Historiana Blog: A View from the Field of Education

The benefits of having one central access point to cultural heritage online

Part 4 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

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The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is the final in a series of four releases of source collections. Through the blogs EuroClio hopes to shed light on the possibilities that Europeana sources can offer.

When I first heard about Europeana in 2008, I could immediately see what potential having one common reference point for European cultural content could have on education. Having one central access point to explore the diverse collections of archives, museums and libraries would, for example, enable students across Europe to compare and contrast how historical events were reported, to do archival research from any place with an internet connection, and to find sources that challenge preconceptions with much less time and effort.

Of course, this vision had yet to be turned in to a reality, and realising this vision is easier said than done. There were, and still are, many obstacles that stand in the way of providing full access to the collections, but important steps have been made, and Europeana is now much closer to achieving its original vision than when it started. It is now possible to filter on the size of an image, making it possible to leave out those sources that are too small to be of use. More sources are available in high quality (stimulated by the availability of higher quality scanners and improved digitisation techniques). There has been a significant increase in the amount of sources that are licensed in a way that they allow for educational (re)-use and it is possible to search for similar items in the Europeana collections (so that you can find a set of sources, rather than just an individual source). Finally, it is now possible to have direct access to the source (which offers more opportunities for the use of Europeana by third parties).

Since Europeana has started with the support of the European Commission and several member states, cultural institutes from Europe and beyond have worked together to provide access to cultural heritage on themes or topics of common interest via this platform. As a result of these efforts, it is now possible to search, for example, historical newspapers by date and see differences and similarities on the reporting of the same event in different newspapers. It is possible to see how news travelled in a time when communication was not so quick, to see what significance was given to the event (by looking at the place and length of the coverage) and compare what images have been used to illustrate the events.

Efforts have been made to provide access to sources of a certain type (such as photography through EuropeanaPhotography and EuroPhoto or moving images through EUScreenEuropean Digital Film Gateway and EUScreenXL), to sources related to a field of interest (such as Jewish History though Judaica or social and labour history through HOPE – History of People’s Europe), or historical events (such as the First World One through Europeana1914-1918 or EuropeanaCollections1914-1918 and the Social Political Changes in 1989 through Europeana1989). The fact that these efforts have been made by cultural institutes from multiple countries makes it possible for educators to access a much wider range of sources (compared to searching only one institute) and the streamlining of metadata makes it increasingly easier to find matching sources from the collections of different cultural institutes.
Europeana portal

From the perspective of providers of educational resources, having one central point to access the collections of multiple archives, museums and libraries is beneficial because it enables them to directly make use of those sources that are licensed for educational use (as long as direct links are available). EuroClio – Inspiring History and Citizenship Educators, is a provider of educational resources, and is currently building online tools that educators can use to create their own online learning activities together with Webtic (an innovative internet company) and educators from its network to be integrated in Historiana (an online educational resource designed for history learning). In this context, EuroClio, Webtic and Europeana worked together with Europeana in the Europeana DSI1 project to create a Search and Select tool that enables educators to directly search the Europeana Collections and select sources that they want to use in their educational practice. If Europeana would not provide one central access point to the collections of various archives, museums and archives, it would have been very costly and labour-intensive to help educators access the same sources.

What can still be improved, in terms of stimulating the use of the collections in education, is that educators should need less time to find what they are looking for. It can be difficult for someone who is not familiar with Europeana to get a sense of what the collections are about (within the Search and Select tool, we tried to help educators with this by providing brief overviews of selected content providers to help educators decide why they might be interested to search the collection of a specific archive). What can also help is to ensure that the Europeana Collections have enough relevant source materials on at least those areas of learning that are (most) common in curricula across Europe. For example, whereas a search on “First World War” leads to 90,094 results that are allowed to be used with attribution or restriction, a search on “Industrial Revolution” leads to only 73 results. This does not mean that there are no relevant sources, but it does mean that it takes time for educators to find what they need. In an ideal scenario the most relevant sources would be highlighted or presented as a set with a manageable amount of selected sources (as EuroClio had done for several sets of sources). This can be done by actively engaging communities of educators (to help set priorities for digitisation), and further investment in digitisation and improving metadata to ensure that usable content for key areas of the curriculum can be found in the Europeana Collections.

The more complete the Europeana Collections are and the easier it gets for educators or providers of educational resources to find what they are looking for, the more valuable Europeana will be become.

Full description of the featured image can be found at Europeana website.

