School of Humanities



Reinhard Kuehnel


Start date

Feb 2008

Submission date

Feb 2012

Reinhard Kuehnel


Beyond the National – Analysing Approaches to Transnational History in Western Australian and New South Wales Secondary Schools between 1978 and 2007


The aim of this thesis is to identify the influences affecting the construction of transnational histories in Western Australian and New South Wales secondary schools between 1978 and 2007. By focusing on how transnational histories are constructed in Australian school syllabi this study contributes a new perspective to the existing research on school history, which, over the last few decades, has focused on the representation of national histories in schools and pedagogical reforms in history education. At the core of this thesis is a case study comparing two Australian states with different education policies in general and different approaches to history education in particular. It investigates to what extent these different local authorities have responded to broader international and global notions of transnational history in schools.

Overall, this study describes how state and national forces that impact on secondary school history and the content of history syllabi, interact with transnational ideas and concepts. For that purpose it uses the term transnational in two ways. First, the study defines all non-Australian history as transnational history. Second, it introduces the theoretical concept of a transnational cultural power impacting on cultural practices such as the teaching of history. It follows that this study examines interactions between the transnational history in syllabi and the transnational influences on syllabus content. At the beginning of the thesis, secondary school history is not only contextualised with Australia’s socio-political and economic developments but also with national education policies. Based on these contexts, the subsequent investigation of the evolution of history teaching moves towards a focus on transnational cultural influences as it discusses how pedagogic innovations from overseas have impacted on and been adopted in Australian reforms to history teaching.

The actual core investigation is organised into two steps and is concerned with Western Australia and New South Wales. In the first step, it examines how teachers, academics, and education administrators have reflected on the treatment of different world regions in schools. The second step is the analysis of syllabi that is based on a methodological framework derived from textbook research because this thesis argues that curricula, as do textbooks, belong to the same group of pedagogic history texts even though their appearances differ greatly. Applying this methodology, the analysis of upper school history syllabi systematically deconstructs Asian, European, American, and African histories as well as approaches to transnational events such as the two World Wars. Syllabi are the main source on which the findings in this thesis are based.

This thesis concludes that the histories of different world regions constructed for upper school syllabi in Western Australia and New South Wales reflect only to a certain extent, specifically Australian views of transnational history. Hence, this thesis proposes that there are connections between powerful transnational notions of history and locally produced transnational histories that are contained in history syllabi. As the findings indicate, these links between local syllabi and trans-local cultural power are forms of cultural globalisation.

Why my research is important

My thesis introduces a new perspective on school history and cultural globalisation. In particular, my research explores the ways the contents of history curricula are affected by what can be called processes of cultural globalisation.


  • 1.) Endeavour International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS)
  • 2.) University Postgraduate Award
  • 3.) Research Scholarship of the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (GEI Forschungsstipendium)
  • 4.) UWA Completion Scholarship