Starting on March 1, 2014. Deadline submission: 31 July 2014

We want to present students and their teachers with an opportunity to explore Europe as a network of exchanges: in culture and science, in politics and economy…

People in Europe have always corresponded and travelled to exchange their ideas and inventions. And they are still doing so. Every European is part of this ongoing network of European civilization.

In the Essay Contest 2014, (from 1-3-2014 till 31-7-2014) focuses on the European connected world before 1914as a development of all along the 19th century. These connections were made by technique but also by personal relationshipsof scientists, artists and reformers, crossing all national borders which are cut suddenly off by the outbreak of the war.

Before the first world war Europe was a more or less closely connected continent. There was a lively exchange of ideas between scientists and artists beyond the boundaries of in the 19th century established nation states. The outbreak of war tore this communication space and established deep trenches.2014 is the anniversary of the outbreak of the “Great War” for the 100th time. On this occasion starts an Essay Contest for European students from the age of 16 to 19. Pupils across Europe are doing researches on the history of their city in 1914 to tell the other (hi)story of this year. The events in Europe at that time did  not necessarily lead to war and people had different experiences in that year than those given in the summaries of the history textbooks in school. In short essays of no more than two pages pupils show how artists, scientists and reformers in Europe were connected to each other across national borders before this war and how they have shared ideas and learned from each other.

We invite you to participate: do your own research, discover how your town or region was connected to Europe before the great war began in 1914. Students write their own researched essay on one of the predefined main topics: keyboard, fossil, lens, post office, portrait or suffrage.
The prize winning essays and the authors names will be published at this website and the website of Europeana 1914-1918 project. All the other accepted essays will also be published on this website.

Related Websites:


1. The essay must deal with one of the themes mentioned on the website. The choice is left to the participants.

2. Participation is open to upper secondary school students (16-19 years of age) living in a European country, as listed under ‘Europe’ in the United Nations’ geographic scheme of subregions.

3. Participants must submit their essay in one of the following languages: English, French, German, Dutch, or Spanish.

4. The essay should contain 7000 signs (without the bibliography) at most. Above this, it should contain a list of all sources and references according to the [3]Harvard citation format. An essay quoting other sources without mentioning them will be disqualified and the student’s school may be informed of this disqualification.

5. It should deal with the exchanges – correspondence, encounters – between people from your locality and from other places in Europe, as these exchanges relate to the theme chosen by the participants. 

6. The essay should be an individual work by students. Whenever the work was done under the guidance of one or more teachers, they are invited to add their name to the essay.

7. The jury decides which essays will be accepted and published in at least one of the five languages on the site. The authors of the selected essays will be mentioned along with each essay.

8. The jury consists of the former director of the European Academy of Yuste (chairperson) and other members from different European countries.

9. The best three essays will be rewarded a book prize. The prizes are the following books by Abram De Swaan, member of the Academy of Yuste: 

10. For all contributions submitted to the website, the Creative Commons BY-NC license applies. Accordingly, the original author(s) of each paper will be mentioned on the website.

11. The jury reserves the right to edit and publish papers submitted to the website and translate and publish them in one languages of the website. The jury’s decision is final and not subject to any correspondence or appeal.

12. The language of communication of the jury and the websites is English.

13. The decision of the jury will be made publicly known within six weeks after the deadline for submission of the essays and the author of each winning essay will be informed by e-mail.

15. Send your essay as a .doc, .odt or .pdf-document to: [4]


1. Be clear, be precise, be brief, and try to say something new.

2. Collect facts, check them, use them in your essay, and mention where you found them.

3. Include images (and even sounds and videos) to strengthen the impact of your contribution.

4. Try to obtain guidance from teachers from several disciplines, e.g. an English teacher and a physics teacher, or a history teacher and a music teacher.

5. Remember, this is not so much about the great accomplishments in your region as it is about the relations of your locality with other places in Europe: search for local artists and scholars who travelled abroad or foreigners who came to your locality with new ideas and inventions. Look for local people who corresponded with or met their colleagues from other countries and show how they transferred new knowledge and artistic and scientific insights.

6. Keep in mind that, as more contributions are posted on the website, gradually a huge map of Europe will take shape there, showing the many encounters and correspondences between the citizens of Europe. This constitutes the great network of exchanges around the major themes that makes up European civilization. Each of your contributions shows a small knot in this huge network as it evolves in the course of the centuries over the entire European subcontinent.

7. Enjoy yourself while working on your contest paper: then you can’t lose, you can only win. – An interactive textbook on European civilisation and culture is a project that tries to map the cultural history and civilization of Europe as an exchange and communication process with the help of a student-designed wiki.

