Podcast review: History Behind the Headlines

Helen Snelson Reviews ,

History Behind the Headlines - a podcast series from journalist David Keys

David Keys is a journalist based in London who works extensively with historical topics. He has researched the context to more than 70 conflicts and crises around the world. He aims to be as objective and comprehensive as possible in his portrayal of the past and is producing a rolling series of podcasts that may be very useful for history and civics teacher in the EuroClio network. They may also be useful to older / higher attaining students studying specific topics in class. David argues that the conflicts and crises of today have political, cultural and psychological roots that go back into the past. It therefore follows that we can get a better global and political understanding of current conflicts and crises via learning about how they have evolved.

At the time of writing, there are four episodes available. Each is 15 minutes long, making them perfect for busy teachers to listen to while doing the washing up, walking the dog, commuting to school. They are also the right length to engage older students, without them feeling overwhelmed. The topics covered so far range across four continents and are about: Israel and Palestine, Mexico's drug war, Kashmir and Scotland. They are in a lecture style and although the English is very clear, it is fair to say you need to listen carefully as the subject matter is complex and covered in some depth, even in a short time. It is very helpful that transcripts are provided. If using these with students the transcipts could be used for highlighting key concepts, people, organisations and events that are needed to understand the topic. Students could be asked to construct a timeline of events and changes to help them to process all the information.

These podcasts are, of course, an interpretation of past events. David Keys has chosen to cover a large sweep of time in his 15 minute recordings. This means that there is a lot of factual information, making them excellent for overview work and for identifying areas for future study. David Keys is not concerned with evaluating different opinions and interpretations of key events and it could be that teachers and/or students could take one part of a recording and then focus on the different debates that surround an event. For example, students could investigate what is meant by the term: "Europeanisation of Scottish culture, education and law."

Even though the key purpose is to give a grand sweep of factual information, there are points where a clear opinion is given. For example, at the start of the episode on Kashmir: "India's continued abrogation of normal human rights in Kashmir - the only Muslim-majority region in India – is compromising the world's biggest democracy's relationship with several other key geopolitical players – including Turkey, China, Malaysia and potentially the European Union." An activity for students could be to identify the places in a podcast where there is a firm opinion given.

Further discussion that could be had with students about interpreting the past, can be done by using the fact that a 15 minute podcast covering content over a sweep of time has, by definition, to involve some tough choices about what to leave out, and that those choices shape the interpretation that emerges. For example, in the episode on Israel and Palestine he gives a short quote from the Balfour Declaration of 1917: "establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. This is short due to time constraints, and it is interesting to note how this has shaped the interpretation as the longer quote from the Balfour Declaration is: "His Majesty's government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." The lengthier quote, which has to be selected out of a short podcast, does lead to a rather different perspective on the controversial Balfour Declaration. It is useful to bring students' attention to this aspect of the creation of interpretations. Intrepretations are made by deliberate choice, but sometimes that choice is driven by very practical concerns (what fits into a coherent 15 mins, in this case), rather than any thought of political manipulation. It can help students to understand that all history is interpretation, as it is, by definition, a selection from a vast past.

The podcast series is available on a number of streaming services, including Listennotes and Apple.

Written by Helen Snelson, EuroClio Ambassador 

Rights for everyone!

Agustin De Julio Reviews , ,

Meindert Talma’s De Domela Passie: Dutch revolutionary history in a pop format

On the night of the 24th of January, I tread into the pop temple of the city of Groningen: Vera at the Oosterstraat. This local theatre has gained its reputation thanks to a number of legendary concerts in the 80s and 90s, such as the live performances of Nirvana, Joy Division, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, among others. To this date, it remains the cool centre for underground culture in the Northern capital. Tonight, though, the audience looks different. The usual young, hip concertgoers are mixed with old socialists, history aficionados, and regionalists. Meindert Talma, Frisian historian and cult musician is presenting his concept album De Domela Passie, inspired by the 100th anniversary of the death of Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, mythical figure of Dutch socialism.

Every reformist walks down a via dolorosa

Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis (1846-1919) followed on his father’s footsteps and became a protestant pastor early in life in the Frisian city of Harlingen. As an Evangelical Lutheran, Domela was allowed to marry, and did so on four occasions: every single time with women called Johanna. Three of these marriages ended in tragedy, as his first three wives died during childbirth. The horror of losing three partners and four children caused Domela to steer away from God, and to focus his time on relieving the earthly suffering of his fellow women and men. Somewhere along the way, the first prominent Dutch socialist was born. Domela began to tour the North of the Netherlands, appearing at crowded halls to give impassioned, yet stern speeches about the ideas of Marx and Proudhon.

Domela wrote extensively against the five Ks: Kerk, Koning, Kapitaal, Kazerne en Kroeg (church, king, the capital, barracks and the pub). There are accounts of people traveling on bicycles and horses for hours to catch a glimpse of the man who fought for the underclass of the North. Much like photographs of Mao and Stalin, countless Northern households had a portrait of Domela hanging in their living rooms.

During his political career, Domela formed part of the early days of the Alliance for Universal Suffrage and was the first socialist to be elected to Dutch parliament. He fought for the 8-hour work day, the introduction of the minimum wage, free and universal education, amongst other causes. Most of his proposals were rejected by Parliament, which resulted in him growing increasingly resentful of the parliamentary system, to the point in which he finally lost faith in socialism and democracy altogether, and converted to anarchism.

A cross between a pop opera and a Wikipedia page

Journalist Jan Vollaard described De Domela Passie with these harsh, but not completely untrue words. Talma plays his Passion perfectly chronologically, and sings mostly in the first person. Metaphors are scarce, and he seems to shy away from any kind of judgment on the life, times and actions of Domela. For him, the facts about his life speak loudly enough. The twenty-piece chorus on stage gives the material life and sonic depth, and lovely emotional moments are reached on pieces like Rights for Everyone and Buried in the Heart of the Proletariat.

