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Dr Stephen Jackson is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Sioux Falls. He received his doctorate in history, with a focus on Imperial and Colonial Studies, from The George Washington University. Stephen's research centres around issues of national identity in the era of decolonisation, and has been shaped by his involvement in the National History Center’s Decolonization Seminar. Part of this research was published in the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History in 2014. Stephen is also dedicated to the digital humanities, serving as an editor for the online community of scholars H-Empire as well as being the Media Director for the North American Conference on British Studies.
My project compares educational policies in two important settler colonies of the British Empire - Canada and Australia - and uses these policies to analyse the development of national identity in the turbulent post-Second World War era. Education and education-related materials such as textbooks and curricula offer a valuable, and underutilised, vehicle for the discussion of issues of national identity in settler societies because pedagogy was considered central to producing the “right” kind of citizen, a task in which all concerned members of society had an interest. This project uses Ontario, Canada, and Victoria, Australia as representatives of the wider English-speaking communities in these countries. The major argument is that Britishness, or a sense of imperial citizenship connecting white Anglo-Saxons across the British Empire, continued to be a crucial marker of national identity in both Australia and Canada well into the late 1960s.
Using the rich resources of the Georg Eckert Institute’s library, I expanded my project, tentatively entitled “The Crown of Education”, to analyse the evolution of national identity in Canada and Australia after the Second World War. My time at the Georg Eckert Institute was spent expanding my primary and secondary research base to further explore this topic.
In particular, textbooks from the United Kingdom, which were often used in classrooms in Australia and Canada, needed to form a greater component of my research. These texts were unavailable in the archives and special collections of Australia and Canada, which focus their collections on materials produced locally. The Georg Eckert Institute’s collection contains several thousand textbooks from the UK that proved valuable to my study, as well as world-class secondary materials on textbook theory, investigation, comparison, and analysis which enhanced still further the value of these primary resources. This meant that my stay in Braunschweig on a Georg Eckert Fellowship proved to be of immense benefit to my manuscript project and went a long way towards expanding and polishing “The Crown of Education” to publishable quality.
As indicated above, my purpose in visiting the GEI was to examine textbooks produced in the United Kingdom. My hope was to compare these texts to materials from Canada and Australia, especially regarding issues of national identity, imperialism, and decolonisation. Though texts from Australia and Canada contained numerous similarities, textbooks from the UK only rarely discussed the empire at all. This finding was surprising to me: even in the inter-war period, UK textbooks did not seem to find any grand meaning in possessing the world’s largest empire. Direct comparisons to Canadian and Australian texts were often quite difficult, but this finding is still extremely relevant to my overall research. Britishness, it seems, was far more important to the settlement colonies than it was within Britain itself, at least as far as educational materials can indicate.
I found the community at the GEI to be very helpful. The staff and faculty at the Institute were unwaveringly helpful, gracious, and kind. Fellow researchers provided keenly thought-out critiques of my work, and gave me advice on where to find additional resources. The materials at the GEI were profound, and there are many avenues that my research could take from here. Moving forward, I might like to spend additional time at the GEI following the completion of my current project, since the presence of so many works from so many different places makes the collection there truly unique and enormously helpful to researchers on the history of education such as myself.