Binational teaching materials. History, evaluation, mentoring

History curricula and the history narrative taught in schools have traditionally been pressed into the service of national identity creation. Even when attempts have been made to resist this assignation, national political and cultural codes have impeded the balanced and sensitive rendering and interpretation of historical relationships and events. Experiments have been running for some years with multi-national teams of authors in an attempt to mitigate such problems. Although the texts, teaching materials and, most recently, textbooks produced by such teams occupy rather a niche position in the wide range of media available for schools, they have significant innovative impact. The variety of comparable joint innovations and endeavours has expanded considerably and has resulted in diverse and sophisticated models of binational and transnational cooperation.

The principal aim of this research project was to systemise such models, to discover their contexts and theoretical premises and to analyse their strengths and weaknesses. The resulting knowledge was made more widely available to external parties in the form of evaluation services and consultation for ongoing projects. The work corresponded closely with that of the binational textbook commissions and is compatible with the activities of international NGOs engaged in this field.

The project manager, for example, became co-editor of an international textbook exhibition by the EU–Russia Civil Society Forum titled ‘Different Wars – National School Textbooks on World War II’. Taking a transnational perspective, the exhibition presented Russian, German, Italian, Czech, Polish and Lithuanian depictions of the war, highlighting both common and contradictory aspects. It travelled through the capital cities of the participating countries in 2016. On 18 January 2018 Robert Maier opened the exhibition in the Karlshorst Museum in Berlin.

One form of binational educational media is represented by textbooks that attempt to incorporate the history of national minorities into the narrative of the titular nation. If this approach is pursued further it can result, in certain spatial constellations, in multi-ethnic histories of the relationship, which can be treated as new, transnational forms of a regional narrative. Corresponding developments are also being examined in relation to German minorities.

The project concluded with a panel organised by the GEI at the annual conference of The International Society for Historical and Systematic Research on Textbooks and Educational Media (IGSBi) held in Brixen from 5 to 7 October 2018. The panel was titled ‘European bi- and multilateral textbook activities – past and present’. Robert Maier presented an overview of the various formats of bi- and multi-lateral cooperation that have been introduced in the last decades. Christiane Brandau then spoke about the challenges and opportunities presented by the creation of the current German-Polish History Book. This was followed by a linguistics-based analysis by Beata Mikołajczyk, who provided the reviewer’s perspective of the project. An overview of projects such as ‘Pruzzenland’, ‘Historiana’ and ‘Hi-Story Lessons: Teaching and Learning about Europe’, in which the GEI plays or has played a leading role, illustrated how electronic media have enabled the circle of participants to be widened beyond bilateral partners. The ‘Hi-Story’ project was also included in the panel programme, represented by Marcin Wiatr. Vladimir M. Kaljavić added a report of his experiences working on the ‘Joint History Project’: a four-volume, multi-lingual collection of source material on the history of the Balkans. It is designed for schools and was written by 14 authors from eleven South-East European countries. The panel was completed by a report by Anne Bruch and Stefan Sammler on European initiatives in educational films and television for schools since 1948, which challenged the textbook depictions of the European unification process.

The project team were requested by the Gemeinsamen Kommission für die Erforschung der jüngeren Geschichte der deutsch-russischen Beziehungen to be didactic consultants during the creation of the German-Russian History Book ‘Deutschland – Russland. Stationen gemeinsamer Geschichte – Orte der Erinnerung’. The three volumes were published between 2014 and 2019.


  • Financed by the GEI


  • 2015–2018


  • The International Society for Historical and Systematic Research on Textbooks and Educational Media (IGSBi)
  • EU–Russia Civil Society Forum
  • Joint German-Czech Textbook Commission
  • Academia Baltica e.V.
  • The Joint Commission for Researching the Recent History of German–Russian Relations
  • Chair of German History and Culture in Southeastern Europe at the University of Pécs, Hungary


