Unintended Revelations in History Textbooks: The Precarious Authenticity and Historical Continuity of the Slovak Nation

  • Jana Sulikova


Purpose: This article proposes an analytical framework that helps to identify and challenge misconceptions of ethnocentrism found in pre-tertiary teaching resources for history and the social sciences in numerous countries.

Design: Drawing on nationalism studies, the analytical framework employs ideas known under the umbrella terms of primordialism, constructivism and ethno-symbolism. In applying it, the conceptualisation of the Slovak nation, as presented in the history textbooks currently used in lower secondary schools in Slovakia, is examined as a case study.

Findings: A conceptually inconsistent picture emerges from the findings, displaying prevailing patterns of primordialism and a degree of ethno-symbolism. Nevertheless, the article concludes that history textbooks lend, on a number of occasions, unintended support to constructivism. Hence, both this inconsistency in theoretical approach, and frequent use of problematic assumptions based on primordialism and ethno-symbolism show that the attempts of textbooks’ authors to demonstrate the authenticity and historical continuity of the Slovak nation remain precarious.

Research implications: The analytical framework used in this article is well-suited for multi-country examinations of national narratives in curricula and textbooks of history and the social sciences.

Practical implications: Teaching materials and pedagogic approaches drawing on constructivism could enhance critical engagement with ethnocentrism in Slovakia and beyond.