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Only history can penetrate under the surface of our present educational system; only history can analyse it; […] only history, in a word, can brin us to the long chain of causes and effects of which it is the result

Émile Durkheim

Many educational problems have deep roots in the past, and many solutions have been tried before. If some ”new” ideas have already been tried, and many have, why not see how they fared in the past?

David Tyack ochLarry Cuban

There used to be an official called the ‘Remembrance”. The title was actually a euphemism for debt collector. The official’s job was to remind people of what they would have liked to forget. One of the most important functions of the historian is to be a remembrancer.

Peter Burke

Two objectives

The graduate school “Schooling in perspective: A graduate school in applied history of education” has two objectives. The first is to develop a research field that will promote teacher educators’ ability to analyze how history is directly involved in our contemporary educational system on the basis of current educational issues. In order to be able to orient teacher students in today’s school system, whether it be learning, social relationships, evaluation or the school system organization, teacher educators require the ability to put such questions in a historical perspective, and understand the role that our interpretation of school history plays in our perception of these issues. This has probably never been more important than today, when narratives about the school’s crisis and declining academic standards are reproduced in public debate with little or no grounding in a historical reality.

The second objective of this graduate school is to make a fundamental contribution to the international field of history of education by further developing the field of applied history of education. Both goals will be achieved by focusing on three themes that are fundamental to our understanding of education at a time of globalization, intensified reform pressure and debate about the ideological content of schooling:

  1. Education in debates and historical narratives
  2. The history of the school system and school reforms
  3. Education in an international and transnational perspective.

With the aim of developing the understanding of the current situation of education, the focus of this graduate school will be on the development of the last decades in the school field. PhD-project may cover preschools, primary or secondary level.

Thus, within this general orientation, a wide range of current topics are possible including, for example, studies of teachers’ changed status and work environment, inclusion, digitization, private schools, the development of early childhood education, the role of international organizations and the formation of educational science research, the impact of educational ideas in the post-war period, minority schooling, the regional development of the school system, the history of school discipline and school crises. Of great interest to this graduate school are also studies from a student perspective, questions about the school’s everyday life and the material. Both the microhistory of a student, teacher or politician – as well as the macrohistory are of interest to this graduate school.

An Applied History of Education

With applied educational history we mean a historical analysis with immediate relevance to contemporary educational issues.

In recent years, the usefulness of history has received increased attention, not least through the global impact of Thomas Piketty’s economic-historical work, as well as in a series of white paper projects where historical studies have been used to investigate issues of historical justice (Lindmark & Sundström, 2018). Our graduate school intends to transfer these experiences of an applied history to the field of education, to launch applied history of education as an important strand in educational history and the educational sciences. The idea of a useful educational history research is not new (Aldrich 1988; Spencer, 2018), but has remained debated (Depaepe, 2010) and has therefore not yet been carried out on any significant scale. Because of its size, this graduate school has a unique potential to make a significant international impression through the promotion of applied history of education.

The great, and thus far untapped, potential of this research strand is based on the fact that everyone who wants to develop the school (teacher educators, politicians, teachers etc.) is bound to history, partly because both they and the school are the product of historical development, partly because our interpretations of the past always form the basis for our decisions about the future, whether we are aware of it or not (Tyack & Cuban, 1995).

Based on the discussion of applied history (Stearns & Tarr, 1981; Tosh, 2008; Diptee 2018), we acknowledge this dual role of the past, and define applied education history as a historical analysis with immediate relevance to contemporary educational issues (Tosh, 2008). Applied history of education does, consequently, not intend merely to provide a historical background, but an analysis that (i) takes its point of departure in vital contemporary educational issues, and (ii) analyzes how history is involved in today’s educational system. In this way, this graduate school intends to create a historical analysis that is directly useful in discussions about contemporary education.

Organization and International Reference Group

This graduate school is a collaborative effort that includes history of education research groups at four universities in Sweden: Örebro, Stockholm, Uppsala and Umeå. It is managed by a steering group directed by prof. Johannes Westberg, consisting of prof. Joakim Landahl, prof. Anna Larsson, prof. Esbjörn Larsson and prof. Daniel Lindmark.

The graduate school is also supported by an international reference group that current has the following members: prof. Marcelo Caruso (Humboldt, Berlin); prof. Christian Ydesen och prof. Mette Buchardt (Ålborg;); Prof. Merethe Roos (Universitetet i Sørøst-Norge); prof. Stephanie Spencer (Winchester ); assistant prof. Gabriele Cappelli (University of Siena); prof. Eckhardt Fuchs (Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research i Braunschweig); prof. Ian Grosvenor (Birmingham); Associate prof. Anna Clark (Sydney); Dr. Michael Geiss (Zürich).


  • Aldrich, R. (2014). In search of ‘time-tested truths’: historical perspectives on educational administration. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 46(2), 220-233
  • Burke, P. (1997). Varieties of cultural history. Oxford: Polity
  • Cuban, L. (1998). How schools change reforms: redefining reform success and failure. Teachers College Record, 99(3), 453-477
  • Depaepe, M. (2010). The Ten Commandments of Good Practices in History of Education Research. Zeitschrift für pädagogische Historiographie, 16, 31-49
  • Diptee, A. A. (2018). The problem of modern-day slavery: is critical applied history the answer? Slavery & Abolition, 39(2), 405-428
  • Landahl, J., & Lundahl, C. (2017). Bortom PISA. Stockholm: Natur & kultur
  • Larsson, A. (Ed.) (2016). Medier i historie-undervisningen: historiedidaktisk forskning i praktiken. Umeå: Umeå universitet
  • Lindmark, D., & Sundström, O. (2018). The Sami and the Church of Sweden: results from a white paper project (Möklinta: Gidlunds förlag
  • Stearns, P. N., & Tarr, J. A. (1981). Applied History: A New-Old Departure. The History Teacher, 14(4), 517-531
  • Tosh, J. (2008). Why history matters. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan; Vinterek, M., & Lindmark, D. (2016). Forskarskolors bidrag till akademi och skola: Intentioner och erfarenheter. In U. Claesson & D. Åhman (Eds.), Kulturell reproduktion i skola och nation: En vänbok till Lars Petterson (pp. 269-293). Möklinta: Gidlund.

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