Women in history textbooks - What message does this send to the youth?03 July 2012
History textbooks, like all textbooks, play an important role in the facilitation of learning. They act as vehicles by means of which past knowledge legitimated by government and related authorities, as contained in the curriculum, is presented to school-going youth. Textbooks are by nature powerful and authoritative because they are approved by government and other authorities. As a result, school-going youth are likely to consider the way women and men are portrayed in history textbooks as unquestionable and historically truthful. Having reported on findings of empirical studies on women in history textbooks from, amongst others, Taiwan; the United States; the United Kingdom; Russia and South Africa, we conclude that women are underrepresented, misrepresented and marginalised in history textbooks. Women are portrayed as historically unimportant and incapable, contributing little to society outside of the domestic sphere. We furthermore argue that this type of portrayal sends powerful messages to the youth about men and women in history and in contemporary society.