Guillaume Le Quintrec



Born in 1962, and an alumnus of France’s prestigious school for teachers and researchers (l’Ecole Normale Supérieure) with a degree in history, Guillaume Le Quintrec teaches preparatory classes  in history (two to four years of study preceding the admissions tests for France’s most competitive universities) at Paris’s Lycée Fenelon. Editor of a series of books from publisher Editions Nathan, he also publishes history textbooks for high school curricula in France. He was co-editor of the first Franco-German history textbook, which was published by Nathan and Kent.




1. The adventure of the first Franco-German history textbook

Requested in 2003 by the Franco-German Youth Parliament and given a boost by Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder, the Franco-German textbook came out on both sides of the Rhine in 2006.  This publication represented the first time that a communal history program for two separate countries had been proposed.  The textbook itself was written by a bi-national editorial team. Of course, several decades of political cooperation paved the way for such an event. The French and German historians had few basic difficulties in working together. Problems arose where they were least expected: in pedagogy. In fact French and German historians are telling the same story, but they aren’t telling it in the same way! It became necessary, then, to bring the two different teaching traditions into closer harmony.


2. The United States in French school books

What is the place reserved for the history of the United States in French educational programs? The American domestic policy is no longer studied in and of itself. French students only get fragments of it, through studying the Depression years in the 1930s (the New Deal is seen as an example of anti-crisis policy) or the Cold War (consequences and their causes in relation to the “American model” are analyzed).

On the other hand, the role of the United States in the world since 1945 is widely studied in the texts of students in their senior year. A recent pamphlet has affirmed that French textbooks circulate a fundamental anti-Americanism. The reality is not so simple, even if the recently published Franco-German textbook has allowed for the observation that the Germans find the French to be very anti-American.


3. The political stakes of school texts

National identity is still an ideological construct, and historians have always played a political role, particularly through the writing of school textbooks. Confusion between history and the “nation’s novel” reigns even today in numerous countries. Textbooks are thus at the heart of heated national discussion (the Armenian question in Turkey) and even international ones (the reception accorded certain Japanese textbooks in China or Korea, for example). In France, there have been lively debates, for example, over how the textbooks treat certain subjects like colonization and the slave trade, debates in which history and memory have sometimes been confused. On the international level, the Franco-German textbook is one of the first examples of getting beyond the national view, in order to approach a “European” history.


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