Ian Coulson Annual Bursary for Local History / Archaeology in Kent Schools

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Apr 232017

This annual bursary has been established by the Kent Archaeological Society in memory of Ian Coulson.

Ian was Adviser for History in Kent schools for over 25 years and, at the time of his premature death in 2015, President of the Kent Archaeological Society. Teachers in Kent schools are invited to apply for the bursary to develop classroom resources based on Kent’s local history and/or archaeology, two of Ian’s great passions. It is open to teachers in both primary and secondary schools. One bursary, worth up to £1,000, will be available each academic year for which any Kent school can apply.

For details see www.kentarchaeology.org.uk

To gain a little understanding of why Ian was so widely respected and admired by teachers in Kent and amidst the SHP community see him in action on YouTube HERE … and see his ‘Handy’ Guide to Medieval Architecture on this website,  HERE …



 Posted by at 1:41 pm

Wars of the Roses Webinar from The National Archives

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Mar 172017

The historians at The National Archives are running a free webinar on the sources in their collection for studying the Wars of the Roses.

It’s on Tuesday 16 May between 6pm and 7pm.

See registration details HERE …




 Posted by at 8:56 am

Conference News 2017

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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

New resources available: Migration in the 15th and 16th centuries

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Aug 212016

The National Archive in conjunction with the England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 project has been running a Teacher Scholar programme which has produced a number of resources which you can find here …

In summary the resources cover:

• Were there really aliens living among the population of England in the 15th century?  (Year 5-6)

• How can government records help us investigate the diversity of the population? (KS3 – Years 8/9)

• How can we get people from the 15th century to tell us about their lives? (KS 4 and 5- Years 10-13)

• Did trade and migration change England in the 16th century? (Years 12-13)

The England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 project and database can be found at www.englandsimmigrants.com


 Posted by at 11:39 am

Teaching about the Norman Conquest

 A Level, GCSE, Info, KS3, Normans  Comments Off on Teaching about the Norman Conquest
Jul 172016

Many people are about to teach the Norman Conquest at GCSE for the first time – these items may be useful to you.

Item 1. Two videos of 20 minute lectures by Carl Watkins of the University of Cambridge discuss key aspects of the Conquest – the words are both valuable and interesting even if the video quality suggests they were filmed by a KGB spy in the 1950s using a camera hidden in a briefcase. As they are on the Cambridge History Faculty website I assume nothing underhand was going on!

Lecture 1 HERE …

Lecture 2 HERE …

Item 2. The Royal Armouries is holding a two day conference on the Conquest on the weekend of 14-15 October at the Tower of London. The programme consists of a battery of 40 minute talks by a host of eminent academics but the intended audience for the conference seems to be teachers and the interested public rather than academics.

Full details HERE …

Item 3. There’s a host of books around about the Conquest and William the Conqueror but I’ve recently much enjoyed two books in the Penguin Monarchs series which has a 100pp book for each reign from Athelstan to Elizabeth II. The two for this period which are currently out are:

William II: The Red King by John Gillingham – Gillingham is always been one of the most readable historians so this is the ideal introduction to William ‘Rufus’.

See Amazon HERE …

Stephen: The Reign of Anarchy by Carl Watkins – you probably aren’t teaching about Stephen but it’s an engrossing book nevertheless, exploring whether this really was a period of ‘anarchy’ and the various contingent circumstances that led to both Stephen’s succession and the ensuing civil war.

See Amazon HERE …

(I’ve provided Amazon links so you can see the contents list but they’re cheaper on Book Depository and elsewhere!)

The  book on William I by Marc Morris is due out in August (on my birthday if anyone in my family is reading this).

