The Second World War in Polish history textbooks: narratives and networks from 1989 to 2015
Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis
1989 was the year when Polish history textbooks were freed from the control of the communist state. It was also the time when Pandora’s Box was opened and diverse but often conflicting memories and narratives were released into the public sphere. They were promoted not only by domestic but also transnational actors and international organisations. So far the relationship between textbook narratives and networks of actors who influenced textbook production in postcommunist Poland has not been studied. Hence, this thesis investigates how textbook narratives evolved between 1989 and 2015 and which institutions and individuals influenced the process of narrative production, and how. While chapter one presents the methodology used, chapter two sketches textbook development in the context of the politics of history, changing procedural arrangements for textbook production and the evolving textbook publishing market. Textbook narrative analysis, presented in chapter three, illuminates how the representation of the Second World War - especially the images of Poles, Germans, Jews and Soviets - transformed. Chapter four analyses the actors that influenced history textbook narratives. It shows how Solidarity members, who had opposed communist narratives of history in the 1980s, took over key positions within state institutions in 1989 and created their own narratives about the war. In the following years, textbook narrative polyphony rather than one united narrative existed, especially in textbooks produced after a 1999 education reform. Yet this narrative polyphony did not last long. When another reform was implemented in 2009, nationalist-conservatives were in conflict with liberal conservatives, aligned with the then governing Civic Platform party. Only narratives of liberal-conservatives found their way into textbooks.