1 Idea, structure and topics of the project

The project is open to anyone interested. Seen the demanded standards, the project aims at students of upper secondary schools. Each theme starts with a concrete object as pars pro toto, e.g. the optical lens from the invention and development of telescopes, microscopes, cameras to modern mobile phones. As a result, the project is not only appropriate for history lessons but also for other school subjects such as music, physics, or for cross-curricular projects. The underlying idea of the project is not about the outstanding artistic achievements or pioneering inventions in one’s own region or city, but about how these are integrated and intertwined in the development of European history. Scientists and artists have always been in contact with each other, exchanged letters, read the works of their colleagues or travelled to meet them, to exchange views and to learn from each other. Europe ca be understood as a space of communications, a network of permanent exchange, as a sort of woven cloth. This was tight at certain times, loose at others and fraying at the edges, but also has threads going beyond the European continent. Hardly an invention or development was actually the ingenious idea of a single inventor, still less is a supposed genius exclusively attributable to one nation. Rather, the project is based on the idea that it was the intensive, cross-border exchange in Europe that promoted the development of arts and sciences in Europe substantially.

Take for example the theme of portraiture, portraits hang in any museum, in castles and palaces, partly in the foyer of some schools: Where do these portraits come from? When were they painted? Who painted them? Who is represented? Why? Many painters went to Italy, later to France to be trained themselves. This results into influences and schools of painting. Those who could not travel had copies of famous and popular works made and sent in order to emulate them.

In the 19th century with photography a new kind of portraiture was created. Here is an intersection for the theme of the (optical) lens. Today, almost every teenager has a mobile phone in the pocket of his trousers and can thus quickly take snapshots or portraits of his or her friends and classmates. What a change, compared to the seriousness of the rare early portrait paintings and photographs! With these simple reflections one is right in the middle of working on one of the topics.

2.1 Introduction

Working with is especially useful for the initial phase for senior classes or for preparation of research papers. After a brief presentation of the project and the underlying idea students should first be given time to read some of the previously published articles in the wiki as well as and other introductory information on the topic. This activity can be followed by a short brainstorming session, students formulating their questions on the topic which will become their starting point for research. Depending on the subject and the occasion, the work can be limited on one of the topics or the choice of topic can be left to each student. This offers large possibilities of differentiation of themes and approaches.

2.2 Research

Working on the project goes along with an opening of class, a high autonomy of the students and a change in the teacher’s role to a sort of learning consultant. It is useful to start the research with a discussion of research strategies. The experiences of the learners should be the base of the discussion with intent to gather, discuss and structure them, so that in the end all students have an idea of how to do their research in an effective way. The Internet is for students, and to be honest for teachers today too, the first place to go for a quick search. It would be wrong to artificially prescribe other ways of research in school. The reflection should go hand in hand with how one could successfully develop appropriate strategies for Internet research. It must be pointed out what information can be found in the Internet , or where the boundaries of Internet research lie. These boundaries are achieved relatively quickly in this project, because (currently) little detailed information can be found on local and regional history and thus students have to resort to books. Using printed works is is necessary, thus makes sense in the students’ minds and is integrated in their research process, as only there, they can find additional information. This works better than rather unmotivated and unmotivating requests by teachers to also have a look in a book. It is advisable to work also in out-of-class learning places and to combine the work with an introduction of how to use a (scientific) library and/or an archive. The visit to a local or regional museum can help and give way for further approaches of research. To find starting points for their own contributions, students should also have a look in the blanks of the already published articles: names of other people and places with no own contribution in the wiki are highlighted in red colour within the text.

2.4 Support and differentiation

As the students largely investigate, read, excerpt and write autonomously, the teacher wins time to take care of individual learners in the classroom and to support them in their work. This requires the availability of a sufficient number of computer workstations or laptops for each student. Working with the computer endorses individualization of learning processes. Preparation of lessons during the project is reduced to a minimum for the teacher, so that there is time to accompany the learning processes of the students outside of the actual lessons, e.g. checking and advising on intermediate results, giving detailed feedback on their concepts or just answering questions. This can be done via e-mail. Rewarding is the use of an Internet-based learning management system, since both individual responses as well as organization of work and information throughout the group with the exchange of information, links, texts etc. are possible. By this way of intensive tutoring, each learner can individually be assisted. In addition, the students have a choice of different content within on theme or even between different themes, where they, according to their inclinations and interests, can set their own research priorities. One student may be interested more in the technology of telescopes or cameras. Another would rather like to research the subjects of early photography, their first use in educational institutions or the emergence of appropriate specialized shops in their home town. The same applies to all topics: e.g. By choosing the Piano theme, the emphasis can be laid on the piano players, the compositions, the development of piano teaching, the creation of music schools or the technology of the piano, the factories and shops or even the impressions of the audience to piano concerts they visited and they wrote about in newspapers or letters. In addition to the historical contents, students, depending on prior knowledge, acquire or practise the following skills and competencies:

– Self-organization and autonomous assignment over a longer period of time,

– Internet research and information evaluation,

– Cooperative team-work (possibly with the help of an Internet-based tools, like a LMS),

– How to document their working process and to create a bibliography,

– How to use a library or an archive,

– Writing encyclopedia articles.

3 Outlook

The project is innovative in several respects:

– the creation of an interactive textbook by students for students,

– the self-evident and integrated use of ICT,

– the multilingualism of the wiki,

– the combination of regional and European perspectives,

– the revision of the history of European civilisation under a theoretical approach of focussing on networks and communication.


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