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Prehistory in School textbooks in the 20th Century: from Homogeneity to Inclusivity and Diversity
Högskolan Väst, Institutionen för individ och samhälle, Avd för utbildningsvetenskap och språk.ORCID-id: 0000-0003-0875-8564
2023 (Engelska)Ingår i: ECER 2023: Abstracts, European Educational Research Association, EERA , 2023, European Educational Research Association, EERA , 2023, s. 1-2Konferensbidrag, Publicerat paper (Refereegranskat)
Abstract [en]

With this presentation I would like to contribute to the understanding of the way prehistory has been taught in textbooks over a period of just over a hundred years, and how both society and archaeological research have contributed to changing the way prehistoric people are represented in the textbooks.

Scandinavian prehistory has so far received little attention in history didactics. In Swedish schools, prehistory is taught in the lower grades according to the traditional periodisation: Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Viking Age. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of Scandinavian prehistory as it is presented in history textbooks of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and to trace its development and revision. The study highlights archaeology and gender studies in relation to the subject of history and connects textbooks with historical culture, prehistory and gender.

Textbooks are closely linked to historical culture because they are an imprint of their contemporaries (Rüsen 2004). Our knowledge of the prehistoric period is therefore partly time-bound because it is shaped by the theories currently in force, and in this way our image of prehistory becomes a reflection of our own time (Baudou, 2004). As presented in these books, prehistory is seen as an expression of a historical culture valid in a particular era. The study shows how historical cultural change becomes visible through two categories that run through the entire period under study: Cultural memory and gender. 

Cultural memory: The German Egyptologist Jan Assmann has addressed the question of how memory can be linked to a period as far back in time as prehistory, and how the past is recalled in social memory. Since it is a historical period very distant from our own, we cannot share these memories through interaction, but need specialists, such as teachers, to help us (Assmann, J, 2010). Aleida Assman sees our memory as highly selective and when it comes to cultural memory, forgetting thus becomes part of social normality. In a society, new information needs to be processed and new ideas emerge to help us deal with the present and the future, while at the same time, society faces new challenges (Assmann, A, 2010). Memory can thus be seen as a reconstruction of the past created in the present (Selling, 2004). In this study, the concept of cultural memory serves as a tool to explain how some stories have remained in the textbooks during the long period under study, and which ones have changed or are no longer included for various reasons.

Gender: According to Yvonne Hirdman, the concept of gender has been used in anthropology as a descriptive concept to explain the different relationships between the sexes. The system consists of two principles. One is the taboo of separation, which states that the feminine and the masculine must not be mixed. This expression is found, among other things, in the division of labour between men and women, in the idea of what is feminine or masculine, but also in places and characteristics. The second principle is hierarchy: the man is the norm. Men are put on an equal footing with human beings and stand for what is normal and universal. Through this ordering structure, we are helped to orient ourselves in the world according to places, tasks and types (Hirdman, 2004). Gender systems change over time. In every era, there are invisible contracts between men and women that are expressed in ideas about what constitutes the relationship between them (Hirdman, 2004). This study thus describes the process by which the gender system changes and develops.

Method

The changes in the historical culture are explained by cultural memory and Aleida Assmann's model of remembering and forgetting. Cultural memory thus provides both a theoretical and a methodological framework for this study. The long-term perspective makes it possible to see which stories about prehistory are actively preserved as canon in our memory and which stories have been discarded by new research findings and have thus fallen into active oblivion. The textbook texts were seen in the context of archaeological research reflecting the values of society (Olsen 2003). Nordic archaeology was established as a science around the turn of the 1900s, and as this period marks the beginning of the archaeological academy, this is a natural boundary for a period division (Baudou 2004). The results are also related to curricula, as they also reflect changes in society. The texts were compared with popular archaeological works written by established archaeologists who pointed to research that could be considered representative at the time the books were published, and the periodisation of the study was based on these works: Period 1 1903- 1943 The Nation and the Invisible Woman Period 2 1944- 1968. The post-war period - women are added Period 3 1969- 1987 New social ideas and a settlement with traditional gender roles Period 4 1988- 2010 Towards individuality and equality

Expected Outcomes

The result shows a historical cultural change in which the representation of people in the books evolves from homogeneity to inclusivity and diversity. It becomes clear how the contemporary social climate and government policies complement the archaeological research and provide a more egalitarian picture of the prehistoric period, that the textbook authors have taken note of. This is in line with the view of how historical culture changes and is influenced by society and how textbooks are part of this history-didactic chain. Aleida Assmann's description of how the canon of cultural memory is not replaced but can change as society changes is exemplified in this study, as several stories about Nordic prehistory recur in the 20th and early 21st centuries, but at the same time the way the stories are presented changes significantly as guidelines and the social climate change. Stories about prehistoric people evolve from stories characterised by homogeneity to stories that clearly advocate inclusion. The first accounts at the beginning of the 20th century seem to consist only of middle-aged men, but gradually women, children and eventually older people are included. The stories about prehistory have a clear anchorage in the contemporary social climate and show a move towards more diversity in their representation. However, it is not always archaeological research that forms the basis for this picture; the interpretations of textbook authors also have a major influence on these representations.

References 

Assmann, A. (2010). Canon and Archive. A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies. Astrid Erll, Ansgar Nunning Assmann, J. (2010) Communicative and Cultural Memory. A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies. Astrid Erll, Ansgar Nunning Baudou, E. (2004). Den nordiska arkeologin - historia och tolkningar. Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets historie och antikvitets akademien Hirdman, Y. (2004). Genussystemet-reflexioner kring kvinnors sociala underordning. I genushistoria-en historiografisk exposé. Studentlitteratur, Lund. Olsen, Bjørnar (2003). Från ting till text: teoretiska perspektiv i arkeologisk forskning. Lund: Studentlitteratur Rüsen, J. (2004). Berättande och förnuft: historieteoretiska texter. Göteborg: Daidalos Selling, J. (2004). Ur det förflutnas skuggor: Historiediskurs och nationalism i Tyskland 1990-2000.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
European Educational Research Association, EERA , 2023. s. 1-2
Nyckelord [en]
Schools, prehistory, textbooks
Nationell ämneskategori
Pedagogik
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-21146OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-21146DiVA, id: diva2:1824893
Konferens
European Conference on Educational Research, ECER 2023, August 22 – 25, 2023, Glasgow, UK
Tillgänglig från: 2024-01-08 Skapad: 2024-01-08 Senast uppdaterad: 2024-01-08Bibliografiskt granskad

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