Time and Technology

Part 3 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

Time and Technolog SC123     Time and Technolog SC4      Time and Technolog SC56


The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

Young people today are living in a world full of technology, and have hardly any personal memory of life before these technologies were introduced. Therefore, it can be hard for them to imagine what life was like without modern means of communication, transportation and documentation. Focusing on one particular type of technology and showing how this technology evolved over time, can help students to get a better chronological understanding and see how the past differs from the present.

Within the Europeana Collections there are many resources related to innovation and technology, and archives. Tekniska Museet (the Swedish National Museum for Science and Technology) and Danmarks Tekniske Museum (the Technical Museum of Denmark) are even specialised in this field. Consequently there exists a vast amount of artefacts, images, videos available that can be used to learn about changes in technology. Because the amount of information available can be overwhelming, Europeana and EuroClio worked together to make collections that show how certain types of technology (cars, airplanes, photo cameras, music recorders, maps, mobile phone) have evolved over time and changed people’s lives.

The source collections on photo cameras and music recordings can also be used to help students reflect on how technology impacts the way we look at the past, because it is only through these means that we have a record of the past. The source collection of mobile phones can help students realise how quick some changes can happen, when they ask their parents what life was like in the past, when they could not be reached at all times with a mobile phone. The source collection on cars and airplanes can help students understand how the world became relatively smaller because more people could travel bigger distances more easily. This had a big impact on the economy, the military and everyday life. The source collection on maps helps students realise that there was a time when people had literally no idea where they were going, and that our knowledge of what is where is the result of centuries of collecting information.

Together, these source collections can help to look at social history through the lens of technology and to compare the speed of societal change. The collections also help to make judgements about the significance of technological changes and innovations for the world today. The source collections also show how the demand of people changes over time, where aspects like aesthetics, price and user-friendliness play an important role.

Historical Memory: Thinking Critically about Museums and Monuments with Students

Joan Brodsky Schur Articles

There are many reasons to visit the beautiful old cities of Central Europe. In the summer of 2015 I joined a two-week tour with the non-profit organization GEEO (Global Exploration for Educators Organization). In addition to the museums of art, archeology, and history that one expects to see in Western Europe, in Central European cities one can also visit relics of the Communist era –– from Checkpoint Charlie to tours of Krakow’s Nowa Huta, a district planned to reflect communist ideals. More numerous are the museums and memorials dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as tours of old Jewish quarters, haunting reminders of the lives not lived in Berlin, Vienna, Krakow, Prague and Budapest. This is not a past to travel lightly.

Certain questions arose for me throughout this journey: What stories were the historical sights I visited designed to tell, and not tell? What happens to the narrative when a nation’s past is divided among different types of institutions, such as museums of ethnography, history and art, memorials and religious sites?Hopefully my reflections on these questions, as they relate to sights in Budapest, have bearing on how we as history teachers travel. In the second part of this essay I suggest ways that we can help students to “read” museums and monuments as critically as we hope they read historical texts.

Part I:  “Reading” the Subtext: Museums and Monuments in Budapest

Like other Central European cities, Budapest has many sights devoted to the Holocaust. These include the state-funded Holocaust Memorial Centre on Páva Street, the fifth national Holocaust museum to open in the world. It was inaugurated in 2004, the same year Hungary entered the European Union.  Its exhibit titled “From Deprivation of Rights to Genocide” includes the fate of the Roma as well as Jews.  The magnificent Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe, belongs to the Hungarian Jewish community and was renovated in the 1990s with the help of state funds. Behind it sits the moving memorial to Raoul Wallenberg and other Righteous Among the Nations. In my visit to such moving sights, I began to wonder if such memorials serve a secondary function: to obviate the need for national history museums to incorporate centuries of Jewish life into their narratives, as well as to deflect the question of responsibility for its near extinction. If Hungary depicts itself as an ethnically homogenous nation, how does that both obscure the past, and portray its probable future?

In my visit to the National Museum of Hungary, from gallery to gallery I found a tale of the inevitable triumph of the Magyars (Hungarians). This contrasted with what I had read before arrival; the Hungarian plains as a pr
ecarious homeland for the Magyars amidst both invasions from the outside (the Turks), as well as the uncertainty of Magyar dominance in the multicultural society of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire was founded in the same year Jews were extended full citizenship, in 1867. Paul Lendvai writes that in the latter half of the eighteenth century, Magyars “formed merely one-third of Hungary’s population.” The proportion of Magyars steadily mounted and by 1910 they represented more than half the population, but not by much.[i]