Why should you not attend this performance/listen to this record?

Talma’s performance and recording is of more historical rather than musical value: Talma himself is a storyteller rather than a consummate performer. Lyrically, some pieces are quite literal, and fail to evoke the sense of epic storytelling Talma aims to. Naturally, as a pop record, De Domela Passie falls short of being an extensive account of Domela and his times, but it works as an excellent introduction to the character, an as an invitation to the casual listener to learn more about the subject matter.

Why should you attend this performance? 

Talma’s choral arrangements are clever and the strings add a layer of complexity that could have not been reached with his usual four-piece rock group. Fact remains that the music is not the focal point of the performance. It is the occasion, and it is the myth and unlikely story of the preacher turned agitator. Even Talma’s sometimes stiff and restrained performance seems to skillfully exemplify the Domela credo of Nothern sobriety.

How can history, citizenship and heritage education benefit?

De Domela Passie is a reminder to educators and students of history that histories that might seem remote or even long dead, can be found in contemporary manifestations, even decades after they originally took place. The EuroClio/IHJR project Contested Histories has identified statues, memorials, street names and other representations in public spaces of disputed historical legacies. De Domela Passie is an example of such a manifestation, but organically appearing in popular culture. This record encourages pupil and teacher to stay observant and curious, as representations and iterations of the topics discussed in class can be found virtually anywhere.

The performance is available on streaming on Spotify. Tickets for live shows: meinderttalma.nl.

Review by Agustín De Julio, former EuroClio trainee currently based in Groningen, Netherlands

Author Meindert Talma
Original title De Domela Passie
Original language Dutch
Available in Dutch
Publication year 2020
Length 56'
Genre Pop/historica

Review of Natives written by Akala

Maayke De Vries Reviews

Akala. Natives. Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. London: Two Roads, 2018.

 

During this winter break, I finished reading Natives. Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire written by the British all-rounder Akala (Kingslee James McLean Daley). The book is a great read for educators, although it concludes with some worrisome prophecies for 2020.

Written from a first person narrative, the author tells his coming-of-age story as a mixed race boy in the city of London, hereby showing how his upbringing was influenced by the way Great Britain remembers their colonial past. This review will first introduce Akala, secondly discuss the general structure of the book, thereafter it will pose some questions about the future. Finally, a concluding remark will be made.

 

Introducing Akala

Akala is a well-known figure in the UK, as rapper, social entrepreneur and public speaker. He is an outspoken critic on (the growing) inequality in the UK, focusing on the oppressive features of class and race. This concern stems from his own experience as a mixed-race boy growing up in poverty in London in the 1990s. Akala’s mother has a Scottish heritage and his father a Jamaican background, however the father left the family before Akala was born. Akala therefore was educated by the wider black community which taught him about his black heritage, for example by attending a  . However, the knowledge and confidence that Akala gained by attending a pan-African school would become something that got him in trouble at the public school.

 

Teachers’ Biases

Chapter three, four, and five discusses the discrepancies between education at the pan-African school and at the regular public school, which created a grotesque dislike for school. Akala describes different scenes in primary school as well as secondary school in which show a clash between white female teachers and his own perception of the curriculum and academic behaviour. An example is the moment that Akala was placed in a separate group, intended for students who needed some extra guidance. When his mother heard of this incident, she immediately requested a meeting with the teacher as there was no reason for him to be placed in such a group other than the colour of his skin. Akala combines his personal experience with academic studies. Namely, a study conducted by Bristol University showed that when teachers knew a student was black, they assessed them almost twice as low compared to work that was graded blind. This is a good example of how the book is structured; personal accounts from Akala supported with data from research. Thus, Akala is showing that his experiences are not incidental, but are structural and systematic as the cited research is showing.

 

The danger of a master narrative

The influence of a one-sided master narrative is explored in chapter five, which Akala explains by focusing on William Wilberforce. Great-Britain was one of the main slave trading nations and colonized many regions in the world with detrimental consequences. However, the narrative that the UK likes to propagate is that they were the first to abolish the slave trade and subsequently slavery. Akala eloquently debunks this narrative by indicating the importance of the slave revolts in the Caribbean. In a lecture given at Oxford Union, Akala challenged the master narrative by showing how history is a distortion of the past dependent on power. The lecture concluded by a plea of Akala for a more revolutionary inclusive people-centred global teaching of history. This would allow for children like Akala to feel a part of the curriculum, rather than an after-thought.

 

Europe and Race

In the subsequent chapters, Akala dives deeper into the consequences of an uncritical retelling of the European colonial past. This starts by explaining the difference between ethnicity and race, while highlighting the European origins of the concepts. The acclaimed-author Ta-Nahisi Coates described some years earlier how race was and still is a mechanism to hierarchically divide people:

“But race is the child of racism, not the father. And the process of naming “the people” has never been a matter of genealogy and physiognomy so much as one of hierarchy.”

Akala shows in chapter seven that racial hierarchy was clearly noticeable for him while growing up as a black boy in a struggling neighbourhood. Akala describes the first time he was stopped and searched by the police, while he was walking from the youth club at his school to his home around 7 pm. The significance of this event is indicated: “What racialized stop and search is about, in London at least, is letting young black boys and men know their place in British society, letting them know who holds the power and showing that their day can be held up [...] in a way that will never happen to their white friends”.

More about racialized and classist distortions of (British) history writing is discussed in chapter eight and nine. I would like to highlight here especially the fascinating comparing and contrasting between the way that Western nations wrote their historical narratives about two freedom fighters: Nelson Mandela and Fidel Castro. After his release from prison, Nelson Mandela was depicted as saint by Western media and within that narrative the violent struggle to achieve racial equality in South Africa was dismissed. Fidel Castro was the only non-African leader to send support to Angola and Namibia against the invading racist regime from South-Africa. While Mandela named Castro a hero, he is depicted as a villain in the West. With the comparison, Akala wants to show how race and class influence the way history is written and that erasure of class was perceived more of a threat than racial equality.

