Identity and instrumentality: History in the Scottish school curriculum, 1992-2017

Joseph Peter Smith


This paper explores changes in the Scottish history curriculum over the last quarter-century and interprets these in the context of wider debates about Scottish nationhood. By comparing the framing of history within Scotland’s two national curriculum documents of this period (5-14 Guidelines and Curriculum for Excellence) it is argued that an implicit narrative of national identity has emerged. This curricular nationalism is not the nationalism of separatism, but rather of a national sense of self which informs both how the past is viewed, and Scotland’s future relationship with the world. The paper develops this contention using concepts proposed from Arnott and Ozga (2010)regarding an ‘inward-facing’ discourse of heritage and citizenship and the ‘outward-facing’ discourse of employability and global competitiveness While this emergent curricular nationalism has paralleled growing support for self-determination, the paper does not posit a causal relationship between the two. Instead it implies that both are consequences of the discursive spaces opened by devolution and the recreation of the Scottish parliament in 1999.


History Education; History Curriculum; Nationalism

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Historical Encounters is a double blind peer-reviewed, open access, interdisciplinary journal dedicated to the empirical and theoretical study of historical consciousness, historical cultures, and history education.

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