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Marko Demantowsky: Preface

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 The state-guaranteed and worldwide existing giant institution school is one of the most successful projects of modernity, especially in its form as a free compulsory event for all. Behind the gradual emergence of this immensely expensive governmental project since the 18th century were interests and of course also an ecclesiastical and military tradition. The fact that school was able to establish itself as a comprehensive obligatory institution, as a long rite de passage, was due to its purpose: the internal integration of the newly emerging nation states, the foundation of coherence in the face of diverse religious, linguistic, social and scenic identities. For this important task, on the other hand, the so-called mind-forming school subjects were decisive: historically formatted literary instruction, religious instruction and, last but not least, history instruction. In this way, school has been a central element of the enforcement and dominant assertion of national identity against the traditional collective and historically far-reaching self-understandings from the very beginning. These self-understandings could only appear as particular in the mirror of the new idea of integrated major nations; they have always been a whole in their own view. The new state guaranteed school system was the railway of national alignment. Whoever talks about the temporal dynamics and changes of public history or history culture, politics of history, culture of remembrance, etc. cannot but consider an essential actor of their still essential frameworj of reference: the “nation”, namely to deal with the school system and its curricula, teaching aids, professional actors, authorities, traditions, generations, discourses, rituals and disciplinary regulations. Just as history textbooks were once called “Autobiographies of Nations” (Wolfgang Jacobmeyer), so school history education is the kitchen of national self-understanding, the laboratory of public history. This applies to historical access as well as to contemporary analyses. School is a symbolic place about which discourse power is negotiated and manifested. Show me the textbooks and I’ll explain the spirit of the times. No wonder then that school public history also affects other fields and institutions: school classes make visits to museums, medieval reenactments or cinemas. The archives, heritage sites or memorials have established educational departments. How much do the different actors actually know about each other? Is everyone aware of the exemplary and long-lasting character of what happens at school for national public histories? The authors of this book are working on this construction site.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The following volume with its contributors from 10 countries opens the framework theme of the book in four steps. In his detailed keynote, the editor undertakes to restructure the terminological field, which is internationally referred to as “Public History”, but also with terms such as “Cultural Heritage”, “Collective Memory”, “Culture of Remembrance” or “History Culture” etc. and to make a proposal as to what exactly can be understood by the term “Public History” and what characterizes this field of research and activity at its core. This happens without a continuous explicit reference to school, but rather in general and, if you like, radically. This is followed by four chapters with a total of 14 articles. These four chapters aim to systematically explore this volume’s field of inquiry. Accordingly, it is about 1) how public history could be treated in history lessons, 2) how schools themselves become the subject of public history, 3) how history policy affects public history in schools, and finally 4) about a cautious look into the future of the relationship between public history and school. This volume pursues a systematic interest, is structured according to subject matter, and has emerged from a lively discussion situation lasting several days. All authors of the volume met in Basel in autumn 2015 to discuss these questions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Swiss National Fund (SNF) and the Educational School FHNW (Basel, Brugg-Windisch) for their generous support of this event. The written contributions have been received successively over the past two years. It is therefore possible that sometimes not every new publication since 2015 could be included in the contributions. The Public History Weekly has discussed the relationship between history didacticians and public historians time and again in recent years (among others Apostolidou 2018, Dean/Wojdon 2017). Personally, however, this does not seem to me to be a problem at all—provided one does not understand public history as a proper and jealously guarded academic discipline, but rather as a transdisciplinary, open field of research, inquiry and work, which basically depends on combining experts from very different scientific backgrounds for the benefit of progress in knowledge and a culture of debate. This book and the editor have many supporters to thank. First of all, Dr. Jan Hodel and Simone Dietrich, who were deeply involved in the organisation of the international Public History conference in 2015; Samuel Burri, who was essential in supporting the editing of the contributions to this book; Dr. Elise Wintz and Rabea Rittgerodt of De Gruyter Oldenbourg with their persistent patience and their professional and friendly editorial staff.

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4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Basel and Dortmund, June 2018

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Marko Demantowsky

Source: https://opr.degruyter.com/public-history-and-school/marko-demantowsky-preface/