Of equal interest to me is the portrayal of the Hungarian past as presented at the Museum of Ethnography, across from the Hungarian Parliament Building. Earlier on this trip I had visited a similar museum in Krakow, the Ethnographic Museum at Wolnica Square. As a teacher I value these museums as a way to learn about history “from the bottom up.”  In both Krakow and Budapest, permanent collections focus on peasant and folk life as celebrated in costumes, artifacts, and household interiors. The life of the “folk” is presented as a cycle of traditions following the Christian calendar, with rooms devoted to Easter and Christmas traditions. This contrasts with the French Alsatian Museum that I visited on a previous journey to Strasbourg, where in addition to Christian traditions, several rooms are devoted to Jewish life. Yet the vast majority of Jews in Hungary ­­–– in total more than 800,000 (as counted in Hungarian records of 1944) –– lived in the countryside and small towns.[ii]

Budapest_expositionsIn July of 2015 when I visited the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest I saw its permanent exhibit titled “The Traditional Culture of the Hungarian People”
(banner to the left image) and a temporary one, “Picking Up the Pieces: Fragments of Rural Hungarian Jewish Culture.” (banner to the right image)An exhibit mounted by the museum in 2014, Dispossession and Self-Respect, focused on the Roma and other wandering craftsmen and traders essential to the maintenance
of traditional life. In his assessment of how the Museum of Ethnography portrays Hungarian society Péter Apor writes:

“Whereas, the Museum of Ethnography successfully deconstructs this image [of a homogenous society] by its thematic exhibitions demonstrating the diverse approaches to universal concepts or practices its permanent exhibit, “The Traditional Culture of the Hungarian People”, forges the rural societies of the country in one homogenous culture.”[iii]

Yet the museum itself owns the materials to give a more complete picture of Hungarian rural life. For example, according to the text accompanying the exhibit on Hungarian Jews, “The bulk of the material on display comes from the Museum of Ethnography’s own ethnography collections.”

In contrast I found that the Budapest History Museum in the Royal Palace embraced the multiethnic composition of the grand nineteenth century city, teaming with Magyars, Germans, Romanians, Slavs, Austrians, and Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Would this museum do a better job than the National History Museum in its coverage of the Holocaust?  Exhibits on the twentieth century in the National History Museum do indeed include many artifacts and photographs of the Holocaust. But in the assessment of Péter Apor:

“The exhibition also discussed the Holocaust and the extermination of Jews in Hungary. Yet it occurs in the context of the representation of the general tragedy of the nation –– wartime losses, military defeat, starvation and the siege of Budapest –– emphasizing the homogeneity of experience. In general, this is a typical strategy of museums in Hungary to avoid evoking past traumas that may raise the troublesome issues of social responsibility, but emphasizing an imagery of national solidarity…” (421).[iv]

In the Budapest History Museum I found the following label, which I thought note-worthy enough to photograph:

“Under the command of Eichmann but with the active participation of the Hungarian state administration still in operation, the deportation of Hungarian Jews from the provinces to the different concentration camps all over the German Empire was launched and completed very soon. Miklós Horthy managed to prevent deportation from Budapest only, by putting military forces in action on July 6 [1944]”.

If I were to be leading a class trip to this museum I would ask students to scrutinize this text upon return. Horthy served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to October 1944, when Hitler invaded, after which the Hungarian Arrow Cross seized power. During what timeframe were Jews outside of Budapest deported (primarily to Auschwitz)? How many and what percent perished? Why did Horthy step in to save the Jews of the city?  Of the Jews of Budapest, what were their fates and percentage of survival?  How important was Horthy to their survival?  What are the points of contention among historians who study the Horthy era, and how do different Hungarian factions view him today? Finally, is this label a just summary of Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust?

You will not learn about the controversy surrounding The House Terror on Andrássy Street from guidebooks. It opened in 2002 in the very building that served as headquarters of the fascist Hungarian Arrow Cross Party from October 1944 to 1945, and then up until 1956 as headquarters of the communist Hungarian State Protection Agency, the dreaded secret police. The museum’s director Dr. Mária Schmidt has come in for widespread criticism. Historian Randolph L. Braham writes,

“As a visionary and director of the House of Terror, Schmidt has, in the view of many historians, used this richly funded institution to denigrate and minimize the Holocaust and emphasize the crimes that had been committed during the communist era.”[v]

Other critics, like Apor believe that by conflating the Holocaust and the communist regime into one museum, the House of Horrors depicts those “horrors” as the consequence of foreign intervention, thereby relieving Hungarians of responsibility.[vi]  The opening of The House of Fates, a new Holocaust museum in Budapest, has been delayed because of controversy. The Hungarian Jewish community was not initially consulted, and many question how the museum will depict Hungary’s role under the directorship of Dr. Mária Schmidt.[vii]

Where does this leave visitors to Budapest, from the casual tourist to the avid history buff? There certainly are moving tributes to those who perished in the Holocaust, and some museums celebrate the multicultural and multilingual capital that Budapest once was. Only when visitors look at a range of museums and monuments does it become apparent that the country remains deeply divided in its interpretation of its past.


