Imagine a history textbook without any historical sources at all – this is a daily reality for many teachers in south-eastern Europe. Original sources, as key prerequisites for critical and multi-perspective approaches to historical events, are of crucial importance to history teaching. Between 26 and 28 May of this year, the GEI hosted a seminar on the topic of sources for textbook authors from south-eastern Europe, exploring ways in which they might approach the historical past from a multiplicity of perspectives in the classroom.
Most history textbooks from south-eastern Europe, whether they come from Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia or Montenegro, are dominated by authorial text which presents a closed narrative to students. Generally, sources are nowhere to be found in these books, and the few images they include are more illustrative than instructive in nature. The seminar at the GEI, for both experienced and new textbook authors, explored potential for development and improvement of existing textbooks and ways in which teachers might encourage students to engage critically with historical sources.
Barbara Christophe, a researcher at the GEI, took the year 1914 as an exemplary case and demonstrated ways in which teachers might use historical sources, while other attendees conducted presentations on digital corpora of sources and literature and provided support for the authors as they worked on creating text which engaged with a source in an age-appropriate manner. Melisa Forić, a member of the Bosnian history teachers’ association HIP BiH and a co-author of a recently published history textbook containing alternative teaching and learning materials for former Yugoslavian states, presented a best practice example revolving around a teaching unit on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914.
Denis Vuka, a PhD student from Athens, now Berlin, introduced teachers to digital sources and teaching units on the year 1914 from the online platforms HISTORIANA and EUROPEANA, and then encouraged them to try writing an educational piece for a textbook from a historical source. The seminar participants were able to make use of the extensive textbook collection held by the GEI’s library.
The seminar was part of a three-year project, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, on history textbooks and teaching in Albanian-language areas, a successor to the Textbook and Curriculum Development in South-Eastern Europe project. The project, which covers Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and South Serbia, stages academic conferences on textbook content and public discourses around approaches to history in schools which draw on ethnic, national, state- and regional issues, and organises seminars on creating textbooks. Further, it awards research grants to academics and textbook authors. Claudia Lichnofsky is coordinator of the project at the GEI.