Students at the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi (PSUAD) are to study the philosophies and influences of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to understand how the past shapes the present. Introducing first-year students to historical research to acquire the necessary skills of a historian is the aim of Dr Marie-Clarté Lagrée, Head of History — Civilisations and International Affairs at PSUAD.
A group of first-year students has been given the opportunity to step back in time and objectively analyse the people and events that impacted the shaping of the UAE's current political, economical and cultural structures.
"The role of a historian is not to simply tell stories and relay facts. A historian is also an evaluator and an interpreter of the past. Their expertise give them the leverage to distinguish trivial events from important ones," said Dr Lagrée. "Sound reasoning is a critical characteristic of an effective historian; it is this reasoning that makes history a social science."
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Through the study, Dr Lagrée aims to unite her students using common ground.
"Due to the multiplicity of nationalities we have, I wanted to choose a subject that can be of interest to all students and unite them despite their various ethnic backgrounds," she said. "It is only normal to understand the country in which we live."
She quoted Shaikh Zayed when he gave his thoughts on history: "History is a chain of uninterrupted events. The present is only an extension of the past. He who doesn't know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn."
"There is always a spotlight being thrown on the UAE's heritage, past and culture," said Amerah Baccouche, a Tunisian history student. "This study will evaluate if this is simply attributed to an unforgotten past by a young nation, historically speaking, or to other reasons yet to be defined."
She added as the UAE prepares to face the post-oil era and focus on learning from and evaluating the impact of culture and education — both of which are considered important facets of an economic strategy — the study will evaluate these.
"Shaikh Zayed's personality dominates our contemporary history and he's undoubtedly a national hero," said Emirati Fatima Al Aboudi, who is studying the concept of national heroism. "I want to give something back to my nation and to the founding father by writing about him."
Baccouche added: "It is an interesting scenario that today's oil income is used to sponsor studies of history, culture and art. We can clearly see that, in the country's policy related to education and the construction of several museums in Abu Dhabi."
The research project will count as a significant percentage of both masters and undergraduate students' overall marks.