Cand.philol. Brit Marie Hovland

Title of dissertation:



The thesis discusses changes and revisions in the history subject in Norwegian primary schools from 1889-1940. The epoch-making Primary School Act of 1889 introduced history as a compulsory subject. History legitimized an ethnic Norwegian national identity and politics implying dissolution from the union with Sweden. The history subject and the compulsory primary mass education played a crucial part in the nation building process. But whilst the curriculum only introduced general objectives, the content and tendency of the subject was defined by the textbooks canonizing an historical Norwegian Grand Narrative. 

The history subject is analyzed from the classroom perspective of the textbooks. This leads us to textbook disagreements, author quarrels and historiographical discussions in the dawn of history didactics. We follow the read through nation building and the dissolution of the union in 1905, until the interwar period and the outbreak of World War II. Societal demands and expectations towards the history subject were quite different in 1889, 1919 and in 1939, while history as a science had its parallel historiographical development. The textbook analysis depicts the history subject as a hub between science, politics and collective memory. The historiography of history deals with the pedagogy of society and the politics of memory.

The perception of being the baby brother in the union with Denmark and Sweden affected the Norwegian narrative in the textbooks canonized following 1889. A narrative of suffering portrayed a weak party's eschatological fight for autonomy. The union and the arch enemy played a pivotal part of this traditionalistic narrative of suffering. The hyper-nationalism of World War I made the need for revision of patriotic historical narratives and their enemy images abundantly clear. A narrative of growth replaced a Norwegian lonesome tragedy within a western tale of development. A different horizon of expectation entailed and new space of experience bound in history curriculums and books.  

The textbook analysis demonstrates the Humanities’ essential perspectives to understand and explain education and society in times of change.   


 «Young Alexander conquered India. He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls. Was there not even a cook in his army?»
«Questions From a Worker Who Reads»
Bertolt Brecht 1935/36





Published Sep. 27, 2016 12:46 PM