RECOMMENDATION 1283 (1996)
on history and the
learning of history in Europe
People have a right to their past, just as they have a right to disown it. History is
one of several ways of retrieving this past and creating a cultural identity. It is also a
gateway to the experiences and richness of the past and of other cultures. It is a
discipline concerned with the development of a critical approach to information and of
History also has a key political role to play in today's Europe. It can contribute to
greater understanding, tolerance and confidence between individuals and between the
peoples of Europe - or it can become a force for division, violence and intolerance.
Historical awareness is an important civic skill. Without it the individual is more
vulnerable to political and other manipulation.
For most young people, history begins in school. This should not simply be the
learning by heart of haphazard historical facts; it should be an initiation into how
historical knowledge is arrived at, a matter of developing the critical mind and the
development of a democratic, tolerant and responsible civic attitude.
Schools are not the sole source of historical information and opinion. Other sources
include the mass media, films, literature and tourism. Influence is also exercised by the
family, peer groups, local and national communities, and by religious and political
The new communication technologies (CD-I, CD-ROM, Internet, virtual reality, etc.)
are gradually extending the range and impact of historical subjects.
A distinction may be made between several forms of history: tradition, memories and
analytical history. Facts are selected on the basis of different criteria in each. And
these various forms of history play different roles.
Politicians have their own interpretations of history, and some are tempted to
manipulate it. Virtually all political systems have used history for their own ends and
have imposed both their version of historical facts and their definition of the good and
bad figures of history.
Even if their constant aim may be to get as close to objectivity as possible,
historians are also well aware of the essential subjectivity of history and of the various
ways in which it can be reconstructed and interpreted.
Citizens have a right to learn history that has not been manipulated. The state
should uphold this right and encourage an appropriate scientific approach, without
religious or political bias, in all that is taught.
Teachers and research workers should be in close contact to assure the continued
updating and renewal of the content of history teaching. It is important that history keep
pace with the present.
There should also be transparency between those working in all areas of history,
whether in the school classroom, television studio or university library.
Particular attention should be given to the problems in central and eastern Europe
which has suffered from the manipulation of history up to recent times and continues in
certain cases to be subject to political censorship.
The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers encourage the teaching of
history in Europe with regard to the following proposals:
historical awareness should be an essential part of the education of all young
people. The teaching of history should enable pupils to acquire critical thinking skills
to analyse and interpret information effectively and responsibly, to recognise the
complexity of issues and to appreciate cultural diversity. Stereotypes should be
identified and any other distortions based on national, racial, religious or other
the subject matter of history teaching should be very open. It should include all
aspects of societies (social and cultural history as well as political). The role of women
should be given proper recognition. Local and national (but not nationalist) history
should be taught as well as the history of minorities. Controversial, sensitive and tragic
events should be balanced by positive mutual influences;
the history of the whole of Europe, that of the main political and economic events,
and the philosophical and cultural movements which have formed the European identity must
be included in syllabuses;
schools should recognise the different ways in which the same subjects are handled
in different countries, and this could be developed as a basis for interschool exchanges;
support should be given to the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook
Research, and Ministries of Education and educational publishers in member states should
be asked to ensure that the institute's collection of textbooks be kept up-to-date;
the different forms of history learning (textbook study, television, project work,
museum visits, etc.) should be combined, without exclusive preference to any of them. New
information technologies should be fully integrated. Proper educational (and academic)
standards must be ensured for the material used;
greater interaction should be fostered between school and out-of-school influences
on young people's appreciation of history, for example by museums (and in particular
history museums), cultural routes and tourism in general;
innovatory approaches should be encouraged, as well as continued in-service
training, especially with regard to new technologies. An interactive network of history
teachers should be encouraged. History should be a priority subject for European teachers'
courses organised within the framework of the Council for Cultural Co-operation in-service
training programme for teachers;
co-operation should be encouraged between teachers and historians, for example by
means of the Education Committee of the Council for Cultural Co-operation's new project on
learning and about teaching the history of Europe in the 20th century;
government support should be given to the setting up of independent national
associations of history teachers. Their active involvement in the European history
teachers' association Euroclio should be encouraged;
a code of practice for history teaching should be drawn up in collaboration with
history teachers, as well as a European charter to protect them from political
The Assembly supports freedom of academic research but would also expect
professional responsibility as in the parallel field of broadcasting. The Assembly
therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
ask governments to assure continued financial support for historical research and the
work of multilateral and bilateral commissions on contemporary history;
promote co-operation between historians so as to help encourage the development of
more open and more tolerant attitudes in Europe by taking account of different experiences
ensure that the right of historians to freedom of expression is protected.
European collaboration should be encouraged in the field of history. The Assembly
recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
study the basic elements of the different histories of the peoples of Europe which,
when accepted by everyone, could be included in all European history textbooks;
consider the possibility of establishing in member states an on-line library of
encourage member states to establish national history museums on the lines of the
German "House of History" in Bonn;
promote multilateral and bilateral projects on history and history teaching and in
particular regional projects between neighbouring countries.
 Assembly debate on 22 January 1996 (1st Sitting) (see Doc. 7446,
report of the Committee on Culture and Education, rapporteur: Mr de Puig).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 22 January 1996 (1st Sitting).