Sjätte nordiska utbildningshistoriska konferensen




Methods – Messages – Manifestations

Traditions and challenges in the history of education and childhood

The 6th Nordic Conference on the History of Education

The Department of Education, Aarhus University, Campus Emdrup, Copenhagen October 29. – 31. , 2014



When schools and educational politics are on the agenda, so is inevitably, the history of education! An abundance of histories on childhood and institutions, on learning and discipline, and on schooling and school systems is present – directly or indirectly – when politicians, school leaders and teachers’ unions explain their positions, or even when schools and other educational institutions brand themselves.


Histories of education are also present on a more personal level. Because educational experiences form an important part of most childhoods, narratives of schools and other institutions, of teachers and learning environments, often play an essential role when individuals tell stories of their childhood or share memories of school years, which shaped their lives. Thus, histories of education and of childhood cannot be separated – neither from each other nor from the agendas of modern educational politics.


The year 2014 marks the bicentenary of the Danish School Act of 1814. As part of the commemorative celebrations, histories of education will be brought to the fore in a variety of settings. The commemoration is therefore an opportune occasion to reflect upon and discuss the ways in which the history of education is used in political and public contexts, as well as in more private and personal settings.   


The 6th Nordic Conference on the History of Education (6NCHE) will explore the connections between past and present opinions on education and between histories of childhood and histories of schools and other educational institutions. The third day of the conference, 31st October, will be open to the public and research projects from the Scandinavian countries will be presented, the language will be a mix of English and the Scandinavian languages.


The conference title, Methods – Messages – Manifestations: Traditions and challenges in the history of education and childhood, is intended as an overarching theme. Conference papers should address one or more of the following questions:



How do we research and present the history of schools and other institutions related to childhood as an academic discipline – but one that often attracts an intense public interest? How has academic research on the history of education understood itself and its tasks? What new and promising theoretical trends influence our work, and what traditions – good or bad – do we carry with us in our research? How do sources, guidelines, questions and frameworks determine our research and the results? And how do we position ourselves and our results in the present-day debates on education and schooling?



Why do we explore histories of childhood and educational institutions and what kind of knowledge do we hope to find? How are results from educational research received and used outside academia? Which messages from the history of education are used, reused and transformed through the media and in political debates? And what themes and interpretations are at play, when groups and individuals tell the stories of their educational experiences?



When, where, how and by whom is the history of education communicated and used? How are the histories of childhood and education presented and interpreted in museums, institutional anniversaries, entertainment business and art? What parts of educational history are popularized and highlighted, and what happens when this history becomes a part of the modern media reality and the educational landscape? And how do personal narratives of childhood experiences fit into all this?


Proposed sessions: 

    1. Turns and traditions. Agendas and approaches in research into the history of education
    2. Debating schools – past and present. Uses of the history of education in public debates and policy making.
    3. Monuments and manifestations. The practices of communicating and representing the history of schools and other educational institutions (museums, anniversaries etc.)
    4. Framing childhoods: Institutions and spaces (How to connect the history of childhood and the history of institutions?)
  • Memories and narratives of childhood. How are the histories of childhood and institutions recalled and recorded – and how are they researched and written?



Key Note Speakers


Professor Jane Humphries, University of Oxford, UK.


History from underneath: Girls growing up in the British industrial revolution

Whether the economic and social changes of the eighteenth and nineteenth century improved or retarded the wellbeing and status of women and girls has attracted much historical interest.  This paper uses evidence from autobiographical accounts by working women in comparison with the evidence for men to identify the sources and evolution of inequality. My focus is particularly on childhood and adolescence.  My sources are life accounts by working people and particularly by working women which I analyze using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods.  I conclude that there were similarities in boys and girls experiences growing up in working-class families many of which are predictable and some of which relate to educational experiences.

Professor Humphries is the author of the highly acclaimed book Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution, 2010. The book is a unique account of working-class childhood during the British industrial revolution. Using more than 600 autobiographies written by working men of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Jane Humphries illuminates working-class childhood in contexts untouched by conventional sources and facilitates estimates of age at starting work, social mobility, the extent of apprenticeship, and the duration of schooling.


Professor Florian Waldaw, Humboldt University Berlin

Using history or not? Legitimating educational agendas


The history of education and childhood, particularly the history of institutions of formal education and what takes places in them, almost always has an international dimension; systems of mass schooling, for example, have emerged and developed in exchange with and mutual observation of each other. Thus, it seems only natural that research within the field of the history of education and childhood should routinely pay attention to this international dimension. However, this is frequently not the case; much of the research in these fields still has a purely national focus. Conversely, studies of the international aspects of education (e.g. studies of educational transfer or international educational governance) often lack a historical dimension.

In this lecture, I will present some thoughts on why this might be the case. My central proposition is that the invocation of history has legitimatory potential for certain educational programmes and attitudes in certain situations. In other situations, and with respect to other attitudes and programmes, avoiding reference to history and instead referring for example to the international dimension promises higher legitimacy gains. I will discuss in which types of situations, and with respect to which educational programmes and attitudes, each strategy is more promising.

The legitimatory potential of history – and its absence or avoidance, respectively – makes itself felt particularly keenly in educational policy-making. In a field that is as normatively structured and as close to policy-making and educational practice as educational research often is, the legitimatory potential of history – and its absence – deeply pervade scholarly work, too. I will use empirical examples from both educational policy-making and educational research in the Nordic countries to argue my case.


Florian Waldow is Professor of Comparative and International Education at Humboldt University, Berlin. He assumed this post in 2013. Before moving to Berlin, he worked as a research group leader at the University of Münster, Germany, and as a researcher at the University of Uppsala, Sweden. He took his doctorate in 2005 at Humboldt University. Among his primary research interests are the theory and methods of historical comparative research, the normative, cultural and social foundations of assessment in education, and educational borrowing and lending.




The organizers aim to organize papers into double sessions (with six papers each) and propose preliminary headings for five such sessions as listed below.


For January, 15, 2014 we invite proposals for papers in accordance with the suggested session themes below, however papers which relate to the overarching theme but do not clearly fit into any specific session are also welcome. Following the deadline of the call for papers we will do our best to organize the papers into appropriate sessions. Participants will be contacted and informed about the session in which their paper is to be included, and in some cases we may encourage the participants to underscore certain aspects of their paper in order to create more coherence and communal grounds for discussion in all sessions. We would also like to see as many sessions as possible with scholars from different Nordic countries and from different universities.


If you happened to be part of – or have knowledge of a bigger Nordic research project within the fields of history of education, childhood, institutions etc., please let us know. We will send out specific invitations to projects, to make sure that our third day will contain a range of difference projects that can engage in a mutual conversation. For this matter please get in touch with Ning de Coninck-Smith, Anne Katrine Gjerløff, Christian Sandberg Handsen  or Charlotte Appel


If you want to register a paper please use the link below:

%d bloggare gillar detta: