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Towards Europe? History textbooks and transnational cooperation in post-communist Poland

Sylvia Balgarinov

Since 1945 history teaching in Poland has been a battlefield. Polish communists established a Marxist version of the national past, nevertheless the history that was taught to pupils was never seen as legitimate by the public. The official version of the recent past was continuously being undermined by individual memories and alternative narratives rooted in patriotic beliefs and Catholicism. Finally in 1981 Solidarity demanded a 'true interpretation of historical events' and by the end of 1990s the nationalistic-Catholic perspective in history teaching prevailed. At the same time, however, Polish transnational co-operation in history textbook production and teaching increased. The creation of national networks of historians and educators and an intensification of international cooperation was supported by the actions undertaken by UNESCO and the Council of Europe as well as funding from the EU. In this paper I will present and compare the images of the past embodied in Polish history textbooks used in 1989, 1999 and 2009. Based on document analysis and interviews with multiple actors I will explore to what extent these images have changed as a result of such European co-operation in history education.

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