Analysing historical enquiry in school history textbooks


  • Pranitha Bharath University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa
  • Carol Bertram University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa



Historical enquiry, Historical thinking, History textbooks, South Africa, Sources, Multi-perspective approach


According to the South African curriculum, two of the aims of learning history are to learn the process of historical enquiry and to understand historical concepts such as the use of historical sources and examining evidence. This paper explores how a sample of seven social science South African textbooks uses historical sources to enable learners to learn the process of historical enquiry. The findings show that there were no primary sources presented in the Grade 3 – 6 textbooks, although there were many generic pictures and texts. There is an increase in the number and use of sources in the Grade 7 to Grade 9 textbooks, but issues of contextualisation and lack of provenance remain a challenge to the process of developing historical thinking. ‘Pseudo sources’ (a picture or text recreated to look like a primary source) and generic sources of information do not support historical thinking. The multi-perspective approach, which means understanding the diverse ways of interpreting the same event, is poorly developed in the lower grade textbooks but became more evident in the Grade 9 books. Thus, specialised procedural knowledge is only introduced to learners in Grade 9, suggesting that the primary school textbooks analysed in this study are not fully supporting the aims of the official history curriculum.


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How to Cite

Bharath, P., & Bertram, C. (2018). Analysing historical enquiry in school history textbooks. Perspectives in Education, 36(1), 145–161.



Research articles