History has always been (mis-) used in political debates. Basically, every social group constructs a set of historical ‘facts’ which then are used to justify any kind of ‘political action’. The constant repetition of these ‘facts’ create history. Usually different “versions” of history exist and most of the times these versions seem incompatible even though they might be two sides of the same coin.
A few weeks ago the German EU presidency proposed a common history book to be used in schools across the EU. Obviously the reactions were rather mixed. But, given the problem with (nationalized) history in general, such a book could truly help building a common identity and make people aware of different viewpoints. Moreover, it would reveal the different constructions of history .
Clearly, the existing Franco-German history textbook (that proved to be rather successful in practice) served as an example for this initiative. It might be still too optimistic to think of a common EU history book but why is it not possible to develop regional history books for a start? Or at least another book for two countries (preferably neighbors or “arch enemies”)…?
Certainly Eastern Europe would be an ideal choice for the next project, so I hope some education ministers in Eastern Europe read this article via eurotopics (btw a page I highly recommend!):
The hostilities between the countries of central Europe have arisen because the people there don’t understand the history and culture of their neighbours, writes Emese John, an MP for Hungary’s Liberals: “Our culture of remembrance is based exclusively on national history books. They bear the marks of the battles of the past thousand years and describe wars and conflicts solely from a national perspective. We live on such a tiny fragment of the world that our roots have become entwined and our branches touch each other, yet we still fail to see the common interests in our joint history – because we haven’t sought them… To discuss only matters pertaining to Hungary’s fate is narrow-minded and leads nowhere. One of the great matters of national interest today is how we can profit from this growing and increasingly fast world. It’s very important to confront the past, but to do this we need to borrow our neighbours’ glasses so we can see better.”