History of the Georg Eckert Institute

This project is advancing the institutional history of the field of textbook research by taking the Georg Eckert Institute as an example and thus moving into the second stage of the working field for history. Moreover it links directly to two other projects. Firstly to the “History beyond Borders” project, which studies the history of textbook revision from a European perspective; an area in which the GEI has played a central role. Secondly to the biography of Georg Eckert, which is currently being written by the GEI-associated history educationalist, Heike Mätzing.

The exploration of the institute’s history is of dual significance. It is first and foremost a critical analysis, from an institutional and historical perspective, of the origins of institutional textbook research. This analysis is based on the presupposition that textbook revision and textbook research were originally analogous with one another and that textbook research as a field in its own right only evolved thematically and methodologically, separate from revision and practical work on textbooks, particularly in conflict societies, in the last third of the twentieth century. Secondly it is evident that the history of textbook research can not be written independently of the diverse activities in the field of textbook revision and consultation. It is precisely this analysis of practical work on textbooks which incorporates the examination of the networks, the major stakeholders, the respective political contexts, the conflicts of interest and the spatial relationships that are, equally, the constituents of textbook research

The Georg Eckert Institute is therefore an excellent case study to use for research into this process, as not only did the institute’s founder Georg Eckert managed to establish textbook research as a new field of academic research at the Braunschweig Teacher College in the first decades after the second world war, but he also managed to combine this with practical guidelines for textbook work, primarily with the political aim of reconciliation. The Georg Eckert Institute, which was founded in 1975, one year after the death of its “guiding spirit”, grew to be one of the world’s leading institutions in the field of gathering and researching teaching materials for geography and history as well as social studies. The GEI has always regarded itself as an academic institute that not only established the field of textbook research but also largely developed and shaped it. The GEI has also made an important, and internationally recognised, contribution to the sphere of textbook revision. Initially between Germany and her neighbours, and former enemies, and later in Europe and beyond, the GEI has played a significant role in the mediation of textbook conflicts and acted as advisor to international organisations such as UNESCO and the Council of Europe.

The GEI’s history therefore offers answers to the questions of under which societal conditions textbooks came to the attention of academic research, how a new academic field was structured and institutionalised and how that field adapted to social, educational and scientific policy fluctuations, and to what extent and in what way the academic and transfer-oriented activities overlap with regards the stakeholders, institutions, aims and interests. Against this background the project also examines how changes in academic perspectives or political and financial steering instruments have altered textbook research in view of the shift from bilateral cooperation to global interconnectedness. At the same time the project focuses on a comparative analysis of institutes undertaking textbook research and work on textbooks and the associated competition and cooperation at organisational level and the financing within the framework of regional, national or international institutions.

Financed by

  • GEI
  • Stiftung Nord LB
  • Öffentliche Braunschweigische Stiftung
  • Stiftung Braunschweigischer Kulturbesitz
  • Hans und Helga Eckensberger Stiftung
  • Georg Westermann Verlag

Project duration

  • 2013-16


Eckhardt Fuchs

Director / Directorial Board

Main Building Office E2.09
Phone: +49 531 59099-500
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Steffen Sammler

Department Textbooks and Society

Branch Office B0.04
Phone: +49 531 59099-306
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