Helping students think about the provenance of sources

 A Level, Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Helping students think about the provenance of sources
Feb 012017

Students often struggle with ‘provenance’ i.e. how to use what they know about the creator of a source to reflect on the utility or reliability of that source. This article suggests ways of helping students focus more effectively on provenance by studying the creator of source before they look at what it says or shows.

I have used examples related to the Norman Conquest as it’s a topic almost everyone knows to some degree.

You can read more HERE …


 Posted by at 4:17 pm

Conference News 2017

 Info  Comments Off on Conference News 2017
Jan 312017

Booking is now open for all these events – full details via the links:

Twilight CPD with sessions for both primary and secondary teachers:

Northern History Forum, Leeds Trinity 30 March HERE …

London History Forum, Tower of London, 30 March HERE …

Two or three day Conferences

Historical Association Annual Conference, Manchester, May 12 and 13th HERE …

SHP Summer Conference, Leeds, July 7th to 9th HERE …


 Posted by at 10:35 am

Exploring & Teaching Medieval History

 ETMH Project, Issues  Comments Off on Exploring & Teaching Medieval History
Jan 242017

Reaching the age of 65 is a bit of a ‘what now?’ moment for me – charge on as before or stop doing the things I’ve been interested in for the last forty years? Neither extreme seems right, especially as I’m both grateful and relieved to have got here and be in a position to make choices.

To cut a tediously autobiographical story short I am going to focus my ‘history’ time on a project which explores how we teach the Middle Ages and suggest ways to solve some of the problems which have emerged over the last few decades in teaching about this period. It feels potentially a lot more useful than going back to a PhD project on the 15th century shelved around 35 years ago!

So, what is this project about?

As currently conceived it has three elements:

  1. Some pragmatic research into practicalities such as how much time is spent on teaching about the Middle Ages at KS3, the nature of current schemes of work and how students, new teachers, experienced teachers ‘see’ the period and its people, the impact of GCSE changes etc. This is a necessary bedrock for the other two elements.
  2. Working with The Historical Association to publish articles by historians which up-date teachers’ knowledge and understanding of the period. The first phase of this element will appear in late autumn 2017 with the publication Exploring and Teaching Medieval History [ see more details ]. This will be followed by a rolling programme of further articles on the HA website.
  3. The creation of a series of articles, schemes of work and a limited range of resources for KS3 which take into account what’s been learned from elements 1 and 2, for example the varieties of time available at KS3 and responds to GCSE changes and their impact on KS3. It is essential that this phase is a very practical one in providing material that is useable and recognises the limited time teachers have available for teaching and preparation – merely exhorting teachers to make changes or read lots of academic books is pointless.

All of which says ‘this is not a project to be rushed!’ Looking back over the last twenty-five years since we began to be assaulted by regular revisions of the National Curriculum, GCSE and A level there have necessarily been a great many quick-fix changes made. It’s not been possible to stand back and plan strategically over a long-term because everyone’s been too busy solving today’s problems – simply keeping their heads above water. Therefore, I see this project as taking three or four years despite the natural desire to get all the ideas out for use as soon as possible.

One last thought before ending this introductory piece – if there’s one idea I want to get across through the project it’s the importance of respecting the people of the Middle Ages. This is partly about identifying achievements and developments during the period but more importantly it’s about building into teaching an understanding that medieval people thought carefully about choices, had principles and ideals and had good reasons for doing things differently from us. We can only explain people’s actions in the past if we respect them, rather than assuming they had simpler, cruder motivations than people today. Perhaps if students can respect people of a different time then there is more chance of them respecting people from different cultures today rather than instinctively interpreting difference as being inferior or a threat.

So that’s, very roughly, what the Exploring and Teaching Medieval History project is about. I am very grateful to The Historical Association for its support and encouragement and for allowing me to carry out the project under its banner – and for asking me to edit the publication which will arrive free in every secondary school later this year.

