France and Germany to unveil new common history book

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France and Germany plan to unveil a new common history book for high-school students, going from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the French and Dutch rejection of the European Constitution last year.

French publisher Nathan released today the French version of the manual's first volume, realizing a project agreed on in 2003 by former German Chancelor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac.

The manual, the first such project, was unveiled by Gilles de Robien, the French Education and Research minister, at a meeting in Peronne, a World War I battlefield.

``It would be a paradox that peace and friendship between our peoples turn to indifference,'' de Robien said. ``We need to constantly enrich our educational and cultural cooperation. Friendship isn't built only on industrial and commercial exchanges.''

Ten historians, five German and five from France participated in the 11-month project. They started the editorial work in the aftermath of the French and Dutch ``no'' vote on the European Constitution last year.

``We might hope that this manual will pave the way for a European history manual,'' said Guillaume Le Quintrec, the French history professor who directed the editorial staff together with his German counterpart, Peter Geiss.

`Not European Activism'

The rejection of the European Constitution didn't influence the historians' work, Le Quintrec said.

``This manual isn't an act of European activisms,'' Le Quintrec, said in a phone interview.

French school-book publisher Nathan didn't provide a sales outlook for the manual. It is trying to convince high-school teachers to choose the manual for final-year students. The 336- page manual costs 26 euros ($33).

``There is really a commercial risk,'' said Le Quintrec.

Ernst Klett, a German publisher present in 12 countries, will sell the German version by July 2006. The manual is the first of a three-book series. Nathan didn't provide any schedule for the next volumes.

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