Currently, throughout Europe, various forms of nationalism are sprouting, as if decades of peaceful European cooperation had never existed. History education is looking on helplessly. Instead of providing students with the ability to orient to a future that is historically undefined, which is neither good nor bad, educational ministries are succumbing either to national hullaballoo (the UK and the Netherlands) or to curricular cluelessness (Switzerland, Germany). The future is not regarded as an opportunity for the present but, instead, almost exclusively as a threat. In other words: since the reorganization of Europe into a community of states in 1989, history education has lost its future. The past is used instrumentally for the present or is regarded only for its own sake.
Is patriotism alive? Does it influence citizens’ historical representations? As for many other issues, George Orwell, during WW II, was lucidly able to anticipate its importance when he said: “One cannot see the modern world as it is, unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances, it may crumble; at certain levels of civilization, it does not exist; yet as a positive force, there is nothing comparable. Next to it, Christianity and international socialism are weak as hay.”
One can argue that, after WW II, patriotism and its presence in public history remained, generally, a rather old fashioned question until 9/11 (2001), when it came to life again.