Part II: In the classroom: Thinking Critically about Museums

Today it’s ever-easier for students in one country to visit the historical sights in another EU nation. Yet all too often students think of sight seeing as a passive activity, one of viewing and listening. How then can we help students to use their critical thinking skills not only in the classroom, but when they move outside of it? Learners should be reminded that nationalism and the desire to legitimize the nation-state through prestigious collections have long been joint enterprises. Before a visit to any given museum, students should read background information about its history as an institution. When and why it was founded, who donated to it, and how were its collections acquired? Are there remaining controversies about who is the rightful owner of art or artifacts? Do the Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum belong in the United Kingdom or Greece? Were any works of art seized from Jewish families during World War II?

In a recent article in the New York Times, Holland Cotter writes,

“Art museums are political, whether they want to be or not. Through the objects they acquire and exhibit, and in the ways they interpret those objects — what they say about them, what they don’t say — the institutions make statements about the relative value of cultures, meaning groups of people, and about who is important and who is not.”[viii]

Providing students with a map of the galleries before they visit helps them to analyze the subtext of what a museum says to its public. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has magnificent collections of Asian and African art. But on entering the Great Hall, the Greek and Roman galleries are on your left, the Egyptian galleries (far from the African galleries) are on your right, and dead center is the stairway leading to the European art collection. Thus European civilization appears to be the apogee, with roots in what we call the classical world and Ancient Egypt. The Metropolitan and Louvre museums offer online maps that students can study, even if they do not visit. The Met even offers an on-line history of each collection.

How are galleries titled? When the Metropolitan re-opened its Islamic Art galleries it renamed them, “The Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.” Holland Cotter was quick to see the new title’s import:

“Rather than presenting Islamic art as the product of a religiously driven mono culture encompassing centuries and continents, the Met is now — far more realistically — approaching it as a varied, changing, largely secular phenomenon.”[ix]

How do history museums divide their galleries into chronological eras? Students can compare how the national museums of two neighboring countries periodize and title displays on similar topics. For example, the penultimate exhibit in the Hungarian National Museum reads: “From the Success of Revision to German and Russian Occupation (1938-1945).” In 1938 Hitler took over Austria, a series of anti-Jewish laws were passed under Miklós Horthy, and Hungary regained some of the territory it lost in World War I. But why did museum curators begin with 1938? With what other date might this gallery have begun? Hungary was an independent Axis power from 1940 until Hitler invaded in 1944. Students can debate whether a better title would reflect this fact. They can suggest new ways to periodize a set of galleries and title them, and vote on the best one.

Similar activities apply to many monuments. Who wanted the monument and to what purpose: to glorify a leader, to honor the dead, to privilege some groups over others?  When was it built ––and why then? How was it funded, and did anyone object?

Finally, how does the portrayal of the past reflect the present? Hungary, as well as many other European nations, is confronting an immigration crisis as well as controversy about its treatment of Roma. What kind of country it wants to become can be seen as a reflection of the way it portrays its past.


Joan SchurAbout the author
Joan Brodsky Schur
 taught history and world literature in Greenwich Village, New York City for over twenty-five years. Her articles have appeared in Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies (USA).  Her on-line lessons appear on the websites of the National Archives and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).  Joan worked with Jonathan Even-Zohar writing curricula for Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean.com. She also contributed to the world history site The Indian Ocean in World History.com.  Currently she serves as Social Studies Consultant to the City and Country School, NYC.




[i] Paul Lendvai, The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003) 3.

[ii] John Lukacs, Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City & its Culture  (New York: Grove Press, 1988) 96.

[iii] Péter Apor, “National Museums in Hungary” in Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010 (Conference proceedings of European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April, 2011.) 422.    Accessed on line at Linköping University Press http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/064/017/ecp64017.pdf

 [iv] Apor, 421

[v] Randolph L. Braham, “Hungary: The Assault On the Historical Memory of the Holocaust.” Accessed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at https://www.ushmm.org/m/pdfs/20140318-Holocaust-in-Hungary-Braham-Assault-on-Historical-Memory.pdf (28)

[vi] Apor, 422

[vii] For articles on the House of Fates see “House of Fates:  Mária Schmidt versus János Lázár” at The Hungarian Spectrum http://hungarianspectrum.org/tag/gusztav-zoltai/.