 

And now?

Akala poses some questions to examine the role of history in the creation of a more equal society. He asks: is it possible to critically and honestly reflect on Britain’s history in an attempt to build a more ethical future? And this is a relevant question for more European countries. Akala attempts to answer this question in the last chapter, by explaining current-day events, like the Brexit havoc, as a reaction to the threat of continued reduction in white privilege. According to Akala the situation will not show any improvement if the white ruling classes are able to continue to “demonising the undeserving ethnic or other with whom poor white have more materially in common.”

 

Final Thoughts

The book can be perceived as a personal narrative woven into a historical account of the British Empire along the lines of race and class. Akala provides the reader with a long list of references, but no footnotes are included which would make it easier for the curious reader to consult sources. Besides, the structure of the book is not per se chronological and therefore difficult to divide in particular themes. Overall, Akala’s book is especially for (history) educators insightful, as it shows how an uncritical curriculum is glorifying some groups in society while neglecting or irritating others. The main message of the book, how race and class are constructed categories benefitting the ruling elite, is something that needs attention in not only Great Britain but in other European countries as well.

 

To conclude, a great read for the May break.

 

 

Maayke de Vries

History teacher at International School Almere

PhD Student University College London

www.mizsdafreeze.com

 

 

Suggested Readings:

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. Between the World and Me. First edition. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015.

Hirsch, Afua. Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging. London: Penguin Random House, 2018.

Mishra, Pankaj. From the Ruins of Empire. The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia. London: Penguin Books, 2012.

 

 

Podcast review: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor

Helen Snelson Reviews

What am I suggesting you listen to?

This History of the World in 100 objects starts with the first recorded humans and ranges across time and around the world ending in 2010, the year when the series of 15-minute programmes first aired on BBC Radio 4 over the course of 20 weeks. This is ‘a’ history (of course not ‘the’) history of humanity. A different object from the vast collection of the British Museum is at the centre of each 15 minute programme. With an object in mind, the then director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, sets the object in its context. He is a man with a gift for bringing the past to life, highly intelligent, with the ability to communicate in an authentic, straightforward manner that is never patronising. After he left his role at the British Museum, he was asked to be founding director for Berlin’s new Humboldt Forum.

The 100 episodes are all available to download as podcasts and are a great accompaniment to your morning commute, or to keep you company doing the ironing, or as you walk the dog. They are divided into 20 periods, which were also given theme names, as follows:

  1. Making us human (2,000,000 – 9,000 BC)
  2. After the Ice Age: food and sex (9,000 – 3,000 BC)
  3. The first cities and states (4,000 – 2,000 BC)
  4. The beginning of science and literature (1500 – 700 BC)
  5. Old world, new powers (1100–300 BC)
  6. The world in the age of Confucius (500–300 BC)
  7. Empire builders (300 BC – AD 1)
  8. Ancient pleasures, modern spice (AD 1 – 600)
  9. The rise of world faiths (AD 200 – 600)
  10. The Silk Road and beyond (AD 400 – 700)
  11. Inside the palace: secrets at court (AD 700 – 950)
  12. Pilgrims, raiders and traders (AD 900 – 1300)
  13. Status symbols (AD 1200–1400)
  14. Meeting the gods (AD 1200–1400)
  15. The threshold of the modern world (AD 1375–1550)
  16. The first global economy (AD 1450–1600)
  17. Tolerance and intolerance (AD 1550–1700)
  18. Exploration, exploitation and enlightenment (AD 1680–1820)
  19. Mass production, mass persuasion (AD 1780–1914)
  20. The world of our making (AD 1914–2010)

While the fact that the British Museum has such a wide range of objects is as a result of colonial domination and full of controversy, the ‘history’ itself is most definitely not national, or European, it is world history. In programme one Neil MacGregor sets out his stall: “In these programmes, I'm travelling back in time, and across the globe, to see how we humans over 2 million years have shaped our world and been shaped by it, and I'm going to tell this story exclusively through the things that humans have made: all sorts of things, carefully designed, and then either admired and preserved, or used, broken and thrown away. I've chosen just a hundred objects from different points on our journey, from a cooking pot to a golden galleon, from a Stone Age tool to a credit card.”

A few highlights

The joy of these podcasts is that you can listen to them in any order. I think I have listened to them all. I have certainly listened to some of them many times over the years since they were first produced. I will briefly share three of my highlights:

1) The Vale of York Viking Hoard was buried in the ground not far from where I live in about 927CE. It was found in 2007 and is made up of beautiful silver and goldwork and many coins. We know it was buried around the time England was formed. There are coins of St Peter using the hammer of the Viking God Thor. We have no idea what happened to the Viking who buried this treasure and never returned to claim it. What it does reveal (via the coins) is that, over 1000 years ago, my rather unspectacular home city was part of a vast trade network that connected with Baghdad, Afghanistan and Samarkand.

2) The Akan Drum represents the forced transfer of African people to the Americas. It has been in the British Museum since it opened in 1753. It cannot have been taken to North America by an enslaved African, as they were not allowed to take possessions. Yet, by 1730 this West African wooden drum was in the Americas, probably given as a gift to slavers and then traded on. It represents the forced transfer of millions of Africans and with them African culture, which was to flourish, develop and shape the world, for example as jazz music.

3) A clay tablet from c.3000 BCE comes from what is now southern Iraq. It is one of the earliest examples of writing. Someone has recorded the rations of beer for workers. It’s an early example of a bureaucracy organising public finances. This was the notebook of an administrator. Writing was emerging as a form of social control. I wonder if the beer was good?!

How could this help teach history?

