Accepted paper:

The debates on educational reform and the narratives of the national past: National Education Leagues as actors in the process of cultural nationalization in France, Belgium and England (1870-1900)


Christina Reimann (Humboldt-University, Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

From an actors' perspective, I consider cultural nationalization, the creation of national education and the construction of “national-history narratives” as mutually entangled processes. The activity of the National Education Leagues shows that these processes had also a transnational dimension.

Paper long abstract:

This paper studies the nationalization of culture from an actors' perspective: It considers the National Education Leagues in France, Belgium and England as having promoted this process by their very foundation as well as by their stance taken in the debates on national education. Through an analysis of the Leagues' statements - the associations fought for national, public and secular education - I will analyse the relationship between cultural nationalization, the creation of national education systems and the discourse producing "national-history narratives". I want to show that the production of "national-history narratives" was a pillar of both cultural nationalization and national education which were also mutually entangled - and that the National Education Leagues as representatives of the bourgeois civil society took an active part in these processes. The Leagues mobilized and constructed the narratives of national history in two ways: first to support their arguments in favour of national education and against a privately or church based system; second by designing the curricular of national education including lessons on "national history". Analysing how the Leagues conceived "national history" and how they used this narrative to foster their claims for national education will elucidate how the dynamic of cultural nationalization was urged by organized social actors. However, taking into account that the Leagues were transnationally connected with each other and that they developed their argumentative strategies out of transnational transfers suggests that cultural nationalization as represented by national education and the narratives of "national history" was also the product of transnational transfers.

panel P02
Closing the door on globalization: cultural nationalism and scientific internationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries