Historiana, the site of the European Association of History Educators, better known as EuroClio, was started in the early 2000s and as of 2013 materials were beginning to be made available online. It is funded by the European Union and Europeana, a clearing house of European archives, libraries, and museums. It provides a range of materials for educators of European History in the context of the world developments. As an ongoing site, it is periodically updated. Its distinctive focus of placing visual images – as primary sources -- some with brief and very usable written primary sources -- at the center of curricula instruction is an important educational one. Its creators’ description is as follows: “Historiana might be considered as a digital alternative to a European textbook, however the website does not attempt to present a comprehensive ‘story of Europe’ and its relationship with the rest of the world. It offers a framework for comparing and contrasting the impact on and responses by Europe’s nations to a range of different events and developments which have shaped the world from the distant past to modern times.”
Yes, one can find a plethora of fascinating source materials – organized under the link “Historical Content” – as well as related teaching lessons – organized under the link “Teaching & Learning”. While most material is in English, there is also material in other languages. The source collections cover material from a range of historical periods – from Greek history to modern history and yet the most of the material is on 19th and 20th century European history. Under “Teaching & Learning links one funds both in-class, as well as online methods. As an interactive site, educators can use the material to create their teaching methods as is explained with the E-Activity Builder.
An intriguing way to have students grapple with multiple perspectives and to think critically about the use of images is the following E-Learning Activity: What Would You Change to a Painting, If You Wanted to Please A Different Audience? In which students are asked to look carefully at the Jan Willem Pienemann’s The Battle of Waterloo and answer questions as to why a British audience would like it and then what would one do differently for a French audience. The activity works well as a warm-up activity to class on the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, as well as even to its place in the world of the early 19th century. A source collection that could be useful on this same theme would be: Contemporaries Views of Napoleon in which 15 divergent views (images with brief summaries) of Napoleon’s supporters and opponents are presented. Other source collections are considerably longer with useful subsections – such as the one of World War One In Wider Perspective.
While the site has a large number of materials, educators might find using it somewhat challenging. Some of the links are not clearly defined – under Historical Content, it is not immediately clear what the differences are between Key Moments, Units, Source Collections, and/or Viewpoints. Its large range of materials show the interests of the developers without a clear focus and lacks a clear index as to what one can find on the site. Yet when one takes the time to look carefully, educators will clearly find ideas, materials, and/or lessons that are not readily available elsewhere. In the current age of more and more digital learning, the e-learning activities are undoubtedly a brilliant way to achieve higher level thinking in the classroom. The focus on visual literacy is particularly crucial for learners at all levels.
James A. Diskant, Ph.D, a historian of modern German History, is a retired high school history and government teacher. From 2001 to 2017 he taught at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Boston, Massachusetts, where he taught courses in world and big history, as well as in government and in research methods. As the author of student-based curricula, he had been an active member of history and pedagogical associations, including the World History Association and the National Council for the Studies, where he led workshops for teachers. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany and is an active member of EuroClio’s History and Learning Team.