About the Monument to the 70th anniversary of Nazi occupation see, “Controversial monument divides Hungarians, angers Jewish community”, July 23, 2014. http://www.euractiv.com/section/central-europe/news/controversial-monument-divides-hungarians-angers-jewish-community/

[viii]  “Holland Cotter, “Placement Is Politics in Brooklyn Museum Reinstallation”, The New York Times, May 19, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/20/arts/design/placement-is-politics-in-brooklyn-museum-reinstallation.html

[ix] Holland Cotter, “A Cosmopolitan Trove of Exotic Beauty, The New York Times, October 27, 2011.   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/arts/design/the-mets-new-islamic-galleries-dreview.html?_r=0

Shedding new Light on Known Historical Figures

Steven Segers Articles
Part 2 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana
   Historiana new source collections  Historiana new source collections2  Historiana new source collections3
The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

A relatively small number of historical figures is dominating history. Historical figures appear in history textbooks, in movies, in documentaries, in literature, but also in the collections of archives, museums and libraries. Although there are many sources about these well-known historical figures in the collections of museums, archives and libraries, only a limited number of these are used in education. This leads to a narrow understanding of those figures who have helped to shape history as there is little room in the classroom to address the controversies and complexities that characterize history and good history education with a limited set of sources.

The dominance of a small number of sources related to some historical figures, is reinforced by the supremacy of a limited number of websites that appear most frequent as search results. If you can find a good source in almost no time, why choose another? The main challenge is probably the amount of time that it can take to find these sources. Language barriers and copyright restrictions can make finding sources more difficult. To overcome these barriers, EuroClio, in partnership with Europeana, has created sets of sources that put well-known historical figures in a new light. Europeana offers the unique opportunity to search the collections of various archives and museums. It can be difficult to search across these collections because institutes tend to use their own way of curation and categorization, but in the case of the historical figures, it is possible to find related sources, because almost all institutes have used the person name as search term. The results of this cooperation are now published at Historiana in the form of a new series of source collections.

A rationale for selecting historical figures
Any choice for historical figures will have its limitations. With limited time at our hands we could never do justice to the diverse range of historical figures that could also have been chosen. The purpose was also not to make a definitive and all-inclusive selection of historical figures, but to find out what can be gained from looking for sources about known historical figures in the collections of different archives. The people we chose to focus on – Julius CaesarJeanne d’ArcAdolf HitlerCharles DarwinJoseph Stalin and Queen Victoria – are all figures that most people in Europe will have heard about. They have been the topic of extensive debate and multiple interpretations.

How can these source collections be used to teach history?
The source collections offer the opportunity to see to what extent the associations that people have with these historical figures are resonating with the selected sources from the different memory institutes. The source collections can also be used to compare and contrast the sources that different memory institutes have and have not included in their collection about the same historical figures. In addition, because it is clear for each source where the source is coming from (e.g. which institute provided the source), the source collections can also be used to learn about the way memory institutes are building their collections. How do sources arrive in their collection? What criteria were used to select and describe sources? Students can be asked to select sources that challenge or change their ideas about the historical figure and to explain how these sources are challenging or changing their ideas. Alternatively, teachers can use the source collections to challenge the students to make connections between sources, explain the order or ask them to make suggestions for sources that could be added to the collections.

The Power of Images

Part 1 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

historiana_headerThe featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

It is often said that young people today prefer visuals over texts in their education. The widespread digitization of images from the collections of museums, archives and libraries offer the chance to educators to meet this demand. For individual educators the offer, however, can be overwhelming, which is why EuroClio, in partnership with Europeana, has created sets of visual sources selected for use in history education.

In the context of history education, students should be able to make a judgment on the usability of sources in order to answer historical questions based on the origins, the purpose and their trustworthiness. A good way of learning about these concepts is by focusing on sources that have been created specifically to influence what people think.

On Historiana, EuroClio and Europeana have made accessible a set of seven featured source collections that allow students to compare different ways in which visuals were used to control or at least try to have an impact on the population. Students can learn about how visuals are being used by looking at different aspects of the visual sources: What aspects are emphasized? What aspects are left out? What does the maker of the source want us to believe?

What featured source collections are made?

