Education, War and Peace

Mark Freeman, Tom Woodin and Susannah Wright

As editors of the journal History of Education, we are pleased to welcome you to our first virtual special issue (VSI). We are grateful to Taylor and Francis for the opportunity to bring these previously published articles together in a VSI, and we are pleased that other journals published by Taylor and Francis are also represented here.

This VSI is on the theme ‘Education, War and Peace’, reflecting the theme of the International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE), which takes place at the Institute of Education, University of London, in July 2014. This conference will feature more than 500 papers from countries across the world, and will be one of the largest conferences of its kind ever held. The History of Education Society has taken a leading role in the ISCHE conference, and it is particularly suitable that the Society’s journal marks a new era of VSIs in association with it. The theme of the conference reflects the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, and many of the papers at ISCHE will examine the impact of that conflict on educational institutions, policy and practice.

The conference, however, ranges well beyond the First World War: there are papers on everything from Confucius and peace education, to nineteenth-century Chile, Nigeria and the United States, to the Scout movement in Turkey and education and youth policy after the Anders Breivik attack in Norway. A wide range is also evident among the articles that we showcase in this VSI. Indeed, ‘education for peace’ is as important as ‘education for war’, and many of the papers at ISCHE focus on attempts to foster peace and international understanding in classrooms and informal educational settings.

There are four sub-themes of the ISCHE conference, and the articles in this VSI are arranged according to them. We hope that our existing and new readers enjoy this VSI. We are committed to undertaking more ventures of this kind in future years.

Education, War and Peace VSI Introduction

An introduction to the Education, War and Peace themed Virtual Special Issue from Mark Freeman of the journal History of Education.

VSI Audio Intro Education War and Peace 2014

Education For War

First, ‘education for war’. This considers the role of education in preparing for war and promoting it, and education within and around the armed services themselves. Here we include, for example, an article by Jim Beach on soldier education in the British Army: Beach examines the competing justifications for soldier education, and identifies a ‘utilitarian drift’ since the 1960s. Taking a long view across the twentieth century, Beach traces a longstanding tension between liberal and utilitarian approaches to soldier education, something that scholars might also identify elsewhere: there is clearly much more research to be done in this area, as Beach notes. Other articles in this section examine the relationship between education and the military in various ways. Chris Brickell, for example, considers the role of education in New Zealand’s armed forces, relating it to conceptions of citizenship and the ‘rehabilitation’ of military personnel to civilian life.

Education For Peace

The second sub-theme of the ISCHE conference is ‘education for peace’, represented here by a series of articles on education for internationalism, considering in particular the role of UNESCO in the aftermath of the Second World War. Two articles examine UNESCO in particular, while the interwar period is represented by Jehnie Reis and Katarina Leppänen. Reis’s subject is the Cité Universitaire in Paris, created in the 1920s to foster cultural internationalism and to host foreign students. Tensions were also apparent in this institution, in this case between the aims of international education and the competition between France and Germany for pre-eminence in educational ideas, reflecting the ongoing struggle for scientific supremacy between the nations. Leppänen identifies similar controversies at the Nordic school for adult education in Geneva during the 1930s, though here the tensions were between competing visions of internationalism. These articles, together with others in this section of the VSI, usefully remind us that ‘education for peace’ is no less contestable as an idea than ‘education for war’; there is no doubt that more critical investigation of peace and international education will pay dividends for scholars, especially in light of the recent ‘transnational turn’ in historical research.

The Impact of War on Education

As its third sub-theme, the ISCHE 2014 conference takes ‘the impact of war on education’. There are, perhaps, more papers at the conference on this sub-theme than any other, and it is represented in this VSI by an eclectic group of articles, all of which deal with the twentieth-century world wars. Kevin Myers looks at the impact of the large influx of Belgian refugees into Britain on educational structures and institutions, and the accommodations made by schools and the population at large. Like many other scholars, Myers emphasises the difficulty of recovering the experiences of schoolchildren themselves, although he does manage to offer some insights into the ways in which Belgian children responded to the differences between British school environments and the ones that they had been accustomed to. A very different perspective on education and the First World War is provided by James Muckle, who explores the impact of the war – and other developments of the period – on Russian language education in Britain. Although the numbers and resources involved in this area of educational life remained very small, the importance of these developments in the context of the 1917 revolutions and the subsequent history of Anglo-Russian relations is evident. The articles in this section reflect the multiple, and often unpredictable, ways in which war can affect education.

Representations of War and Peace

The final sub-theme of the conference – and of the VSI – is ‘representations of war and peace’: this can be in textbooks, museums, literature or any other area of cultural life. In particular, a fertile area of research that is showcased at ISCHE 2014 concerns the content of textbooks, often as they have represented the conduct and outcome of earlier wars. It is very likely that we will see a considerable growth of publication on this theme in the coming years. The articles in this section of the VSI illustrate the potential that this area of research has to offer insights not only into the history of education, but also into the ways in which the past has been used by a variety of actors to influence the ways in which people, communities and nations behave in the present.