The project "Learning and teaching about the history of Europe in the 20th century" was launched in May 1997 upon a mandate of the European Ministers of Education

  • to be a product-oriented project developing innovative teaching resources for secondary schools;
  • to approach events not through the learning of dates, facts, figures and battles, but to help teachers and students develop critical skills of investigation using the same skills and assessment criteria as the historians.

The aim of the project was to develop teaching material that will enable students to:

  • understand the links between past and present;
  • understand the forces, movements and events which have shaped 20th century history;
  • understand the historical roots and the context of the main challenges and conflicts facing Europe today;
  • reflect on the kind of Europe in which they wish to live tomorrow;
  • develop skills and reflexes enabling them to think for themselves amidst the wealth of information now available, deal critically with statements and historical interpretations,
  • take in another person’s point of view, recognise and comprehend differences,
  • detect errors and prejudices in historical representations and not to be swayed by biased information.

The project adopted an interdisciplinary and pan-European stance which stressed the importance of social, scientific, cultural and oral history, amongst others. Similarly, the project encouraged teaching history using a wide range of sources and topics, such as the new technologies, cinema, women's history, archives and museums, and developed the concept of "remembrance" as vital to the prevention of crimes against humanity.

Project outcomes

  • A complete teaching kit for secondary school history teaching made of
  • A publication "The 20th century – an interplay of views", presenting and assessing the above mentioned teaching resources, and compiling the presentations made at a final Conference in 2001 by distinguished historians and writers from across Europe about their views on the past century
  • A Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on history teaching in twenty-first-century Europe (Recommendation (2001) 15).
    This text is the first, and so far only European instrument of such nature in this area, setting clear methodological principles on the objectives of history teaching in a democratic and pluralist Europe.
    Broad in scope, this landmark document covers the aims of history teaching, the European dimension, syllabus content, leaning methods, initial and in-service teacher training, the use of new information and communication technologies and the misuse of history. The recommendation is unconditional in its condemnation of the latter, two examples of which are abuse of the historical record and interpretations of history based upon the "us" and "them" dichotomy, as incompatible with the values of the Council of Europe.
    The Recommendation clearly positions history teaching in the development of a responsible, active citizen, respectful of differences in the framework of the rule of law and the fundamental values of human rights and democracy. It considers also that it is a main factor for reconciliation, acknowledgement, understanding and mutual trust between people.


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