Enseignement et colonisation dans l’Empire français

Education and Colonialism : The Post-Colonial Narrative in the French-German History Textbook

Colonialism has left its marks on post­co­lo­nial socie­ties both on those of the colo­ni­zers and those of the colo­ni­zed. Their connec­ted or entan­gled his­to­ries have shaped and bur­de­ned natio­nal iden­ti­ties up to the pre­sent. It is only recently that European nation states begin to ack­now­ledge how little their colo­nial pasts have gone by. Scholarly and public deba­tes in France, Belgium, Great Britain or Germany have brought to the fore what seemed to be an almost for­got­ten heri­tage. Education on colo­nia­lism often served as a means to legi­ti­mize colo­nial vio­lence and to pro­pa­gate the civi­li­za­tion mis­sion. In this res­pect school text­books and espe­cially his­tory text­books are of great value because they pre­sent – inten­tio­nally or not – natio­nal master nar­ra­ti­ves. Their ways of pre­sen­ting und com­me­mo­ra­ting a rather dark chap­ter of natio­nal his­tory shed a light on natio­nal self-per­cep­tion. Moreover, the ways in which his­tory text­books inte­grate the expe­rien­ces and memo­ries not only of the colo­ni­zers but of the colo­ni­zed and their des­cen­dants is cru­cial for a sense of belon­ging and of social cohe­sion.

The paper will look at German and French colo­nia­lism and how it is pre­sen­ted in contem­po­rary his­tory text­books. The German exam­ple stands for a rather bela­ted and short-lived colo­nial expe­rience which ended after World War I. The French exam­ple stands for a long colo­nial heri­tage whose rever­be­ra­tions were felt even well after deco­lo­ni­za­tion.

Postcolonial stu­dies have contes­ted natio­nal master nar­ra­ti­ves which favou­red a Eurocentric pers­pec­tive in poin­ting out that the his­to­ries of the cen­tres and the peri­phe­ries are in many ways inter­re­la­ted or connec­ted. Since colo­nia­lism has never been a purely natio­nal pro­ject but a pro­ject that has been fuel­led by the rivalry of European nations a com­pa­ra­tive approach will contri­bute to a better unders­tan­ding of colo­nia­lism as a trans­na­tio­nal phe­no­me­non. The paper concen­tra­tes on dif­fe­rent modes of nar­ra­ting and remem­be­ring colo­nial pasts. It reflects upon the fra­me­work of edu­ca­tion on colo­nia­lism taking into account cur­ri­cu­lar reforms, deba­tes about his­tory laws and dis­cus­sions about recom­pen­sa­tion for colo­nial vio­lence. The Franco-German his­tory text­book publi­shed in 2006 (Europe and the World since 1945) and 2008 (Europe and the World from the Congress of Vienna to 1945) will serve as a star­ting point. Written by a bila­te­ral group of French and German experts the text­book pre­sents a common view on European and global his­tory. At the same time it attempts to depict both natio­nal his­to­ries as entan­gled his­to­ries (his­toire croi­sée) with shared memo­ries in the double sense of the mea­ning.

Focussing on the German and French natio­nal self-per­cep­tion in the mirror of colo­nia­lism the paper aims at a com­pa­ra­tive dis­cus­sion of the role of edu­ca­tion on colo­nia­lism and of Europe’s connec­ted pasts.