With Northern Ireland as her focal point, Margaret E. Smith examines how group narratives are used in the field of history education to address both future conflict prevention and post-conflict rebuilding. Smith explores how divided societies can use educational textbook reform to reconcile a narrative that treats shared group histories as mutually exclusive. Northern Ireland is an ideal case study, in part, because they have been working on revising history teaching in schools, museums, and local history societies since the 1970s. Learning from this process, Smith encourages us to acknowledge that societal change does not occur over night--Smith proposes a stage theory of incremental change--and a vision for building educational reform directly into brokered peace treaties. This synthetic approach recognizes how difficult it can be to work with groups that feel threatened by difference but also underscores the importance of finding practical ways to move two conflicted groups to a place where their mentalities can be intertwined into a joint story.
Margaret Smith is not stranger to Northern Ireland. Her field trips over many years bring a depth of insight and sensitivity to the controversies of history teaching in a divided society. Smith argues that partisan, cosmopolitan, and neo-pluralist approaches to history teaching fall short of the deeper engagement that is necessary as part of post-conflict peace building. She argues that a more active interculturalism will be required and her thesis is mirrored by the lack of progress in current political negotiations. Smith's book is a well-structured argument that the teaching of history in Northern Ireland can be part of the problem as well as part of the solution and her analysis has implications for the role of history teaching in other international conflicts. -- Alan Smith, University of Ulster
How do you teach history in a society where it provides the very stuff of political conflict and violence? Margaret Smith cogently examines controversy and commitment in the teaching of history in Northern Ireland, and dissects the various "wisdoms" that have been brought to bear on the problem. She challenges schools, teachers, and students to engage with contentious issues, the interdependence of past and present, and the emotional resonances of the past. This is not just a prescription for Northern Ireland for, as she rightly argues, the challenge for history teaching lies "at the frontier of discovery in places of diversity, right now." -- Anthony Gallagher, Queen's University Belfast
Margaret Smith has written a systematic and comprehensive book that captures the complex issues embedded in teaching history in situations of intractable conflict. Her insightful analysis of Northern Ireland as a case-in-point is a rich source of data for those who aspire to understand the relationship between the teaching of history, peace making, and reconciliation. -- Hugh O'Doherty, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
In a society riven by centuries of conflict whose impacts persist into the present, is it possible to educate young citizens "preoccupied with their own outlook to the place where they can include the outlook of the other in their worldview?" Margaret E. Smith explores this issue in a detailed, realistic, and hopeful survey of how educators in Northern Ireland have wrestled with it for many years. If any place in the world is a test case of the possible "yes" to the question, it is Northern Ireland. If historians and history teachers there can so answer, they will, as Smith says, have an "exportable commodity." Educators in the Balkans, Rwanda, and Camboida need this book, but so do Europeans and we Americans. -- Donald W. Shriver Jr., Union Theological Seminary, New York
Smith offers an interesting, highly detailed case study of history teaching in conflict-ridden Northern Ireland, providing ample theoretical, historiographical, and pedagogical context for understanding the evolutionary process of curriculum reform. Historians, history teachers, and teacher educators will profit from her insights into the promises and problems of teaching for peace....Recommended. * CHOICE *
Margaret Smith offers a comprehensive treatment of the important question of the role of education in peacebuilding link in general questions about history teaching to the specific case of Northern Ireland. What her analysis shows so well is that first, history education often reflects and reproduces differences and, second, that implementing change is not as simple as writing a new curriculum or teacher training. There are social institutions and long-term practices that make the institutionalization of change more difficult than is often understood. Despite the political complexity of the task, Smith makes it clear that the serious effort to change history teaching in Northern Ireland has been successful in important was that have implications for peacebuilding in other societies that are torn by identity conflicts. -- Marc Howard Ross, Bryn Mawr College