For more details on the content of this publication see pages 2 and 3 of the summary document (downloaded above).

And if you have any queries or comments, please get in touch on the comments section or via this website .


 Posted by at 5:16 pm

The Fishpool Hoard

 A Level, Activities, Wars of the Roses  Comments Off on The Fishpool Hoard
Jan 132017

Fishpool HoardIs this hoard connected to the Lancastrian risings against Edward IV?

Can it help students become interested in the events of the early 1460s?

Or is it just another enjoyable read?

For more see here …


 Posted by at 4:01 pm

The Ryther Hoard and the Lambert Simnel Rebellion

 Activities  Comments Off on The Ryther Hoard and the Lambert Simnel Rebellion
Jan 082017

I thought I was just going to post the information about the hoard and suggest it could be a way of stimulating interest in the Simnel rebellion of 1487 but then I got interested – just how strong is the link and where exactly is Ryther in relation to the events of the rebellion?

This could be useful for A level – or it could just be enjoyable to read.

For more see [here …]


 Posted by at 4:18 pm

Understanding the English Succession: 1051-66

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Understanding the English Succession: 1051-66
Nov 262016

This activity for KS3 or GCSE has four brief stages with each stage representing a different date – 1051, 1059, 1065, January 1066. For each date students position individuals in relation to the crown to create a visual representation of who seemed most likely to be Edward’s successor at each date. I’ve tried to keep things as clear as possible, which isn’t easy given the complexity of the debates over the succession to the English crown in 1066. I’ve added notes on what historians are saying about the succession and why the idea of ‘rules’ about who had the best claim are misleading and hence unhelpful for students at any level.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 10:03 am

Nationalities and Family Connections: 1066

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Nationalities and Family Connections: 1066
Nov 202016

It’s easy for students to assume that Edward the Confessor and Harold were English in every respect because they appear in the story of 1066 as the English leaders in contrast to the Norman Duke William. This short activity is designed to help students understand that the issue of nationality was more complicated than that!

I’ve also included a second very short simple activity about the pattern of English kings before 1066 – English or Danish? – to help students appreciate that kings of England were not necessarily English.

See the activities HERE …


 Posted by at 11:47 am

Why was William able to invade England in 1066?

 Activities, GCSE, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Why was William able to invade England in 1066?
Nov 192016

This brief activity for GCSE (and possibly for KS3) looks at the longer-term Norman background to 1066, focussing on how William’s invasion was made possible by a combination of his military successes against neighbouring states and good fortune.

By the end of this activity students should know and understand that:

a) William had faced and beaten a number of attacks from surrounding states during the 1050s

b) If Edward the Confessor had died before 1060 William would have had great difficulty invading England because of threats to Normandy

c) William’s successes created a breathing space from local wars enabling him to invade England in 1066

d) His resulting reputation as a successful soldier enabled him to recruit followers for his invasion of England and he was able to recruit soldiers who would not have been keen to leave their lands if local wars were continuing.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 10:22 am

Did people worry about dirt and disease in the later middle ages?

 Activities, GCSE, KS3  Comments Off on Did people worry about dirt and disease in the later middle ages?
Oct 162016

At GCSE this activity can be used to introduce the topic of public health or medieval medicine as a whole as it sets out conflicting evidence about attitudes to health and public health. This makes a good introduction because it is important that students understand that there were major efforts to improve health and the rationality of widely-held ideas about the cause of disease. Having a positive image of medieval people’s attitudes then means students have to think harder to understand why they could not tackle diseases effectively – rather than just assuming that people ‘back then’ just weren’t bright enough to do so.

This activity can also be used at Key Stage 3 if you are not teaching ‘Medicine’ at GCSE. At KS3 it can be used to build students respect for people in the period rather than see them as helpless and hapless victims of plague – an image than can be fostered if work on the Black Death focusses only on the horror and death toll of ‘the pestilence’.

See the activity HERE …


 Posted by at 5:05 pm