National trauma in textbooks – Sweden and the United States of America

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National trauma in textbooks – Sweden and the United States of America

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Publication Conference Paper, peer reviewed
Title National trauma in textbooks – Sweden and the United States of America
Author(s) Johansson, Roger
Date 2007
English abstract
Abstract Roger Johansson, PhD, Malmö University, Sweden National trauma in textbooks – Sweden and the United States of America Theoretical and methodological framework In my paper I will take of in a theoretical framework related to a German historian Reinhart Kosellecks Begriffsgechichte as an empirical study over the struggle to give meaning to important concepts in our thinking. I will also make some sort of methodological take of in this paper in a model from a Danish historian, Bernard Eric Jensen. In this model he discuss the fields were we meet, and the fields were we produce history. In the centre of the model he has put the concept – historical consciousness e. g. how we connect the present with the past and the future. My sources My research is based on 34 textbooks in History for compulsory school in Sweden published between 1940 and 1996, and similar 40 textbooks published in United States of America between the years of 1887 and 1995. The question I will focus on two national traumas on the labor market; The bomb on Haymarket Square in 1886, Chicago, USA and the deadly shouting by a military troop on a peaceful demonstration in Ådalen, Sweden in 1931. However, the two events rapidly became important concepts; Haymarket is close related to the international May Day tradition and Ådalen in Sweden as a turning point and a start for the Swedish welfare state – at least in the retrospective perspective of the history writing of today. Howe has the two narratives been retold in the textbooks in history for compulsory school? Is it the same narrative or does it changes over time? Howe does the textbooks reflect conflicts and different values of its present time in the society? What meaning do the two events play in different narratives - in Sweden and the United States? A short example: Textbooks in the US - a battlefield American Historians have used textbooks as sources to interpret changing discuses within the American society in a very interesting way. As Joseph Moreau rites: ”Examining textbooks through the lens of the”nation” is an effective way to unmask these conflicts.” Both Joseph Moreau and Jonathan, Zimmerman has pointed out periods of transitions in American textbooks in the 1890-, 1920-, 1930-, 1960- and 1980. I will just give two short examples; one from a textbook used from the very turn of the last century to the mid 1920th, and one from a textbook printed in 1938, just before Word War two. It’s quite easy to follow the footsteps of Moreau and Zimmerman and relate their studies to my study about Haymarket and labor movement. Those textbooks which was published just before or after the bomb at Haymarket 1886 was coloured by the sympathy and the concern many middleclass and intellectuals felt over the extreme poverty in many cities, and the conflicts at the labor market in the US. History of the United States printed in 1888 is one example: “Throughout the land mechanics and laborers of all classes had formed Union-organizations for controlling hours of labor and daily pay, and for taking care of stick or unfortunate members.” Some years later it’s a quite another narrative told by D. H. Montgomery. ”In Chicago forty thousand men left their employments…Processions of strikers, ten thousand strong, , marched through the streets, - in some cases, with all the precision of movement of a body of highly drilled troops…- an Englishman – urged the most violent measures. [At Haymarket] …some one threw a dynamite bomb at the police…then drew revolvers, and fired on the police….The ringleaders of the mob were arrested, and brought to trial. All but one were of foreign birth. They belonged to a small but dangerous class calling themselves Anarchists. The object of the Anarchist is to overthrow all forms of government, either by peaceable means, or…by murder, and the destruction of property.” It’s a narrative built up on a framework of dangerous alien anarchists threatening the society and the private property with bombs. The recently arrived immigrants have not yet learned American traditions and costumes. It’s retold also in First World War anti-labor discourse: “The most violent outbreak of this kind occurred in Chicago, where 40.000 men suddenly stopped at work. A band of violent anarchists ...The leaders in the terrible assault were caught and four of them were hanged after a faire trail in court. Since then anarchists have been severely dealt with in this country.” If we go ahead; my second example is from a textbook published in the end of the New Deal area and it is obvious that the labor movement at that time had became an integrated part of the textbooks, witch reflects the changing values within the American society. The textbook tells us by the headline of the chapter: ”Samuel Gompers, The Greatest American Labor Leader.” Gompers has got a chapter of his own – his life story and fortunes is also an allegorical narrative about the history of the American society. Gompers was born in a poor but harmonic working class family in England and came to New York as young immigrant with his family at the age at 14, and he became at cigar maker. From his very first day at work he became a member of the Cigar Makers Union and he stared to study what he could do to give the workers a better life. That is why he founded the American Federation of Labor and he became its president for 37 years. When the workers of US unionized the living conditions became better and life healthier, the working day was shortened and the salaries raised and it became possible for a common worker to give the children a good education and a god home. ”Mr. Gompers was happy to see the condition of the working people so much improved, but he was never satisfied. He kept on working…[and]…did a great deal to help make the working people of the United States happier and more comfortable than the workers in any other country.” The narrative over Gompers is also a narrative over the American dream, by hard labor it is possible also for the poorest immigrant to succeed, and how America today is more wealthy than any other country on earth. In this narrative there is no place for those Marxian circles were Gompers participated or the work for pardon the Haymarket martyrs. Even the parents of the children are included in the “we –are all-in-the-same-boat” – narrative: ”// 3. Find out how many of the fathers of the pupils in your class belong to labor unions or employ men who belong to unions. List the names of these unions to see whether or not there are many different unions represented. //” In the Cold War textbooks ”American” is defined by the capitalist system and Haymarket has its place as an frightening concept of radicals.
Publisher Nordiska historikermötet, Island
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) Humanities/Social Sciences
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