German-Polish Joint History Textbook ‘Europa – unsere Geschichte’ (Europe – Our History)

Photos: Bettina Ausserhofer
Photos: Marcin Biodrowski

Europa – unsere Geschichte (Europe – Our History) is a series of textbooks created jointly by representatives from Germany and Poland. It continues the decades-long dialogue between historians, geographers and experts in history education from both countries, especially within the framework of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission. The new textbook series, which is intended for regular use in history classrooms at the lower secondary level (Sekundarstufe I) in Germany and the equivalent level in Poland, will extend to four volumes. The first of these: Von der Ur- und Frühgeschichte bis zum Mittelalter (From Prehistoric and Ancient History to the Middle Ages) was released in June 2016 in German and Polish versions with identical content and design. Volume 2, Neuzeit bis 1815 (From the Modern Era to 1815) was published in September 2017. Since their release the textbooks have been available for history lessons in both countries. Volumes 3 and 4 will appear successively by 2020. Developed by the project group together with a German-Polish publishing partnership, the series is published by Eduversum (Germany) and Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne (WSiP, Poland).

Goals

The joint history textbook aims to introduce new and modern ways for students in Poland and Germany to understand history; to foster their ability to engage problem-oriented historical thinking; and to actively address the role of history in shaping identity.

At its focus are European and world history seen through a German-Polish perspective. The textbook thereby provides a new lens with which to view Europe: It aims to disrupt the enduring focus on the founding states of the European Union and expand the historical consciousness of German youth towards the East – and Polish youth towards the West. Going beyond widespread nation-centric interpretations, the textbook leads readers to discover European and world history anew, to evaluate that history differently and to perceive it in a more nuanced way. The textbook highlights the multifarious nature of Europe itself and the plurality of European memory cultures. Taking an age-appropriate approach, it helps students hone their understanding of how history is written and how historical memory is constructed.

Students gain competence in dealing with historical material and are encouraged to shift their perspectives. Based on deep knowledge of the respective other, as well as Germany and Poland’s shared and divided history, the textbook promotes mutual understanding and empathy.

History and Future Plans

In autumn 2006, former Federal Foreign Secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier first proposed a German-Polish history textbook. In January 2008, the foreign secretaries of Germany and Poland acted on the idea and authorised a joint German-Polish Textbook Commission to develop a concept for the book.

The project officially began in May of the same year. A German-Polish project group was created with academic and political stakeholders from both countries. On 1 December 2010 the project group presented its recommendations for the development of a joint textbook to leading German and Polish political representatives in Warsaw. These included proposals for the concept and design of the textbook series put forward by the project’s panel of experts. The panel’s recommendations incorporate a pedagogic framework and define five separate epochs reaching from the ancient world to the beginning of the twenty-first century. They also address central issues of European and global history from a German-Polish perspective.

Since 2012 the project group has been working with a German-Polish publishing partnership, Eduversum and Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne (WSiP), to develop a textbook based on the above recommendations. In June 2016, the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Witold Waszczykowski, presented the first volume to the public, titled Europa. Unsere Geschichte / Europa. Nasza historia (Europe: Our History). In November 2017, the ministers of education of the state of Brandenburg and Poland, Britta Ernst and Anna Zalewska, presented the second volume to the public. Volumes 3 and 4 are set for release in 2019 and 2020 respectively. The publication of each volume is accompanied by targeted teacher training sessions, workshops and presentations.

Organisation

The project has a bi-national panel of experts, in addition to a German-Polish steering committee. This panel provides academic support for the workflow and publication processes. Chairing the panel are Prof. Michael G. Müller (Halle) and Prof. Robert Traba (Berlin/Warsaw). On the German side, Prof. Eckhardt Fuchs, director of the Georg Eckert Institute, is responsible for academic coordination, a role filled on the Polish side by Prof. Igor Kąkolewski (Berlin/Warsaw). The panel also includes the members of the presidium of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission.

In the steering committee, the minister of education for the state of Brandenburg, Britta Ernst, represents the German side, while the deputy education minister, Marzenna Drab, is the official Polish representative. The project is funded equally by both governments, with additional support on the German side from the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs.

Significance

The project is of great significance to Polish-German relations in the arena of educational and research policy. Both sides are demonstrating their desire to include the historical experience of the neighbouring country in their schools’ portrayal of history and to expand the academic debate surrounding historical themes.

Role of the Georg Eckert Institute and the Joint Textbook Commission

The joint history book project has benefited a great deal from the experiences of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission. The decision to develop a textbook was based, in part, on a feasibility study initiated by the commission and carried out by the Georg Eckert Institute. This study analysed the curricula of Poland and each of the sixteen German federal states for the school levels seen as the target group. Representatives of the textbook commission play a significant role on the project’s panel of experts. The German project office is located at the Georg Eckert Institute.

Publications

  • Europa – unsere Geschichte. Volume 1: Von der Ur- und Frühgeschichte bis zum Mittelalter. Edited by the Joint German-Polish Textbook Commission in collaboration with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig and the Zentrum für historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2016.
  • Europa – nasza historia. Volume 1: Od prahistorii do średniowiecza. Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzyarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warsaw: WsiP, 2016.
  • Europa – unsere Geschichte Band 2: Neuzeit bis 1815. Edited by the Joint German-Polish Textbook Commission in collaboration with the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig and the Zentrum für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2017.
  • Europa – nasza historia Tom 2, podręcznik: Czasy nowożytne (do 1815 roku). Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2017.

Funded by

  • German Federal Foreign Office

Contact

Christiane Brandau / Europe Department

Dr Marcin Wiatr / Europe Department

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