National history – just a modern invention?

History & Cultural Heritage


“This instinct to see things as unchanging blinds us to the revolutionary transformations in societies happening all around us.”,
Cultures, nations and religions are not rocks — they’re always changing, May 25, 2018 / Hans Rosling + Anna Rosling Rönnlund + Ola Rosling (

Imagine you had a time machine… You turn a spinner and you are in the Middle ages having the perspective of an average European peasant. So, let’s look through his (indeed your) eyes. You live in a small village somewhere in the middle of Europe. Well, you have just a bare idea of where you are and that’s not of much importance to you anyway. You have heard of your king and even seen him once. However, are you French, English, German, or Swiss?… Well, you don’t care much… Stunning, hm? What about your national history? Well, maybe it is not what it seems.

Here is the point where your research in the concept of a nation begins…

In this WebQuest, we will be exploring the concept of “nation” and its roots in the ideas of Enlightenment. That means that we will discover its historical origins having in mind also the cultural and philosophic backgrounds of this process.

But before that, here are a few things you will need to know:



The goal of this WebQuest is to help you discover the importance of revising the ideas you work with. Such important idea historians use as a basis for their discourse the one of a nation.

To discover the origins of this idea, you will have to explore some of the basic ideas of Enlightenment first.

The learners should work in groups of 5 to 10 people. Each one of them should explore the ideas of one of the Enlightenment thinkers and prepare a PP presentation (or other multimedia) presenting one of them to the others. The information should be well organized, factual, and well-formed. It is important to demonstrate a good level of internet and technology use. Then the group should vote for the one who has the most powerful ideas.


At this step, each learner needs to use the online resources for this Webquest and research basic ideas of the epoch of Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, lasted approximately from the latter 16th to the mid-18th century. The major characteristics of this period include an interest in natural laws, a desire to understand the world in rational terms, and the use of pure reason as a philosophy that could apply to science, politics, and economics. A powerful idea from this era was the concept of natural human rights, such as the ability for people to govern themselves. This in turn would lead to events such as the American and French Revolutions.


Watch this video: 

For further explanations, you can read these articles:

Dare to know”, (Immanuel Kant)

You are one of the leading thinkers of the Enlightenment! Use multimedia (PowerPoint, Prezi, other tools) to present your life and ideas. Be careful to present them clearly and argue why they are important. You can also use some powerful quotes and analyze their meaning.

You can use the following resources or search for additional ones:

At this stage, learners should discuss which of the thinkers impresses them most and why and then vote for one of them. They should also discuss which ideas have the most powerful impact nowadays and how they are connected to our epoch.

If you look at any map of the world you will probably see it divided by thick black lines.

They represent national boundaries. Have you ever thought about how did they appear?
Each of the learners should go through the resources and find out that such a basic notion as the one of nation is just an invention. By doing this, students will also realize that history itself is, first of all, a ‘story’, a ‘narrative’ based on ideas important for the time we live in. We have a national history just because it is an element a nation needs for its consolidation. And if national history becomes less important nowadays, that is a symptom that maybe something wrong that happens to the idea of nation itself. Anyway, let’s come back to the nation’s origins.

Below is a selection of links to websites, videos, and documents that outline the problems:

Have a look at this short article:

… and watch this video:

Perhaps, you start seeing the origins of the idea of nation in the time of Enlightenment.
Nations could not be possible if Enlightenment had not changed:

  • Our idea of space: After the age of Enlightenment space becomes homogenous. This is a fundamental prerequisite for the modern state since it struggles to include every point of its stated as homogenous territory.
  • The idea of time: Homogenous time is a prerequisite for belonging to a community in which no immediate communication is possible.
  • The role of national languages: Printed books made national languages dominant for the communities.

Have a look at the following links:

Discuss what caused the most serious cracks of the walls of Enlightenment and Nation-state and if the house will survive.


Through this webquest you experienced the fact that history often works with ideas that must be subject to constant attention, such as the one of nation. When we talk about national history, we must constantly bear in mind the fact that of applying an idea that developed in a particular time to history as a whole. We are immersed in history and we don’t have any stable point for interpreting it. In fact, times are changing and sometimes that happens even faster than we can imagine.

Finally, watch this video:

Are you also local… or global… or none of these…? Anyway, the next time when you go to a foreign country and people ask you “where do you come from?”, please, remind yourself of this webquiz and the secret origins of nations in the age of Enlightenment.