Three source collections, World War One Postcards and World War One Photographs deal with the subject of the First World War. In these source collections, it is shown that sources that initially do not seem to have a nature of propaganda, are in fact created with the intention to influence public opinion. These sources consist of official photographs and postcards. Another collection related to the First World War is Kinderbuch; a more one-sided collection of sources from a children’s book glorifying enlistment in the army during the war. Two other source collections are clearly understood as propaganda: Posters from the DDR and Communist China show that it is not just the message of the poster that can influence people’s opinions, but also the painting style. Furthermore, a source collection about the Spanish Civil War illustrates different sides within one conflict. Finally, a source collection about Suffragettes tells the development of the suffragette movement and shows visuals meant to influence public opinion, both in favor and against universal suffrage.

How can these source collections be used to teach history?

The source collections are very useful to make students aware that a large amount of visuals has been made with a specific purpose. There are examples that are very obvious, while others are subtler and not immediately identified as propaganda. With this set of source collections, history teachers can help their students become more critical in real life when they find images, online or offline. The release of these source collection will allow teachers to help students create a habit of reflecting critically on visual sources, by discussing about the motives and purposes of the visuals, and to determine information that is left out of the image.

“Countries are stronger together than on their own.” – Obituary Edmund Wellenstein (1919-2016)

Ineke Veldhuis-Meester Articles

This obituary was written by Ineke Veldhuis-Meester, EuroClio Ambassador.

A European of the first hour, Edmund Wellenstein, a disciple of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, has passed away. This Dutch pioneer of the European integration was present in Luxembourg at the birth in 1952 of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), the precursor of today’s European Union. As high official of the High Authority of the ECSC his first task was to prepare an agreement on a fair market for metal scrap.

Wellenstein “believed” in Europe—not so much as a utopia, but as a clever political move: as the best response to the post-war situation in the world. His time was that of the old six: Germany, France, Italy and the Benelux countries. They all could sit together around the table, and after three days of discussion the six could agree. Being an amiable and perceptive person himself, his adagio was and is that Europe should not be guided by fear but by leadership. In the early seventies he was the European Economic Community (EEC) negotiator, to guide the British into the European Community. When speaking of European-United Kingdom relations, Edmund Wellenstein immediately comes to mind.

He experienced Euroscepticism taking root in Europe, for example in Dutch politics in 2002 after the murder of Pim Fortuin, or in the British questioning their membership every now and then, as we are  now at the brink of a Brexit. He saw today’s European policy as an incomprehensible squandering of a “precious legacy”:

Like a bunch of spoiled boys we are going to treat Europe as a luxury problem, rather than as a necessity. We live it every day, every year. Where would we be without Europe?

In an interview some years ago he expressed his astonishment: “In two years a natural, wholesome and for the Netherlands as founding father prestigious dimension of our policies, the idea of ​​European integration, turned into that of a strange, uncontrollable power, which is after our individuality.” In his comments he reminds us Europeans of two conditions for keeping a firm hold on our destiny in a turbulent world: political craftsmanship, i.e. high professional skills of the political leaders, and—his main concern in his last years—political leaders who can bring this message to their populations.

For videos of Edmund Wellenstein’s interviews, please visit the Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance sur l’Europe (CVCE) archives.

Biography of Edmund Wellenstein

  • Born on 20 September 1919 in ‘s-Gravenhage (NL), died on 27 February 2016 in ‘s-Gravenhage
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • Field Secretary in the United States for the World Student Service Fund’ (1945 1946)
  • Official in the Queen’s Private Office (1947 1950)
  • Head of Germany’ Division and Director-General for European Affairs in the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1950 1952)
  • Secretary of the ‘Markets, agreements, transport’ working group at the High Authority of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) (1953 1956)
  • Secretary of the High Authority of the ECSC (1957 1960)
  • Secretary-General of the High Authority of the ECSC (1960 1967)
  • European Commission Director-General for Foreign Trade (1968 1970)
  • Head of the European Commission delegation for negotiations on enlargement of the European Communities (1970 1972)
  • European Commission Director-General for External Relations (1973 1976)
  • Co-President for Development at the Paris Conference on International Economic Cooperation (1976 1977)

Source: CVCE, Short biography of Edmund Wellenstein, http://www.cvce.eu/en/obj/short_biography_of_edmund_wellenstein-en-c4ed5c1f-d140-45c7-a512-0dce35f457d4.html.