Firstly, listening to these podcasts is a wonderful way for teachers to develop their own knowledge. That might be in relation to a specific topic taught in school. Alternatively, it could be in order to gain new knowledge so that existing knowledge is reframed and transformed and thinking about the past changes. I think that the latter is what makes teaching history so exciting. We are always learning ourselves, always developing our thinking about the past, never finding a final answer as we can never go back there.

You could summarise the stories Neil MacGregor tells to use as starters to intrigue students about a topic you are about to study. Alternatively, you could set listening to a podcast, or reading a summary of a podcast as additional learning to make students aware of what was going on elsewhere, or what the wider cultural milieu was, in a period they are studying. The stories can also be used to bridge those big gaps we have between what we teach in depth in class, because there is just too much of the past to teach.

It would be great to hear what inspires you about these objects and how you can think of using them with students.

 

There is a book of this name, but I would recommend you listen to the podcasts that you can find here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/b00nrtf5

Written by Helen Snelson, EuroClio Ambassador 

New meaningful ways to remember? An approach from the Museum Klok & Peel

Lorraine Besnier Reviews

As part of the commemoration and celebration of the 75th year of freedom of the Netherlands, several events have been organised throughout the country to focus on WWII remembrance. The region of Brabant, through Erfgoed Brabant organised a conference entitled Past: Forward aimed at bringing together young professionals and academics dealing with remembrance. Three main topics were at stake: Reflect, Rethink and Remember. 

The Remember section covered various topics such as the role of sound in memory, the consequences of different narratives in politics, and a best practice on educating children about the Second World War was shared.

The Museum Klok & Peel presented on their education programme in collaboration with schools from the region. As part of the bigger “Death Valley De Peel”, several initiatives are  ongoing such as “Theatertocht Death Valley De Peel” or “Girls from before”.

The Death Valley De Peel project includes several activities aimed at different age groups. One of these, entitled “The youth of today” deals directly with the commemoration of WWII, and raises an important question: How to involve youngsters that have no direct experience with War? While the importance of the second World War is strongly emphasised in school, it is often difficult for children to relate to the people and stories they are taught about. 

The Museum Klok & Peel has developed an activity to bridge that gap by putting children in contact with people with stories about The Peel. The Peelraamstelling was the second defence line of the Netherlands, just behind the Maas line. It was built in 1939 and attacked and conquered on 10 May 1940 by the German forces. The Peel has been the theatre of many tragedies and has witnessed both the invading efforts of the Axis and those of the parachuted Allies. To preserve this heritage, the museum helps children find a survivor with a story to tell about the valley. The children interview that person, reformulate the events shared in their own words, and produce a drawing about the story (see pictures for examples of the drawings). By not only reformulating, but also visualising the events, the children have a better understanding and can better relate to what happened. 

Two pupils were present at the conference to share their experience. While one presented her summary of events, the other shared some reflections and thoughts on the process. It was striking to hear the emotion in the voice of the young girl who read her reformulated interview. “Martien says: if it had been quiet in the hospital I would not have had a leg anymore.”1

The second young girl who was reflecting on her experience mentioned that: “Interviewing someone who has gone through a hard time needs to be done with great care. While asking your questions you had to not only think about your school assignment but also be aware of their emotions that could come back, that they perhaps had tried to suppress. Some things are better left untouched and were not spoken of during the interview.”Interestingly, and despite the sensitivity of the topic, the “man and woman we interviewed opened up about their experiences and were happy to help us and some were even relieved that children our age would even show interest in the war”. 

Projects like these help the generations that have not witnessed war directly. Further than the knowledge of events, young people are given ways to relate to the emotions and experience of those who witnessed the war. Such insights enrich and transform the outlook of these students not only on the Second World War, but on other conflicts. As they put it: “the most important thing is that we should all remember what happened in the past and give a message to the next generation; Together we must prevent another war and make sure that this can never happen again”

EuroClio is also working to innovate on education and remembrance practices, for instance through the RETHINK project, by sparking the interest of young people and thus ensuring a continuity of the lessons learned from the past. For a generation that increasingly knows online interactions, human contact and wisdom are exceedingly valuable.

1 - The quote refers to a story wherein a child had a shard lodged in his leg following an attack, and was transported to the hospital. His leg was to be amputated. However, since he was not the most critical case in that hospital, the amputating was delayed to the next day. Miraculously, the leg recovered better than expected and need not be amputated anymore.

The 1619 Project: a very European history

Maayke De Vries Reviews

August 2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of enslaved Africans on the shores of nowadays United States (US). In order to shed light on the immense importance of this occurrence, the New York Times (NYT) produced an issue of their magazine about the event and its aftermath, the 1619 Project. The magazine consisted of more than 100 pages and was accompanied with a podcast, curriculum and live events. The 1619 Project received a lot of attention from politicians, educators, and opinion makers. They all underlined the importance of this issue, as it acknowledged the horrifying past of slavery and the continuing consequences for African Americans in 2019. While the US examines its past of racism, segregation, and white supremacy, Europe seems to ignore this history and continue to embrace their empire building endeavors. In this blog post, the 1619 Project will be reviewed to inspire and encourage European history educators to teach about the transatlantic slave trade and its lasting impact. Hence, this blog will emphasize Europe’s role in the transatlantic slavery and include a call to decolonize ourselves.

