This introduction addresses the origins, general assumptions and intentions of the special issue. The guest editors show how reading primers published and used around the end of the Second World War in several European countries may serve as an object of study in different disciplinary contexts. They present a broad working definition of the reading primer as an educational medium that lends itself to interdisciplinary research which takes into account aspects such as visual and textual content, materiality, and societal contexts of production, distribution and usage. The editors further highlight characteristics of current research into primers and argue in favor of more comparative approaches that reveal transnational dimensions of textbooks designed to teach children how to read and write.
Reading Primers and Political Change in European Countries around 1945
Wendelin Sroka and Simona Szakács-Behling
Reading Primers Before, During and After the Second World War
Simona Szakács-Behling and Mihai Stelian Rusu
Drawing on a sample of children’s reading primers published between 1938 and 1953 in Romania, this article explores ways in which both the monarchic and the communist regimes used primary education to fashion political subjects before, during, and after the Second World War. Theoretically grounded in a sociological approach and empirically grounded in textual and visual thematic content analysis, the findings reveal significant semantic shifts in understandings of the “nation” in relation to internal and external anchors, including religion, monarchy, and work, but they also indicate important continuities relating to an ethos of political submission (toward God and king, or the party and the Soviet Union) and patriotic solidarity (with the Romanian Orthodox nation or the workers’ proletarian nation).