National histories comparison
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National histories comparison
NATIONAL HISTORIES COMPARISON
1. Do they use the Periods ? Do they know them ?
Chronology isn’t the students’ major concern. They rarely use historical Periods.
Sometimes Renaissance, the Middle Ages but that’s all. They know facts, important
dates but rarely make links between the periods.
However some of them use their periods, I mean « the Viking era » in Norway, « the
Kings time » in France.
2. What event/Period is considered as the beginning of the national history ?
The answers are obviously very different.
Polish students agree on baptism of Poland 966. Some of them mentioned about earlier
times (the Slavic people).
Norvegian students mention the Viking era.
For Italian students Italian national history starts in 1861 after the Wars of
Independance and the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy.
French students don’t answer very clearly to the question. Very few mention the origin
of the state : they talk then about the Gauls, the Francs.
It is interesting to see that for Polish students the origin is a religious event ; for
Norvegian and French people it is an ethnic origin ; for Italian it is a political event.
Although Italy is full of cultural richnesses, students place the birth of the country in
1861. For Norway, Poland and France, the origin is old and more cultural.
3. What characters are mentionned ? Do they speak about people ?
Norway : Harald Hårfagre, Saint Olav, Leiv Eriksson, Snorre, Karl Johan, Harald V, ABB
are individuals that are mentioned. The laps are also mentioned.
They don't connect historical events very much to individual people.
Italy : the best known historical characters are Giuseppe Garibaldi and Giuseppe
Maldini, connected to Independance. Besides, students know about very important
characters such as Galileo, Dante, Frederik II.
Poland : all students said about characters. They usually mentionned Polish Kings. Some
of them mentioned about individuals (not only Poles) : Saint Wojciech ; Otton III ; Gallus
Anonymus ; Copernicus ; Tadeusz Kosciuszko ; Pilsudski, Pope Jan Pawel II, Lech Walesa,
Napoleon. Individuals connected with national movement, the end of communism,
cultural heritage, and the Pope.
France : many individuals, political characters are mentioned. Many are the Kings of
France (Louis XIV, Louis XVI), the presidents of the Vth Republic, Napoleon.
4. What events are mentionned ?
Italy : The events frequently mentioned are the rebellions before the unity, the wars of
Independance and the Expedition of the Thousands.
This historical period is part of the curriculum plan, but is set at the end of the year
because of its chronological subdivision.
Therefore, our students have not studied yet, with method, the events and the most
important historical people in Italy as a state. However, in 2011we celebrated the
150th anniversary of the unity in Italy, so students had the opportunity to learn a lot
about that historical period thanks to the numerous events fostered.
Norway: The constitution of 1814 is mentioned by everybody, the viking era by almost
everybody. The unions by about 75% of the students. Christianity, the black plague and
second world war by about 50%. The terror attack is mentioned by one third! The
discovery of oil by about one fourth of the students. Democratic movement,
industrialization, migration patterns are never or almost never mentioned. The
independence from Sweden in 1905 is mentioned by few students.
The choice is very much connected to the curriculum. In primary school, pupils work
mainly on the Viking era.
Poland : The main topics told by the students are the baptism of Poland, the first Kings of
Poland ; the different partitions ; the Napoleonic wars ; the birth of Poland in 1918 ;
World War two and the Warsaw ghetto ; Communism ; the élection of Pope John Paul II ;
The création of Solidarnosc, the autumn of nation, Poland part of NATO and EU.
The choice is also connected to the curriculum but students know their close history
by what they’ve been told by their families or whoever. Religious events are part of
France : The French Revol is often spoken of, mostly « la prise de la Bastille », the
Declaration of Rights, Louis16 beheaded. Then they mention the World Wars with very
few details, and the Middle Ages (knights, peasants, crusades). Very few talk about the
industrial revolution, the football cup, Clovis, women getting the right to vote.
We can notice that the choice of events is clearly connected to the curriculum and
the context : the French Revolution has been learnt a few months ago, as well as the
industrial revolution. The Middle Ages is in the curriculum of the previous year.
They haven’t learnt about the WW : that’s why these events are just mentionned and
not detailed. One specific thing is that many French students mention the symbols of
the Republic as part of the History.
Some of them mention the tsunami which has happenened a few months ago.
5. What is their point of view ?
- do they say « I think… », « as far as I’m concerned… »
- do they notice an evolution, progress…
- is their story more from a political point of view ? military ? social… ?
The stories are mainly told in a political and military point of view : revolutions,
Kings, rights are frequent. The religious point of view is specific to Polish stories when
Norvegian stress on the social point of view, French and Norvegian mention the ethnic
belonging (the Vikings, the Francs, the Gauls).
The stories are mainly told in a national point of view. The choice of events is clearly
national, and when the events are European (for example the WW), they are told in a
national point of view . Which leads us to the third step of our work, the European
The students mainly write about simple facts with no connection to the context and with
little content and understanding, cohesion. They show no personal point of view; they
don't say « I think» etc.
6. The narrative :
The narrative is usually not linear. It has little cohesion. It is a list of non connected and
non detailed events. It's not a militant or judgment narrative. These characteristics we
find in the four countries.
We think that the students were quite young (from 12 to 15) to have a personal point of
view or a critical approach on events. Moreover, they were not prepared for this
exercise. We then have what they remember, it is a raw material.
However the teaching methods are different. In France sudents are taught how to write
a historical narrative. But it’s a very new teaching methods and we can see through this
exercise that the students are not at ease with it. Norwegian teachers focus on the links,
but that’s not to be seen in the narratives. In Poland and Italy historical narrative isn’t a
key skill at school.