The first essay of the 100-page magazine elaborates on the history behind the kidnapped Africans who arrived in the Virginia Colony in August 1619. It were 20 captured Africans who arrived in a port near Jamestown in the English colony Virginia (Elliot and Hughes). They were initially on a Portuguese slave ship enroute to the Spanish colony, nowadays known as, Mexico. However, the ship was seized by two English pirate ships. The ships eventually stranded in the Virginia Colony. The English captain possessed a letter of marque from the Dutch prince Maurits, which gave private armed ships legal authorization from a government to attack a ship from a country that they were at war with. The Dutch Republic was at war with the Portuguese at that moment, due to conflicting interests in the global trade routes. It was a Portuguese slave ship that brought enslaved Africans to a Spanish colony because of an agreement issued by the Roman Catholic Church. The Treaty of Tordesillas granted Spain access to all the land 1,185 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands, while Portugal was free to exploit the land east of that line. This meant that enslaved people were forcibly transported to the Spanish colonies through an Asiento; a contract that ensured the supply of enslaved people to the Spanish colonies. Other European countries, like Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and England, wanted to secure the Asiento for their own profits (Elliot and Hughes). The introductory essay already mentioned seven European countries which were one way or another involved in the arrival of abducted Africans on the shores of the Virginia Colony in 1619. Thus, this is not only an American or British history, this is a very European story as many European countries “fought to control the resources of the emerging transatlantic world and worked together to facilitate the dislocation of the indigenous peoples of Africa and Americas” (Guasco).

The NYT attempted to cover 400 years US history with its impressive and visually attractive 1619 Project. The essays are chronologically ordered: it starts with the Virginia Colony, then goes on to cover the reality of plantation slavery, along with an explanation of the attempts to scientifically proof white supremacy, and an examination of political investments in keeping the southern states included in the Union at the expense of the enslaved. However, the essays do not stop with the abolition of slavery in 1865. More essays follow to indicate how the history of slavery determines much of the furture. A good example of this is the essay by Bryan Stevenson about the undeniably continuation of exploitation of black people through the privatization of prisons. Another one is the essay from Nikita Steward that mentioned a widespread slavery illiteracy among students, as textbooks dedicate a minimal amount of pages on the history of slavery. Along with the publication of he magazine, therefore, is also a curriculum for teachers to teach the history of slavery adequately. The Pulitzer Center offers ready-made lessons plans based on the material offered by the NYT, with guiding questions and additional student-centered activities. Besides, there is now a podcast called 1619 to dive deeper into certain topics.

As outlined in the introduction, August 1619 is not -at all- solely a 400th anniversary for the US, but also something to commemorate in European countries. The history of the transatlantic slavery left deep scares in the US society, because the plantations existed on its soil. European countries, on the other hand, built plantations overseas. This is often used as a reason why supposedly racism is more present in the US than in Europe. However, Jensen refuted this idea altogether by claiming that physical possessions of overseas territories is not even required in constructing racist notions about non-white people. Thus white supremacy thinking, that allowed for black people to be exploited as slaves, is present in the US and Europe as well. Furthermore, many European countries deal with the same issue as the US: a racial wealth gap (OECD). Education is supposed to be a force for social mobility but it seems to reproduce and reinforce existing social divisions (OECD 17). School can be a traumatic experience for students of color, as their cultural heritage and practices are not acknowledged rather ridiculed (De Vries; Akala). The 1619 Project attempted to fill in gaps in the national curriculum regarding the history of slavery and its legacy in the US. It provided teachers with material to educate themselves, along with ideas for classroom discussions on current-day racism.

Nevertheless, there is also criticism on the material as it focuses on 1619 as the magic year in which slavery entered the Americas, while enslaved black people arrived on the shores of the Americas before, for instance in the West Indies. Another criticism is the focus on the victimization of black people, rather than celebrating accomplishments that were achieved despite this horrifying history.

Thus the lesson for European educators is to see the transatlantic slavery as European history which still has a profound effect on our society today. Thus, the 1619 project gives European educators ideas and content that they can use in the classroom to teach about this sensitive issue in our history. When teaching the transatlantic slave trade, however, we need to make sure that the focus is not solely on the suffering of black people but also celebrates their accomplishments.

An example of a lesson that celebrates black success while acknowledging the past is this lesson based on the music video Apesh*t  from Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z. Zinn Education Project is a good resource for educational material about sensitive topics in history, for example how racism became embedded in US laws. Additionally, the Twitter initiative of Val Brown named #cleartheair is also a great resource for thought-provoking readings and conversations about race and equity.

Maayke de Vries
History teacher at International School Almere
PhD Student UCL Institute of Education
www.mizsdafreeze.com

 

SOURCES

Akala. Natives. Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. London: Two Roads, 2018.

Elliot, Mary, and Jazmine Hughes. “Four hundred years after enslaved Africans were first brought to Virginia, most Americans still don’t know the full story of slavery” The New York Times Magazine, 14 Augusts, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/19/magazine/history-slavery-smithsonian.html.

Guasco, Micheal. “The Fallacy of 1619: Rethinking the History of Africans in Early America”, Black Perspectives, 4 September 2017, https://www.aaihs.org/the-fallacy-of-1619-rethinking-the-history-of-africans-in-early-america/

De Vries, Maayke. “A Narrative Inquiry: The Lived School Experiences of Racially Marginalized Students at a Middle School in Norway”. Utrecht University: Master Thesis. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.25308.54405

Jensen, L. “Provincalising Scandinavia”. Kult, vol. 7, 2010, p. 7-21.

OECD. “Understanding the Socio-Economic divide in Europe” Centre for Opportunity and Equality, 2017, https://www.oecd.org/els/soc/cope-divide-europe-2017-background-report.pdf

Visibility Matters: Queer History

Maayke De Vries Reviews

Teaching Tolerance (2018 - 2019). Queer America”. In partnership with University of Wisconsin Press. Hosted by Leila Rupp and John D’Emilio. Available on Spotify, Google Music, Apple Podcasts. 

Podcasts are a great way to engage with new thoughts and insights, as they are entertaining yet highly informative and always available. All of the above is applicable to the podcasts series produced by Teaching Tolerance named Queer America. Teaching Tolerance is a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups in the United States of America and promotes social justice in education. Teaching Tolerance provides teachers with classroom resources and professional development to promote anti-bias education. In this article the podcast series will be reviewed by firstly assessing the need for such a resource, thereafter providing a short summary of the topics discussed, along with some ideas and example lessons inspired by the podcast series. 

