10 questions for Steven Stegers, Senior Manager of EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators

Xavier Alcalde
Coordinator at the International Catalan Institute for Peace (ICIP)

Steven Stegers

We are talking to Steven Stegers, from the European Association of History Educators. He has contributed to projects that promote history in an innovative and responsible way, as well as state education in the Balkans, the Caucasus, in Central Europe and in the Euro-Mediterranean region. He is also the general coordinator of Historiana, an educational programme about European history and heritage ( He has a degree in Social and Organisational Psychology from the Leiden University and has carried out research in the History Department of Georgetown University in Washington D.C.


EUROCLIO is a network of history educators.  We use the term "educator" because it is a broader term.  In fact, it includes all teaching about the past, whether formal, informal or non-formal, in schools, universities etc. It includes teachers, but also historians. It is an international not-for-profit non-governmental organisation.

This year you are celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the network. What have been the biggest challenges and what achievements are you particularly proud of?

When the Berlin Wall fell it became apparent that it was necessary to re-think history and education. We started with 14 national associations and this has been growing gradually to what is now a platform of almost 50 associations. In Western Europe it was often necessary to empower the national networks of history educators, but often in Eastern Europe we have had to facilitate the creation of these networks, because they did not exist. Regarding specific projects, one of the most successful has been in the Balkans. We worked with history teachers from Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and we produced common textbooks that we translated into local languages and that today are used in the three countries.

Regarding challenges, it is always more difficult to create a network than raise funds for specific projects. In the case of history, it is also a very sensitive subject that is often overly politicised. Despite this, the need for a network like EUROCLIO is not always obvious and often it is necessary to educate in order to explain the importance of promoting a critical spirit when discovering and evaluating the past. 

Which tools have the greatest power to improve the effectiveness of the teaching of history?

We are great supporters of new technologies. We have created our own 'Historiana' methodology, which has been a great help in thinking of new narratives. However, the use of the internet for the teaching of history can have a negative effect if we only use it to simplify the facts, just leaving a few dates and a few people's names while losing sight of the context and giving a sensation of a false linearity that history never has. In general, we always advise moving away from the narrative and encouraging students to go to primary sources, to search for evidence and to see that there is more than one truth.  That is when they will be able to create their own interpretations. The key is to ask the right questions and to be able to connect local history with world history. In this sense, we are also committed to interdisciplinarity, including language learning for example, as an essential aspect in order to understand history. 

How can EUROCLIO be useful in developing a perspective of peace in the teaching of history?

We enjoy cooperating with the peace movement and we make this clear in our mission statement. From the moment we become interested in focusing on societies with a divisive past and unsettled histories, we believe that we are working for peace. Also, as a network we get to know the people that deal with this issue in each country and we can contact anyone who is interested. Our projects help to build trust and facilitate dialogue.

When working in multicultural contexts and considering that your objective is to produce materials that can be used by educators from different countries, what is your linguistic policy?

In theory we work in the dominant languages that are, de facto, international bridge languages in the areas where we work. That is, in English and sometimes in Russian.  However, we always try to translate everything into the local languages. In short, we are respectful of minority languages but we try to remember the importance of language as a tool for communication. In this sense, language is a criterion when selecting participants for a specific project.

What is the role of the student in this network?

Students are the central figures, given that we encourage them to search for sources and to find their own interpretations of the facts. We are also very interested in their reactions to pilot projects. We also do academic exchanges and in general we do not make any difference between educator and student. For example, lots of the people who work in the secretary's office at EUROCLIO are university students studying doctorates in history. Therefore, this is a field where both perspectives overlap, creating a more enriching environment than if they were separate.

In that sense, how do you see the relationship between historians and history teachers?

We understand that these are different groups but that an overlap exists and should exist. That is, most historians work as history teachers and most history teachers are historians. If historians specialise in creating textbooks without educational experience, they may be too far removed from students' reality. However, if history teachers are not up-to-date with the latest research, they may not be offering the best quality in their work. Therefore, they are groups that should work together. At an official level, we have a very good relationship with the International Students of History Association.  At EUROCLIO we try to reduce this distance and that is why we include historians in history educators.

Do you believe that there is sufficient communication between history educators and educators for peace?

My answer would have to be no. But also with those who work for solidarity, human rights, sustainable development and other similar disciplines.  It pains me to admit that often there is a certain competition between similar perspectives, which should cooperate much more. However, we also believe that we are on the right track. The fact that an institution like the ICIP want to talk about this issue is a very positive sign.

What advice would you give to young history graduates who wish to include perspectives for peace in their classes?

I would tell them to try not to promote one sole view of history and to search for diversity; showing that history is always complex and therefore they should always leave room so that students can form their own opinions. I would tell them to avoid reductionist interpretations and to avoid victims against perpetrators the way we do, and to try to help students understand this complexity. It is clearly different educating for peace in a post-conflict environment than in a society that is still in the middle of a violent conflict. In any case, I do not believe that history can be neutral or objective, and in view of the dangers of the instrumentalisation of history I consider that its teaching is not value-free, something which should be explained to students. 

Where do you see EUROCLIO in twenty years?

I would like us to have consolidated the network even more. I can see that there is an increasing global trend compared to Europe and this is positive, because it means we are becoming less and less Eurocentric. We are also becoming more recognised by institutions such as the European Commission and some ministries for education. I believe that EUROCLIO will improve its visibility and therefore we will be able to help national networks of history educators that try to promote the teaching of history from a critical perspective.