War Surgeon: Arius van Tienhoven in Serbia 1912-1915

Jaco Stoop Articles
By Huibert Crijns, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands

Arius van Tienhoven only just graduated as a doctor at Leiden University, when in 1912 the Balkan War breaks out. Van Tienhoven doesn’t hesitate for a moment. He collects an amount of money, buys himself a medical equipment, and travels directly to Serbia. He offers his services to the Serbian authorities. He receives a warm welcome and is put to work in a military hospital. The whole medical staff there is formed by two students. The equipment consists of two tweezers, two scalpels and one razor. Almost immediately trains arrive with hundreds of wounded from the battle of Kumanovo. After a few weeks the Dutch Red Cross sends a medical team to support Van Tienhoven. Under his leadership they found their own hospital in a school building in Belgrade and provide medical service to wounded soldiers.


Arius van Tienhoven (standing, second from left) is a well-known person in the Netherlands from 1912 on. In the 1920’s he sinks into oblivion as a result of his emigration to Venezuela, where he works for the Shell oil company. In Serbia however his memory is still kept alive. Van Tienhoven not only is an idealistic and adventurous doctor, he also is a gifted photographer. Using his pocket camera, something very modern in this time, he photographs all the events taking place. Later he glues the photos in albums and adds captions. He also publishes in several Dutch newspapers on his experiences. The photo albums in combination with the newspaper articles tell a fascinating story of dedication, sense of duty, adventure, suffering, war and love in early 20th century Serbia.

The photo albums of Van Tienhoven are discovered only recently. In 2015 they were donated by the grandchildren of Van Tienhoven, living in the US and Mexico, to the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. They were never published before and their existence was not known. The photo albums are presented now on the website of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek: www.kb.nl/tienhoven. The newspaper articles can be found on www.Delpher.nl.

First World War

Also during the Second Balkan War Van Tienhoven is present in Serbia. History repeats itself in 1914 when Austria declares war on Serbia, the beginning of the First World War. Van Tienhoven, who is in Berlin at that moment, telegraphs his regular assistant, Nurse De Groote. Already on the next day she boards the train to Berlin. Together they travel to Serbia, soon followed by other Dutch Red Cross staff. In the city of Valjevo they start a hospital in the local gymnasium.


Van Tienhoven (in the middle with white arm band) participates in 1914 in what he calls himself the ‘horror committee’. Commissioned by the Serbian army, this committee investigates Austrian war crimes. As evidence Van Tienhoven makes pictures of dozens of raped, tortured and killed civilians. To the left of Van Tienhoven stands the captured Austrian major Josef Balzarick. He was accused of being responsible for the atrocities. Shortly after this picture was taken he commits suicide.


800 wounded

On 2 September 1914 800 badly injured soldiers were brought to a nearby ammunition store. Van Tienhoven goes there to select the ones urgently in need of help: ‘What a tragic situation. This entangled mass of greatcoats, soaked in blood, on the straw like cattle. On the first floor, where three layers of shelves normally served to store ammunition, the wounded are now crowding on the bare wood. Wounded are everywhere, without bandages, paralyzed, blinded, intestines bulging out, the dying, the dead. It is terrible I cannot operate more than ten in one day.’



From the end of October 1915 ten thousands of Serbs start fleeing for the advancing Austrian army. Van Tienhoven takes pictures as a stream of refugees is passing Valjevo. He writes: ‘In the afternoon we see them coming, the poor procession of thousands and thousands, women and children, the sick, the disabled, by foot, exhausted, some saved belongings on the neck, in wagons with furniture. And they are starved, but there is no food for these endless masses. In a slow queue the refuges endlessly drag along the streets, sit down in despair, collapse never to stand up again.’


On the run

Early November 1914 Valjevo is run over by the Austrian army. Van Tienhoven photographs the retreating Serbian troops. He hesitates himself. Do they have to fear the Austrians or will the Red Cross status protect them? Finally Van Tienhoven and his staff decide to leave. The roaring of the guns sounds close already. A freight wagon is hooked to the last train from Valjevo, in which they stow twenty cases with their medical equipment and find ample space to unfold their mattresses. The Dutch medical team is evacuated to Nish, were they work in another military hospital. After a few weeks the Austrian army is driven back again, after which they return to Valjevo.



The basic principles of hygiene are already common sense in the medical branch in 1914. The Dutch male nurse, Mr. Henken (with apron) next to the sterilizer which was used to disinfect the hospital linens. The hospital building is also disinfected regularly. Nevertheless in 1915 a typhus epidemic breaks out in Valjevo. Both Van Tienhoven and Mr. Henken are infected. Supported by the dedicated care of nurse De Groote Van Tienhoven recovers. Nurse Henken however will not survive the illness. With high fever he returns to The Netherlands and dies there.



