The This Ph.D. study tries to answer the question "Do history textbooks have an impact on people's ideas about other cultures?", by comparing the contents of a large sample of in- fluential history textbooks and curricula (covering 1945- 1984) with the results of a wide array of public opinion surveys about the Third World and immigrants (covering 1949- 1987).
The theoretical part reviews ethnocentrism, cultural relativism and racism as dimensions of cultural images, focuses attention on the phenomenon and mechanism of influence, and assesses the place of the textbook in the complex network of factors acting upon youngsters and adults, inside and outside the school.
The methodological part discusses the value of the two sources (relevance, validity and reliability of surveys; availability and use of history textbooks; comparability of both). Univer- ses of both sources are constructed and samples drawn from them. These samples are analysed with mutually attuned question batteries.
The double empirical analysis leads to two series of conclusions and trends that are compared with each other. Five parallel trends are found in textbooks and surveys (dominant but decreasing ethnocentrism; decreasing nationalism; absence of racism; poor awareness of other cultures; social-evolutionist thinking). They coincide in time, while, for textbooks to have influence, trends there should precede these in the public. Four other trends only partially coincide, or diverge. In the case of still two other trends, mutual influence could be plausibly postulated.
In globo, no firm evidence was found for the thesis that history textbooks autonomously influence the public. It rather is the general climate of opinion that, with years of delay, acts upon the textbook authors. The role of these authors, the immediate influences upon them (editors, curricula planners, academics, inspectors, teachers, parents and pupils), their biographies and their degree of representativeness vis-à-vis public opinion, are largely discussed.
As a conclusion, the study argues that, by presenting cultural diversity more accurately, new history textbooks could become master cards in the construction of open and tolerant inter- cultural views and mentalities.
KEYWORDS : ethnocentrism, mentalities, surveys