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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Images of Poland in Germany in the Late 18th and the 19th Centuries: Precondition of Colonial Power Relations?


Introduction to the Module

The starting point for the module is the awareness of Postcolonial Studies that colonialism has to be perceived not only as relations based on exploitation and power, but also on the knowledge systems shaping and representing these relationships. The example of Poland is used to examine whether this finding is also valid for the relations between Western and Eastern Europe. To test this, the module focuses on the analysis of two texts, in which the German image of Poland as an unorganized country is shown paradigmatically and, in one case (Source 2: Gustav Freytag), with an enormous impact.

Concretely, the module is about the depiction of stereotypical images of the Polish used in order to legitimize the partitions of and rule over the country. Taking this into account, it is the aim of the module to examine whether Germany’s relation to Poland can be compared to the relations of European powers to their overseas colonies, specifically whether 19th-century Poland could be classified as a European semi-periphery. This term describes a region which is considered to be part of the European centre and which defined/defines itself strongly in relatedness to this centre, but nonetheless can be conceptualized in strong dependence on a hegemonic (Western) Europe.

The text by Georg Forster (1754–1794), an explorer of nature, writer and a revolutionary from the times of “Storm and Stress”, was created in the time between the first and the second partitions...

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