To prevent contagious diseases new patients are washed, shaved and deloused. For typhus is spread by lice. It doesn’t help: in 1915 there is an explosion of typhus. Because of the many weakened, filthy and underfed soldiers and refugees in the town, the spread of the disease is unstoppable, resulting in thousands of death. ‘Forty doctors died in Valjevo in ten days’ time’ Van Tienhoven explains. He knew most of them quite well.



Second from right is Nurse Jacoba de Groote. Van Tienhoven (third from left) often writes about her: ‘Nurse De Groote, who witnessed three wars as a surgery assistant, never was one day in bed, never unwell, not even having a cold’. During the typhus epidemic she cares for him: ‘when the fever rose above 40 degrees Nurse De Groote wrapped me in the cold wet sheet’. If you read between the lines you understand it directly: Love is in the air. They marry in 1916 and have four children. Their children’s children now donated their photo albums to the National Library of the Netherlands.

Best of the Web in History: November and December 2015

Jaco Stoop Articles

This is the first post in our new “Best of the Web in History” series. The posts contain a roundup of interesting articles and useful tools to teach history in an online or digital setting.

Decision-Making Adventure: Undercover in Imperial Rome

ActiveHistory designed a decision-making simulation tool about the Roman Empire. “This simulation is designed to provide students with an engaging, enjoyable and rigorous introduction to Imperial Rome. As they journey around the virtual landscape, they will learn about the main personalities and chronology of the Empire through the “Emperors” worksheet, and learn about the main achievements and inventions of Rome through the “Roman Holiday” worksheet. Ideally, students should complete both worksheets, but they work as stand-alone resources and so are very flexible: for example, you may wish to set half of the class on one worksheet, and half on the other. Each worksheet comes with suggested extension tasks.” The ActiveHistory website includes many other online teaching tools, about all kinds of subjects and age ranges.

The Colosseum! What else left over from history education?

This article written by Alexander S. Khodnev addresses history education reform in Russia. “The reform of history education in Russia aimed at promoting the growth of interest in history, the formation of critical thinking, and the emergence of solid knowledge about the country’s history and world history. Much has already been achieved. Nevertheless, one cannot speak of sustainable notions of history for school children that could help to form a collective identity. In recent years, we can see a reverse process, back to archaic consciousness, based on distorted historical memory.” Continue reading here.

Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire

Scholars from various universities and institutions have created a Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire. More information about the project to digitize the Barrington Atlas can be found in this blog post. The aim “has been to create a static (non-layered) map of the ancient places in the Pleiades dataset with the capacity to serve as a background layer to online mapping applications of the Ancient World. Because it is based on ancient settlements and uses ancient placenames, our map presents a visualisation more tailored to archaeological and historical research, for which modern mapping interfaces, such as Google Maps, are hardly appropriate; it even includes non-settlement data such as the Roman roads network, some aqueducts and defence walls (limes, city walls). Thus, for example, the tiles can be used as a background layer to display the occurrence of find-spots, archaeological sites, etc., thereby creating new opportunities to put data of these kinds in their historical context. The ancient places and their names have been rendered on a topographical map created from elevation data, originally from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) project at NASA. The map itself is created as a tiled mapset in the Spherical Mercator projection (EPSG:3857), used by most webmapping services. It is compatible with Google and Bing street and satellite maps, OpenStreetMap, and can easilly be implemented with a javascript application programming interface (API), such as Google Maps and OpenLayers API. Work has taken two different forms: 1) preparation and improvement of the data; and 2) the rendering of the digital map.”

Chronas History

Chronas is a history project linking Wikipedia and Wikidata with a chronological and cartographical view. The result is a stunning visualization of historical events through maps. The project is designed by Dietmar Aumann, a German software developer who in his spare time developed Chronas History. The map can be accessed here.

This Will Revolutionize Education

“Many technologies have promised to revolutionize education, but so far none has. With that in mind, what could revolutionize education?” The video deals with the question of whether technology really has the potential to revolutionize our education.

What is history for?

Laura Sangha has written a blog post at “the many-headed monster” blog about doing history and thinking historically. “Last week, I delivered the introductory lecture for a second year undergraduate module, ‘Doing History’, and for various tedious reasons, I also recently spent some time reading, reflecting on and writing about why I consider history to be valuable. In the process, I conducted an entirely unscientific google trawl, trying to gauge what the general perception of the discipline was. I was struck by the fact that the popular or ‘commonsense’ perception of history encourages a rather limited assessment of its social and intellectual usefulness. What exactly do I mean?” Continue reading here.