18th May 2007 at 01:00
Sean Lang learns from singular views of the past

History Teaching, Identities and Citizenship Edited by Luigi Cajani and Alistair Ross Trentham Books pound;17.99

The relationship between history teaching and a sense of citizenship has never been more topical. But, as this collection of essays from across Europe shows, all too often "national history" becomes the history of one dominant group.

The Greeks assert cultural superiority over the Turks; Cypriot textbooks openly refer to "superior" and "inferior" religions; and Romanian textbooks airbrush the Roma from the story. And woe betide anyone who challenges the official version: in 1999, a Romanian textbook that demolished a few cherished national myths was banned by the Ministry of Education.

The most interesting and heartening essay in this book comes from the Middle East, where Israeli and Palestinian teachers braved checkpoints and riots to plan a project that involved drawing up contrasting narratives of their intertwining pasts. So a Palestinian teacher would teach both the Palestinian and the Jewish version of events, and vice versa.

Do not expect easy answers here. "Our narratives are fact, but theirs are propaganda," reports one pupil. But as a way in which a nation's history can contribute to peace rather than conflict, this book offers lessons from which we can all profit

Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day: Your Guide to Sport, Sightseeing and Shopping in Rome, the City of the Caesars By Philip Matyszak Thames and Hudson pound;12.95

What a brilliant idea. Instead of yet another book about life in ancient Rome, Philip Matyszak has come up with a sort of Rough Guide to the city, written for backpackers of the ancient world.

It has all the advice you would expect: how to get there (two days by boat from Africa and do not forget to budget for bribing visa officials), what to pack (no togas, unless you are expecting posh company, but silk undies are a must - and, boys, that means you), what to see (try Trajan's column and a chronological tour of the Emperors' baths) - and warnings: avoid the wild cattle in the market with hay tied to their horns.

Where was all this when I studied Latin at school? With juicy nuggets, such as a gladiator fighting his own penis and the Emperor Elagabalus dragging naked women behind his chariot, this teachers' resource should get even the most reluctant pupils excited about ancient history - just as the exam boards scrap it Se n Lang is a research fellow at Anglia Ruskin University and honorary secretary of the Historical Association

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