Why Teach Queer History?  

In a report conducted by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2013, the alarm was raised. It gave a shockingly negative account of the experiences of LGBTQ students in Europe. One of the concerns was the lack of factual information about sexuality and gender diversity to counteract stereotypes and biased information. The United Nations explicitly endorsed to teach respecting and appreciating diversity in their framework for Global Citizenship Education. EuroClio as well signifies inclusion as one of their main focus areas. In reality, however, LGBTQ history is rarely discussed in the media, museums, research, let alone in public education. Last year, Scotland was one of the first nations in the world to make LGBTQ history a mandatory part of the curriculum. The podcast Queer America tries to fill this void by helping educators in finding ways to incorporate LGBTQ history in the curriclum.

The Gist of the Podcast 

As of now, the series exists out of thirteen episodes of about an hour. Each episode has its own distinct theme which can be historical or pedagogical. The podcast is hosted by Leila Rupp, a professor in feminism, and John D’Emilio, a professor in women’s and gender studies, who receive guests to talk about a certain topic. The first three episodes discuss how educators can go about engaging students with the histories of queer people. In these episodes many references are made to the guide created by Teaching Tolerance, which gives practical advice on creating a community of trust and respect for everyone (for example by creating a classroom contract, as mentioned in this blog). 

In other episodes topics in queer history are explored. The podcast is produced in the United States of America (US), thus it is US-focussed. Nevertheless, World War II is an event that allows for an investigation on the contrasting impact of war on various groups. In episode seven, historian Susan Freeman suggests to delve into the concept of freedom in relation to World War II, because whose freedom mattered during the war? The queer community experienced a lot of scrutiny and policing during that time. However, it also brought a lot of young men together during moments of vulnerability, hence a carpe diem mentality arose and gay men sought each other’s company despite repercussions. Other historical moments discussed are the “Lavender Scare” during the Cold War, protests in the 1960s, the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, and same-sex romantic friendships in the 19th century. All these events take place in the US, nonetheless they provide educators with hints about what stories are waiting for us to be unburied and examined in our classrooms. 

Ideas

By listening to different experts explaining their approach to teaching queer history, a wide variety of possibilities are demonstrated. One example is addressing during every unit the question: “ Who is included and whose voices are we missing?”. Besides acknowledging that certain voices are missing, it also encourages educators to address the question why this is the case. Thus, this means to consider the way in which history is written and why some stories are revealed while others forgotten. Hereby cultural norms, societal expectations, and power structures are exposed. Researching historical figures who were gay or transgender is another way of incorporating queer history into the curriculum. It is possible to find such a person for every time period. Teaching Tolerance included a list of historical figures in their guide. The example given in episode thirteen is a research into the life of Lorraine Hansberry, which allows for a discussion on intersecting identities like sexual orientation, race, and class. In an European context, such investigation can be done into the life of April Ashley or Josephine Baker

Examples 

In the podcast, the guide for the subject social science, created by the Californian State Board of Education in 2016, is often used as an example of how to incorporate seamlessly queer history into a standardized curriculum. In this framework there is a critical approach towards all topics in the standard US curriculum, starting with an examination of something basic and important as family. This is a great opportunity to make students familiar with diverse families. An example is a lesson for grade 6 based on the question: “What makes a family?”. Firstly, students create a drawing of what they think a family looks like, thereafter they look at photos of diverse families (blended families, multigenerational families, families from different religious background, gay parents and their childeren, etc.). Students analyse the photos by describing what they see on them. After a class discussion, students answer the central question again and indicate their change in thinking. Another way to incorporate a discussion about gender binary is discussing masculinity, which the podcast does by highlighting the New Deal period. Teachers can do a similar inquiry about masculinity in Europe, which created unequal expectations for men and women based on their sexes. Any attempts are a beginning, as the most important message of the podcast is to start the discussion about queer history in your classrooms.

Conclusion

The podcast accomplishes to inspire educators to teach about the histories of gay, lesbian, and transgender people. The hosts interview experts on different topics, thereby focussing on historical and pedagogical topics. The podcast aims to encourage teachers to have these - sometimes - controversial conversations in the classroom. One point of criticism is the assumption of the producers that educators have a willingness to take this step, as it does not delve into the need for actions from teachers. Furthermore, the podcast is created in the US, therefore this is also their focus. Nevertheless, European educators can take lessons from the podcast and incorporate the framework and ideas in their own curriculum. Perhaps this can encourage educators in Europe to demand the inclusion of LGBTQ history in all curricula, making Scotland the example and not the exception. 

Maayke de Vries
History teacher at International School Almere
PhD Student UCL Institute of Education
www.mizsdafreeze.com 

Sui Generis’ Pequeñas Anécdotas sobre las Instituciones: Art and youth culture under censorship

Agustin De Julio Reviews

Charly Garcia, Argentinean musician and larger-than-life figure, was arrested for indecent exposure after a concert in the province of Mendoza. Minutes before, an agent knocked on the door of his dressing room, announcing himself: ‘Open up, I’m a policeman’. Garcia, silver tongued as ever, responded: ‘It’s not my fault you didn’t study enough.’

Though there is disagreement about if this anecdote happened during the bloody Argentinean dictatorship of 1976-1983 or after, it still paints an eloquent picture of Sui Generis’ songwriter and the general disrespect for authority of a great part of an Argentinean generation, a tradition lovingly passed on to younger generations.