Item 4. The Historical Association has a range of material on aspects of the Conquest, some of which are free to non-members

See HERE … and HERE …

Item 5. A series of short films by historian, Marc Morris:

See it on YouTube HERE …

Item 6. In Our Time Radio 4 programmes on

The Battle of Stamford Bridge HERE …

Domesday Book HERE …

The Norman Yoke HERE …

Hope this is useful


 Posted by at 2:43 pm

Resources for teaching about the late middle ages – KS3, GCSE Warfare, A level

 A Level, GCSE, Info, KS3  Comments Off on Resources for teaching about the late middle ages – KS3, GCSE Warfare, A level
Feb 222016

A range of resources …

Agincourt: Myth and Reality

University of Southampton’s MOOC on the battle of Agincourt – a 3 week, free course covering the broader context of the Hundred Years War, Agincourt and its legacy and interpretations and the nature of warfare at the time. Even if you only have time to glance at it at the moment there’s an excellent range of short videos and other materials to download e.g. on late medieval armour, longbows, walking the site of Agincourt. You don’t have to be signed up in advance – you can join in part way and you don’t actually have to do anything if you don’t want to. It’s a really valuable free resource – it was run in the autumn (hence knowing what’s in it) and repeated from 22 February www.futurelearn.com/courses/agincourt

The Agincourt 600 site is also worthexploring www.agincourt600.com

England in the time of Richard III

Another free mooc from Futurelearn – this one starts on 7 March for 6 weeks as comes from the University of Leicester. I don’t know what’s in it but I hope it’s more than another re-tread of the car park! It does say that it is going to look more at the nature of fifteenth century society and lists medieval warfare, the lives of peasants and farmers, food and culture, death and commemoration, reading and the introduction of printing. Hopefully this mooc will also provide some useful teaching resources.


Weapons and Armour

I noticed on Youtube a set of films featuring Tobias Capwell, one of the leading authorities on late medieval armour and linked to the armour and weapons you can see at the Wallace Collection in London. Extracts from these could well be useful for GCSE warfare or A level students studying the 15thC.






 Posted by at 10:00 am

Conference Round Up

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Feb 012016

SHP events:

One day Conference in Bristol on 5 March

Three day Annual Conference in Leeds on 8-10 July.

Full details at  here


Historical Association events:

Annual Conference in Harrogate on 20-21 May here

Northern History Forum on Tour on 16 March here

The NHF event will be held at the Marks and Spencer Archive at the University of Leeds. Only 50 places available so book early!


 Posted by at 10:39 am
Dec 102015

Amidst the laughter and good fellowship there was always a thoughtful, committed teacher and historian who believed deeply in the importance of good history teaching.

‘Hello, Ian up there, it’s Ian down here.’

That reference to up (me in Yorkshire) and down (him in Kent) was our standard greeting, exchanged many times over the last thirty years.  Ian’s voice, ever enthusiastic, always seeming on the brink of laughter, told you much about the man.

I first met Ian about 30 years ago when I ran a CPD session in Kent for SHP. Other visits followed as Ian moved from being head of department to advisory teacher to being Kent’s History adviser. Sometime in the late 80s we struck up a rapport because I invited Ian to write a book on The Roman Empire for a KS3 series I edited for the first National Curriculum in 1991 – it still stands up as a good book (one of the first to feature enquiry questions). More importantly it gave Ian regular opportunities to point out to me that if he’d accepted the invitation from Heinemann to write for them instead of for me, he and Liz would have been able to retire 20 years earlier. The Heinemann book – not a patch on ours – came out first, was sold at a daft price and sold in shedloads. But, we agreed, we had created a much better book and never mind the sales.

Ian then wrote more material for John Murray and was one of the early contributors and originators of The National Archive’s Learning Curve website. For those of us involved with SHP however it will always be Ian’s role as an SHP Fellow that we’ll remember first. He was a regular contributor to the annual conferences from the beginning in 1989, providing workshops every year and once a Saturday evening session when he loaded up his car with every conceivable example of archaeological evidence he could lay his hands on and simply enthused to us all for well over an hour about archaeology which had been his first degree. And then there was the Guinness in the bar afterwards! The success of the SHP Conference has not just been in the quality of its workshops and plenaries but in the atmosphere, the sense of community, and Ian’s role in creating that sense of community was and long continued to be central to the conference’s success.

