of the underlying structures and mechanisms of these narratives in history textbooks. After outlining the historical interconnectedness of the emerging nation states and history teaching, this review article explains the complexity of the history textbook as an educational resource. Next, we identify some current problems and challenges in history textbook research. We continue by discussing promising research trends related mainly to national narratives, such as the analysis of images, the use of digital tools, and studies of the autonomy of textbook narratives and of history textbooks in relation to other media. Another recent reorientation is textbook research that uses a holistic approach. By this we mean studies that examine the history textbook as a whole: composition, periodization, visual intertextuality and chapters that do not at first glance appear to focus on national history. These studies offer new insights and explanations for the perpetuation of national narratives in history textbooks.

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Keywords: HISTORY EDUCATION; HISTORY TEXTBOOKS; HOLISTIC APPROACH; NATIONAL NARRATIVES; TEXTBOOK RESEARCH

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Founded in 2003 by the UCL Institute of Education, the journal reflects the Institute's broad interests in all types of education in all contexts - local, national, global - and its commitment to analysis across disciplines using a variety of methodologies. It shares the Institute's aspiration to interrogate links between research, policy and practice, and its principled concern for social justice.

    Drawing on these strengths, LRE is a wide-ranging and engaging journal that features rigorous analysis and significant research across key themes in education, including: public goals and policies; pedagogy; curriculum; organization; resources and technology; and institutional effectiveness. Articles and book reviews are written by experts in education, psychology, sociology, policy studies, philosophy and other disciplines contributing to education research, and by experienced researcher-practitioners working in the field. The highest quality of reporting and presentation are ensured through an independent, anonymised peer-review process. As an entirely web-based open access journal, LRE has been able to offer innovative features and formats including: epistolary conversation; colour photos and illustrations; illustrative video clips.

    LRE welcomes relevant articles and book reviews. Please email them to [email protected]

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