The record was initially conceptualised as an oeuvre with one track dedicated to each pertinent institution of Argentina under the several dictatorships of the ‘70s and the María Estela de Peron government. Las Increíbles Aventuras del Señor Tijeras (The incredible adventures of Mr Scissors), targeted directly the government censorship body, depicted the censor as a tormented, perverted bureaucrat taking disproportionate pleasure in cutting and discarding sections of film rolls. Música de Fondo para Cualquier Fiesta Animada (Background music for any given lively party) charges fiercely at the judiciary for their defective moral compass and general inaction in the face of injustice. Botas Locas (Crazy Boots), mocks the army, through Garcia’s own experience of being drafted: ‘If they are the Fatherland, then I’m a foreigner.’ Unsurprisingly, this track did not make the final cut, under political pressure to drop it from the final pressing. Censorship is the factor that ended up giving the record its identity and form. From the initial idea, a loose concept album developed, with lyrics carefully adjusted to bypass censorship. The euphemisms and lively images painted by the duo ended up marking a whole generation of Argentines: the message, censored as it was, was universal enough to be understood by whoever was willing to listen.

Argentina, during the times of Sui Generis, was in a state of extreme political turbulence. After the democratically elected General Peron’s death in 1974, his last wife and running mate, Maria Estela, took the role of acting president. De Peron struggled to profile herself as legitimate, and faced relentless pressure from both left-wing armed insurrection and right-wing factions of the military opposed to her rule. Her political alliance with the Argentinean Anti-Communist Alliance, a military backed, right-wing death squad which persecuted political opponents and established an intricate censorship apparatus, meant that the press, artists, and intellectuals were constantly under scrutiny.

Instituciones marked the end of the road for Sui Generis. The duo, once famous for their beautifully crafted folk ballads, left their niche to embrace modern instruments and venture into political satire, a move not particularly valued by the public or the press. Both went on to become successful solo artists, with Garcia penning several generational anthems about the dark times of the Argentinian military dictatorship.

Why should you not listen to this album?

Instituciones, a conceptual work recorded under strict surveillance and state censorship, does not explicitly give away details of the inner workings of the late María Estela de Perón government, nor directly comments on the impending coup d’etat. Instead, it delivers social commentary under extreme external pressure. It does not lend itself for zingers or direct quotations ready to include in the classroom. Musically, the duo’s incursion into progressive rock and synthesisers might be alienating for the casual listener.

How can history, citizenship and heritage education benefit?

Instituciones is a paramount showcase of popular culture intersecting with momentous historical trends. It is a reminder to educators to look beyond the classics, and not to forget the importance of popular movements throughout history. This example also encourages history educators to employ multidisciplinary approaches in the classroom that go beyond the textbook.

Baez will always feature in Vietnam War lessons. Dylan is central to the Civil Rights Movement. In the same fashion, Sui Generis is paramount to Argentine youth culture under authoritarianism. Such responses to authoritarianism and censorship can be found in most cases throughout the past century and are worthy of attention in the classroom, given the enormous potential for resonance among students of the topic of youth resistance. EuroClio’s project Silencing Citizens through Censorship developed educational resources on a number of European cases of state censorship, such as Vichy France, Franco’s Spain and post-1945 Hungary, which are excellent to treat this sensitive topic. This review is, ultimately, also a reminder of the importance of inculcating students with a deep respect for free speech, especially in times when it cannot be taken for granted.

Author Sui Generis
Original title Pequeñas Anécdotas sobre las Instituciones
Original language Spanish
Available in Spanish
Publication year 1974
Length 40'26''
Genre Folk rock, progressive rock

‘The German War’, a book that sometimes makes you hold your breath

Joke Van der Leeuw-Roord Reviews

This book review was written by Joke van der Leeuw-Roord, EuroClio Founder and Special Advisor.

Interest in the Second World War has been part of my life, as I was born in the shadow of this war and I was made aware of it through many stories of my parents’ family and friends and by its physical legacy in my surroundings. This was similar to most of Dutch people of my generation, however at one point it was very different: I had an uncle living in Germany. He had been a forced laborer, had fallen seriously ill and was nursed back into life by a woman; he subsequently fell in love with. My family met them on a more or less regular basis, and as soon as my mother and aunt were together, they started to quarrel about their level of War victimhood. As a Dutch child I of course had no compassion with my German aunt, and for long I time experienced stories about the German suffering merely as propagandistic, to release the burden of a dark past. However eventually my professional curiosity got the better hand and in the last five years I have been intensely engaged to get a better understanding of what the war and its legacy meant for the Germans themselves. I consider The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 written by the Oxford historian Nicholas Stargardt as a great read for developing such insights.

The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 offers wide insights into the German experience from the view point of soldiers and civilians in the late Thirties and during the war time, using a wide range of source materials, among them many letters and diaries. Stargardt follows several of their authors over a longer period of time. Through this approach, the reader is able to follow the whereabouts and patters of thinking of several individuals and couples. Through these documents it becomes clear that much more was known, written or said about issues, that people outside Germany considered always highly secret in the Third Reich. Censorship of the letters from the soldiers was surprisingly minor; the fate of the Jews was therefore common knowledge. When the bombing of German cities in 1943 becomes very intense, he demonstrates that the general attitude of the public is to understand that these bombing are retaliation for what the Germans have done to the Jews.  This argument comes back, when after a break, the heavy bombing is resumed in the summer of 1944. Stargardt refutes the mantra Wir haben es nicht gewuest (we did not know about it) with ample evidence.

The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 looks in a manifold of aspects of German society, paying special attention to the position of women, ideological placed in the family and the kitchen but in fact a massive (voluntary) workforce and minorities, with of course a special focus on the Jews. But also the treatment and killing on the German disabled, psychiatric patients and socially deprived is breathtakingly described in the chapter Extreme Measures. In this horrible episode the German churches play a somewhat more human role, but in general is Stargardts’ judgement about their role during and directly after the war rather harsh: the Churches did not show the Christian compassion they should have stand for. Or even worse sometimes: several of their high placed members of the clergy gave full support to the Nazis.

