The Observatory will conduct thematic studies exploring certain issues in more depth. The choice of subjects considers the priorities of the Council of Europe, as well as issues which are particularly urgent and pertinent to modern European societies. These thematic reports will be drafted by a group of experts, in close co-operation with the Observatory’s Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) and using the methodology crafted and approved by the SAC.

The First OHTE Thematic Report “Pandemics and Natural Disasters as Reflected in History Teaching”

It is not known how and if different European countries teach the histories of pandemics and natural disasters. However, it has become clear that the current Covid-19 pandemic, not to mention the danger of climate change, brings to light the importance of understanding the backgrounds of health crises and natural disasters and how European societies have reacted to them in the past.

For history educators, the Covid-19 pandemic poses specific questions, as they reflect how to discuss it with their students. Questions arise as to how this moment will be remembered in history? Whose stories and perspectives will be shared? What lessons can be learned from past epidemics and public health crises and how should those lessons be applied in the field of education?

Beyond establishing the mere presence and scope of teaching of pandemics and natural disasters in the curriculum and in textbooks, the Thematic Report shall inquire also into:

All of this will be done through the lens of multiperspectivity, on the basis of established facts, to ensure that the varied perspectives of different societal groups are taken into account.

Through this Thematic Report, the Observatory will offer a unique viewpoint of how pandemics and natural disasters are taught, considering how they overlap with other societal, economical and cultural events. It is hoped that history educators and students alike will be able to apply this knowledge when adapting and developing history curricula and critical thinking skills in the future. It should help to understand how pandemics and natural disasters have contributed to the formations of our societies until this point, and how we can better prepare for those that might await us in the future.

The schematic below provides a visual on the progress of the report. The first Thematic Report will focus on “Pandemics and Natural Disasters as Reflected in History Teaching” and will be released in the last quarter of 2022.