Teaching history as an interpretation, by using textbooks in a diachronic perspective
The research case of the representation of the Belgian-Congolese colonial past
Keywords:history education, history didactics, textbooks, colonial past, secondary education, interpretation and construction
History textbooks play an important role in the social representations of the past circulating within a society. Research shows, however, that textbooks often present their account of the past as 'the truth’: as a representation of what really, actually happened, leaving no room for different interpretations. This is at odds with the essence of history as being a matter of substantiated interpretation and construction, based on historical source analysis and considering multiple perspectives. If we want young people to deal critically with historical representations, it is necessary that they learn to use history textbooks in a critical manner. This article first reports on a diachronic narrative analysis of 20 secondary school history textbook series in Belgium since 1945, specifically focusing on the representation of the Belgian-Congolese colonial past. Afterwards a concrete didactical model is presented about how to transfer the results of this research into educational activities in the secondary school history classroom. It shows how history can be taught as an interpretation, and students can gain a deeper understanding of the constructive and interpretive nature of historical knowledge and interpretations.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Karel Van Nieuwenhuyse
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