Primary Sources In Swedish And Australian History Textbooks

IJHLTR Article

By Heather Sharp, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia; Niklas Ammert, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden, published 8th June 2017

A comparative analysis of representations of Vietnam’s Kim Phuc

International Journal of Historical Learning, Teaching and Research [IJHLTR], Volume 14, Number 2 – Spring/Summer 2017

ISSN: 14472-9474


This article compares primary sources used in Swedish and Australian school History textbooks on the topic of the Vietnam War. The focus is on analysing representations of Kim Phuc, the young girl who was infamously chemically burnt with napalm. Applying an approach that incorporates Habermas’ three knowledge types, this article focuses on student questions and activities in relation to how sources are treated in textbooks. The article uses a case study approach to conduct a comparison between how, and if, Swedish and Australian textbooks engage students through questions and activities directly connected with the use of primary sources. Findings suggest that current textbook approaches could incorporate a greater variety of questions with differing knowledge types, to use images more consistently beyond illustrative purposes, and to structure activities that require students to compare and contrast two or more primary sources. 


The impact of current democratic political instability in many nations, including a harking back to an unidentifiable bygone era as is alleged of some in conservative politics in countries such as the US, Australia, and the UK1 cannot be ignored. A rejection of two-party political systems is also occurring with electoral repercussions in nations, such as Australia, that are not used to minor parties having substantial political control...

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