Reflections on History Teaching

The teaching of History stands out for marked changes in its school trajectory that characterized it, until recently, as a mnemonic study of a past created to sediment a white and Christian origin, presented by a chronological succession of accomplishments from “great men” to a “new” discipline constituted under methodological paradigms that seek to incorporate the multiplicity of subjects that build the Brazilian nation and world history. In Brazil, school history, under different denominations, Universal History or History of Civilization, History of Brazil or National History…, are indicative of a path of change in terms of objectives, contents, and educational practices from the 19th century to the present day.

The recent transformations of History have been confirmed by recent researches, and they face constant challenges to become effective, such as the inclusion of the history of Africa and Afro-Brazilian culture, the history of indigenous peoples, or women. The transformations in the teaching of History have provided important debates related to epistemological and historiographic problems, but also regarding the meaning of its insertion and rejection in national and international curricular projects (Monteiro, 2014; Bittencourt, 2018).

Source: Congada in 1860. Photography ordered by Emperor Dom Pedro II, 18 x 24 cm.

Historians from different countries have also analyzed the changes that have taken place in the teaching of History, such as the French historian François Furet, who considered its presence in Western curricula from the 19th century onwards, as it was the discipline that provided the “sense of human progress” and it also attributed a pedagogical importance for being the “family tree of European nations and the civilization they carry” (Furet, 1986, p.135).

For Canadian historian Christian Laville, the teaching of History in the post-World War II period, with a victory for democracy in most Western countries, became a discipline aligned with the primary function of training for participatory citizenship and, in this perspective, should “develop (in students) the intellectual and effective capacities necessary for this form of democratic political construction” (Laville, 1999, p.152).

And Laville also found that this trend, in terms of the objectives of teaching history, extended to almost all other European, American and Asian countries during the final decades of the twentieth century. A school history conceived as “citizen’s pedagogy” remains in 21st century curricula as an important educational tool for the exercise of democracy, but in confrontation with the new trends of a technical education whose priority is to form “the citizen of the world global capitalist” under new forms of individualism subjected to the rhythms of the digital world (Crary, 2014).

Studies on History in Brazilian schools show that this discipline had its trajectory subject to confrontations similar to those in European countries, but, of course, under specific conditions given the problems arising from a complex educational policy that has kept Brazilian society in constant dispute for a education that can effectively be extended to the group of children and young people in the country.

And such disputes also occur in the school space by communities of people who compete and collaborate with each other, defining their epistemological boundaries, as well as conferring a certain identity to their respective disciplines or fields of study. Based on the listed issues, this reflection is based on a conception of school education as a field of constant tension between power and empowerment, as explained by David Hamilton and, in this condition, situates the constitution of school history articulated with curricular trends in the confrontation between classical humanities, modern humanities and scientific humanities (Chervel; Compère, 1999) and the contradictory instructional technological referential of the “knowledge society” (Hamilton, 2002).


HAMILTON, D. A virada instrucional. Da dialética à didática. Texto de trabalho.
_. O revivescimento da aprendizagem? Educação & Sociedade, Campinas, v.23, n.78, p.1-9, abr. 2002.

MONTEIRO, A. M. et al. (Org.) Pesquisa em Ensino de História. Entre desafios epistemológicos e apostas políticas. Rio de Janeiro: Mauad: Faperj, 2014.

FURET, F. A oficina da História. Trad. Adriano D. Rodrigues. Lisboa: Gradiva, 1986.

LAVILLE, C. A guerra das narrativas: debates e ilusões em torno do ensino de História. Revista Brasileira de História, São Paulo, v.19, n.38, p.125-38, 1999.

CRARY, J. 24/7: capitalismo tardio e os fins do sono. São Paulo: Cosac Naif, 2014.

CHERVEL, A.; COMPERE, M.-M. As humanidades no ensino. Educacão e Pesquisa. São Paulo, v.25, n.2, p.149-70, jul./dez. 1999.

Latest news
Related news


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here