  • Presentation skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making
  • Research

In addition, learners will:

  • realize that we should be careful when we apply later ideas to times prior to them;
  • learn how to engage and collaborate with others;
  • communicate an idea by means of a debate or a role play;
  • develop a sense of confidence and belief in themselves and their ideas;
  • learn how to communicate effectively (using written and spoken word, non-verbal language, electronic tools, and listening skills).

Evaluation of learning achievements

In this section we will not dive very deep into the underlying educational theories about evaluation and testing: there’s too much out there than we could possibly cover in this small project report.

Instead, we want to concentrate on procedures that enable both students/pupils and their teachers to establish if the learning goals of the Webquest were achieved and, if so, to what extent. We recommend teachers make use of a combined evaluation procedure, that consists of:

  1. Statements by learners (after being asked to do so)
    • telling what they learned about the subject (knowledge-oriented self-evaluation): now (after going through the Webquest) I know that …
    • telling what he/she learned about herself/himself (formative evaluation, in this case, diagnostic self-evaluation): now (after going through the Webquest) I know about myself that I …
      This pair of basic statements add up to a so-called learner report, in which the pupil/student reflects on what the Webquest brought him/her in terms of acquired knowledge and new personal views and attitudes concerning the subject.

    For instance:

    • ‘I learned that in medieval times the hygiene of people was hardly a concern which helped to let epidemic diseases like the Plague cause so many casualties’ Or:
    • ‘I learned the facts and I know the earth is warming, but I cannot understand why people were so stupid to pollute the world and let it warm up so much.
    • ‘I learned from the information about diseases that this subject is more appealing to me than I would expect in advance: maybe I should consider a medical career’. Or:
      ‘The Webquests confirms what I thought already: I could not care less about the climate and global warming. In fact, I thought it was all a hoax and I still do!’

    This kind of assessment seems more subjective than it actually is: in his standard work on testing and evaluation (and much more), simply called Methodology (1974), Prof. A.D. de Groot described how consistent the student’s self-evaluations appeared to be: when asked again after 5 or 10 years, their evaluation would almost be the same. De Groot advised teachers to use the learner report as a start for joint evaluations, striving for consensus between teacher and student/pupil about the learning outcomes and their value for the learner, but also compared with the learning objectives as stated in the curriculum.

  2. The learning achievements are visible in the output produced by the students: it is physical evidence: reports, answers to questions asked in the Webquest, presentations, and performance during presentations (preferably recorded). The teacher completes an evaluation grid stating clearly what the learning outcomes for the student/pupil are. The categories in the grid can be modified by the teacher to cover more precisely the content of a Webquest.

    >We advise teachers to use the grid to start a joint evaluation discussion, aiming at consensus or at least understanding between the teacher and the student/pupil about the learning outcomes: were they achieved (as planned in the curriculum and communicated before the Webquest started) and to what extent? To communicate the learning goals clearly before any learning activity starts, is a transparency requirement that is widely acknowledged in the educational community. The history of making learning objectives explicit goes back to the evaluation ‘Bible’ by Bloom, Hastings and Madaus: ‘Handbook on formative and summative evaluation of student learning’ (1971), a standard work that also served as inspiration for the earlier mentioned Prof. De Groot.


The procedure also applies when students/pupils have worked together on a Webquest. The teacher will ask questions about individual contributions: ‘What did you find? What part did you write? How did you find the illustrations? Who made  the final presentation?’

All the evidence (of learning efforts and outcomes plus joint evaluations) is preferably stored in the learning portfolio of the student, or in any other suitable storage system (folders with written or printed documents, online collection of files, etcetera ).

Changes in personal points of view and feelings are harder to value and here the consensus between teacher and student/pupil about experiences during the learning process provides essential insights.

The grid below gives an example of how the evaluation of the learning process and achievements can be shaped: what kind of reactions to the Webquest does the teacher expect and how valuable are they? Is the teacher capable to explain the value or score allocated to answers or presentations given by pupils? Does the pupil/student understand the evaluation outcomes, and does he/she agree? If an agreement (consensus is not possible, it is still the teacher who decides how to value the student’s work.

Please note that the text in the grid addresses the pupil/student directly: this is important and it is in fact a prerequisite for using such an evaluation grid: it is specifically meant to enable a discussion of learning results between teacher and student and not to communicate learning achievements of learners to others who had no direct role in the Webquest.

Evaluation Grid

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t: +357 2466 40 40
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Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90

Funded by
sCOOL-IT erasmus logo EN

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Talk To Us

t: +357 2466 40 40
f: +357 2465 00 90

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