A chilly red thread in the book is the role of Nazi brainwashing and the brilliant but disgusting manipulations of the Goebbles’ propaganda machine. It shows how important this instrument was in influencing the mind and hearts of the people in Germany. The radio and written press were pivotal for its success but also culture and art were addressed. Goebbles spend not less than 25% of his budget on culture and theater performances to make sure that critical citizens had an outlet for their possible controversial thoughts. However, even with all propaganda tools, not each programme was successful. The intended building of a national community, which was voluntary willing to sacrifice all for the fatherland, failed due to traditional localism and regionalism and massive inner migration. People kept complaining about their fate and kept accusing each other of misusing benefits.

Why should you not read this book?

The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 is a big book of about 700 pages, giving a dramatic and worrisome picture of how a highly civilized nation, which in a relative short time disintegrated into chaos, violence and terror. It leaves you with little hope for humanity when it encounters exceptional circumstances. So many lack moral qualities. willing to realize the consequences of what they heard and perceived.

Why should you read this book?

The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 shows history in its full complexity, with blur lines between perpetrators, bystanders and victims. A quote in the first weeks after the liberation written in the diary of Victor Klemperer, the German academic of Jewish origin, pictures this very well when he wrote Curious conflict within me: I rejoice in God’s vengeance on the Henchmen of the Third Reich  .. and yet I find it dreadful now to see the victors and avengers racing through the city which they have so hellishly wrecked (Dresden). With this and many other quotes from eyewitnesses we are able to have an in depth insight of dreams, expectations, feelings and behavior of many German civilians and soldiers. It leads to an adverse picture of a divided society, where many, but not all, were willing to fight until the very last moment and subsequently were unwilling to face the post war situation.

How can history, citizenship and heritage education benefit?

The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945 offers ample opportunities to discuss about the way we talk about the blame for crimes against humanity and war crimes. It might be worth to explore this issue with examples given by Stargardt. He proves how massive the German military in Central and Eastern Europe was involved in such crimes, and how many of them looked away, despite even anti-Nazi convictions. However he also shows the lethal impact of the aerial Allied bombing on cities, and its citizens and the violence used by the liberators of the Red Army. As the book gives a wide picture of many propaganda campaigns it also offers the opportunity of deeper thinking about the use and impact of (war) propaganda.

Author Nicholas Stargardt
Original title The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939-1945
Original language English
Available in Already published or in preparation in Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Polish and Spanish.
Publication year 2015
No. of pages 700
Genre History

Veendammer Wind: at the crossroads of history, football, and music

Agustin De Julio Reviews

Veendammer Wind: A football opera, 28-30 June & 4-5 July 2019

The rise and fall of a club and the importance of community

Just outside the city centre of Veendam stands the Langeleegte stadium imposingly, six years after the official bankruptcy and closure of the SC Veendam. The 29th of June 2019, the Langeleegte opened its doors once again for a festive occasion, Veendammer Wind, an opera celebrating the rich history of the club, the tireless engagement of the local community, and their great achievements. Inextricably, it also tells the story of the decline of the Sportclub Veendam, pride of the east of Groningen.

It is impossible though, to reflect on the decline of the club, without considering the social reality of the Veenkoloniën, the area of the east of Groningen of which Veendam serves as unofficial capital. This region is also one of the poorest in the Netherlands. Historically, the Veenkoloniën were hit by adverse economic shocks they could never fully recover from. The decline of the peat industry, and the mechanisation of agriculture left great amounts of manual workers unemployed. Aided by globalisation, industrial production departed to areas with cheaper labour during the last century. The structural damage done to homes and historical buildings in the Veenkoloniën due to gas extraction is the latest in a long list of adverse circumstances for the area. Culturally, this region has seen a marked disconnection with the rich west of the country, and has had revolutionary tendencies well into the 20th century. It is in this context - that of the beleaguered community standing up for what is theirs - that the story of a family trying to save their local club unfolds. The attempts to revive the club through national campaigning and the recruitment of cultural ambassadors is lovingly told, with an emphasis on local stories, and interesting insights on the role of women in traditionally male dominated sports, culminating in an organised women’s team becoming more prominent than the men’s.

Despite some minor pitfalls, this opera reveals the spirit of the east of Groningen. One leaves the Langeleegte with a handful of lessons learnt. Firstly, the opera communicates well that in difficult times, community and solidarity matter. Hard times in this case show the potential for local, community solutions that can bring an entire region together. Secondly, it showcases that despite the many noxious examples of identity being used for divisive and exclusive narratives, it can also be a virtuous thing: young and old, Groningers and not, came together to celebrate a club that bound them to each other. The prominence of the Gronings dialect, both sung and spoken, is a clear indication of the intimate relationship between culture and sport. Stunning performances from the main cast, supporting actors and the Veenkoloniaal Symfonieorkest were worthy of this touching local story.

What does this performance mean for history, citizenship and heritage education?

The Football Makes History[1] project led by EuroClio and its partner organisations aims to tackle social exclusion and discrimination of any type via the use of football history. The rationale behind the project lies on the conviction that football, through its wide appeal, can bring people together and exact great positive societal change. Veendammer Wind shows the richness, breadth and potential of football as a source of inspiration to address these societal problems. Everywhere one looks, there are local histories that could teach valuable lessons, both in the classroom and on the pitch. It also showcases the virtues of multidisciplinarity, and encourages educators not to be afraid to innovate by mixing history with other topics, much like this performance mixes opera with football and history. The past is interwoven with everything around us, and performances like these further make the case for the use of engaging and moving local histories to teach citizenship values and raise awareness of shared heritage amongst Europe’s youth.

Original title Veendammer Wind
Original language Dutch and Gronings
Genre Opera

[1] Project implemented with the financial support of the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union as part of the initiative “Football History for Inclusion – Innovative collaborations of school education and youth through the prism of local football history for social inclusion and diversity”

Written by Agustín De Julio, EuroClio trainee