  • Maier, R.: ‘Transnationale Bildungsmedienprojekte als Vehikel der Schaffung eines Bewusstseins europäischer Zusammengehörigkeit’, IGSBi annual conference, Brixen 7 October 2018.
  • Maier, R.: ‘Transnationale Unterrichtsmaterialien – Chancen, Herausforderungen, Umsetzungen’ at the 26th summer school of the Academia Baltica, Akademiezentrum Sankelmark 13 July 2017
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Acht Momente des Erstaunens, wenn Jugendliche aus Polen und Deutschland ihr Schulbuchwissen über den Zweiten Weltkrieg austauschen’. Brief presentation in Section II: ‘Schools’ at the conference ‘Das Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs und die Spaltung Europas. Aspekte einer europäischen Erinnerungskultur’. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 3 November 2015.
  • Maier, Robert. Moderation of an expert discussion on ‘Grenzen überwinden durch binationale Schulbücher’ at the event ‘Weltempfang’. Frankfurt Book Fair, 18 October 2015.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Typologie transnationaler Unterrichtsmedien’. International Summer School of the Academia Baltica, Sankelmark, 2 July 2015.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Binationale Unterrichtsmaterialien als Chance zur Überwindung nationaler Geschichtsbilder?’ Summer course for students from Eastern Central Europe on ‘Region – Nation – Europa’. Academia Baltica, Sankelmark, 3 July 2014.


  • Maier, R.: Junge Deutsche und Polen lernen dieselbe „Geschichte“. Von der internationalen Schulbuchrevision zum binationalen Schulbuch, in: Vier Viertel Kult, Vierteljahresschrift der Stiftung Braunschweigischer Kulturbesitz, Nr. 28/29, 2018, p 14-17.
  • Maier, R.: Tools in Teaching Recent Past Conflicts: Constructing Textbooks beyond National Borders, in: Mario Careterro, Stefan Berger, Maria Grever: Palgrave Handbook of Research in Historical Culture and Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan 2017, p 673-695. [ISBN: 978-1-137-52907-7]
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Binationale Lehrerhandreichungen – Wegbereiter oder Alternative zu einem gemeinsamen Geschichtsschulbuch? Deutsch-polnische Erfahrungen.’ In Историческая память и стратегии российско-немецкого межкультурного диалога: сборник научных трудов / Под ред. М.В. Ковалева и И.Р. Плеве. Саратов: Изд-во СГТУ имени Ю.А. Гагарина, 2015. С. 226–45.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Vsemirnaja vystavka v Pariže 1937. Germanskij i Sovetskij pavil’ony’. In Rossija – Germanija, edited by O.A. Čubarjan, H. Möller, V.V. Iščenko and H. Altrichter. Vol. 3, 103–116. XX vek. Vechi sovmestnoj istorii v kollektivnoj pamjati. Moskow: GAUGN-press 2015. (Institut Vseobščej Istorii RAN – ISBN: 978-5-904914-08-0).
  • Seewann, Gerhard and Robert Maier, eds. Deutsche Minderheiten im Fokus. Schulbücher und Schulbuchprojekte zur Geschichte der Deutschen in einzelnen Ländern Europas. Eckert. Dossiers. Braunschweig: Georg Eckert Institute, 2015.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Deutsche in Russland. Die Repräsentation der deutschen Nationalität in aktuellen russischen Geschichtsschulbüchern’. In Deutsche Minderheiten im Fokus. Schulbücher und Schulbuchprojekte zur Geschichte der Deutschen in einzelnen Ländern Europas, edited by Gerhard Seewann und Robert Maier. Eckert. Dossiers. Braunschweig: Georg Eckert Institute, 2015.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Overcoming the National Framework of Teaching Media: Binational Teacher’s Books and Multinational Teaching Materials’. In History Education and Post-Conflict Reconciliation: Reconsidering Joint Textbook Projects, edited by Karina V. Korostelina und Simone Lässig, 69–89. London, New York: Routledge, 2013.
  • Maier, Robert. ‘Kooperation mit der Academia Baltica: Reisen mit Übergepäck’. Eckert. Das Bulletin 2013 (12): 34–35.


  • Maier, Robert, ed. International exhibition of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, ‘Different Wars – National School Textbooks on World War II’. 2016-2019; opened in Karlshorst, Berlin on 18 January 2018.


  • Panel ‘Europäische bi- und multilaterale Schulbuchaktivitäten – historisch und gegenwärtig’ at the annual conference of The International Society for Historical and Systematic Research on Textbooks and Educational Media. (IGSBi ), Brixen, 7 October 2018.
  • ‘Schulbücher und Schulbuchprojekte zur (Minderheiten)Geschichte der Deutschen in einzelnen Ländern Europas’. Bad Kissingen, 31 May to 2 June 2015.