Post-conflict History Education Moratoria: A Balance

de Baets, A., 20-Jul-2015, In : World Studies in Education. 16, 1, p. 5-30 26 p., 1.

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This article deals with post-conflict history education moratoria: the temporary suspension of history education or its recent history segment, including its textbooks, with the aim of aligning it to the goals of a transition to peace and democracy. I present fifteen cases arranged under four types: moratoria after the defeat of the Axis powers in international war (the successor states of Nazi Germany, Anschluss Austria, Fascist Italy, and Imperialist Japan), moratoria after the implosion of communist regimes (USSR, Moldova, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina), moratoria after genocides (Cambodia, Rwanda, and Guatemala), and moratoria after racial, ethnic and religious conflicts (South Africa, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq). The analytical part starts with the basic question of whether the period of recent violence should be taught at all: I argue that this is a state duty, any suspension of which cannot but be temporary. After a brief exploration of the distribution over time of the moratoria, I discuss the moratoria brokers (the executive and legislative branches of government) as well as the pressures from below (civil society) and above (international intervention). Seven types of reasons typically used to justify moratoria are then weighed: politics, didactics, legacy, practice, safety, reconciliation and the passage of time. Next, the crucial question is tackled of how long moratoria lasted and how long they ought to last: I argue that wholesale moratoria should last no longer than five years and that meanwhile sound interim materials should be prepared. By way of conclusion, the relationship between moratoria, forgetting and democracy is explored. Truly democratic moratoria are part of mediation-induced, not censorship-induced strategies of social forgetting. Five conditions decide this: a legal framework, an explicit and short time span, a public debate, the effective preparation of new materials, and unimpeded academic historical research. They help define under which regime of restrictions post-conflict history education moratoria are justified in a democratic society.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)5-30
Number of pages26
JournalWorld Studies in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20-Jul-2015


  • democracy; history education; history textbooks; human rights; moratoria; peace agreements; post-conflict; reconciliation; social forgetting; transitional justice

ID: 22053569