Learning History: Northern Ireland


From Paris, David Pike sends me a copy of a letter to "Katie Hewitt, at present in California (?)"  Here is the passage relevant to our Learning History project: . I understand from you that today, and for the last few years, the Catholic and Protestant schools of Northern Ireland are using the same textbooks. Once you established that, some two months ago, your study turned, as I remember, to a comparison of what is taught today with what was taught during the height of the Troubles. I believe you have, or can get, access to the textbooks currently in use. What you need are the textbooks no longer in use. These are to be found in three possible places:

1. In the private possession of history teachers in Northern Ireland.
2. In the libraries of Northern Ireland.
3. In the national archives and great libraries of the US, Eire, and UK.

1. and 2. no doubt require you to be in Ireland. But with 3, internet may allow you access. The Library of Congress (I have just been told) conserves its collection of history textbooks that were in use in Nazi Germany. LC must have a similar collection of textbooks for Ireland and Northern Ireland. So would the British Museum or the PRO. Almost never is anything thrown away. An exception is the recent UK decision to dump its collection of 19th century railway timetables. But history textbooks, no, never.

RH: This brings up the question of different history textbooks being used in the same country.  In Mexico, government and Catholic schools use different history of Mexico textbooks. It also brings up time changes. We could compare history books used in Spain, under Alfonso XIII. the Republic, Franco, and the present democracy. David should not be so categorical about destroying history textbooks. It occurred in Nazi Germany and other places. I would be happy to meet with Katie Hewitt. We could compare the history textbooks used in Northern Ireland and those used in the Irish Republic, but I know nothing about the subject.


Ronald Hilton 2005

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last updated: June 10, 2005