Ian presents Chris with an original Coulson cartoon

When Chris Culpin took over as SHP Director in 1996 and set up the advisory ‘Fellows’ group Ian was a natural choice. From then on, for a dozen years, eight of us met up on a Friday evening in the less than glamorous surroundings of the Yeadon Stoops Travel Inn ‘restaurant’ and caught up with each other’s news. The business meeting followed the next day but we’d created the atmosphere on Friday evenings – some of the happiest hours I’ve spent and the beginning of lasting ties for us all.

Ian’s part in the creation of that happiness was central. He gave us warmth, humour, spontaneity, good fellowship – he had an immensely generous spirit, always eager to push others forward, to sing the praises of others. He himself was a great communicator, conveying his enthusiasm and knowledge with ease, variety, humour, clarity, but for someone who may have appeared to outsiders to be full ‘only’ of boisterous bonhomie he had a deep vein of humility – nothing gave him more pleasure than seeing those he respected being successful.

Teachers who use this website, Thinkinghistory, are in Ian’s debt as it was a conversation with him that led to me setting up this site. Back in 2002 I was being badgered by the College of HE where I worked to apply for a Higher Education teaching award. At first I didn’t see the point as I didn’t envisage staying in HE much longer but a conversation with Ian changed my mind. He turned my thoughts to using the funding that came with the award to support trainee-teachers rather than focussing on something to do with teaching on the history degree course. And so the idea of building the application around ‘active learning’ and creating a website was born – and Thinkinghistory then gave me a new lease of professional life, I think by far the most valuable part of the work that I’ve done.

And while I built on Thinkinghistory Ian got on with his ‘bits and pieces’. Much on at the moment? ‘Oh, you know, the usual bits and pieces.’ The bits and pieces in any given week usually involved something like two or three visits to history departments, ‘the troops’, in Kent, running an inset day for primary teachers, too many hours bashing his head against the brick wall of council stupidity that was Kent’s specialism, an evening talk to a local history society on the archaeology of the area, chasing uo a chapter for the History of Kent from a recalcitrant academic, a hard pounding game of basketball at a seriously good standard well into his late 50s and, of course, time for Liz, Jack and Clare. Amidst all this Ian found the time to be a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, played a key part in the development of the multi-volume History of Kent published by the academic publishers, Boydell and Brewer, and was in recent years, President of the Kent Archaeological Society, one of the foremost county archaeological societies in the country. He also built up a vast store of resources for use by Kent history teachers from archaeological artefacts to historical journals. He believed that teachers should stay in touch with the latest publications and students should be shown and handle the evidence on which history is based.

Much of that activity was punctuated by Ian taking out his sketch pad or pack of postcards and working up a quick cartoon with snappy caption. Many’s the SHP meeting recorded more effectively by Ian’s running cartoon commentary than by my minutes – it was a happy gift that gave him and us great pleasure. I have no more treasured memento of my years in history teaching than the ‘biography’ Ian drew and captioned to mark my leaving SHP a few years ago.

Two minds with one thought: get on with the photograph, we’ve got archaeology to discuss! (Note the tea pot)

Amongst my trips to see Ian and Liz one visit stands out. About twelve years ago I spent a couple of days with them during the period when my wife, Pat, was having chemotherapy – one of the good weeks obviously when Pat packed me off to recharge my batteries. Ian took a couple of days off and we tramped the battlefield at Hastings, selected a spot from which to assault Bodiam castle, decided where we’d have deployed King John’s fat pigs at Rochester castle and went out of our way to find the tomb of Richard III’s supposed illegitimate son. At one point we pulled up in a small town so Ian could give me a brief lecture on the varieties of Kentish roof tiles – boy, did he know his stuff. And then, when I slumped off to bed, Ian headed for his study to do all the work he’d put aside to give me the break I needed.

I have no idea how to finish this. I think I just want to finish with two things. Firstly that the courage and sense of partnership shown by Ian and Liz since Ian was diagnosed with a brain tumour in June has been truly remarkable. And secondly that Ian’s great depths of generosity, energy, passion and joy in sharing his enthusiasms will always stay with me. His company has been a rare and happy pleasure.

From Ian up here to Ian down there,

Thank you

I feel there’s many other experiences shared and details I could have added. I do hope others will take the opportunities to add your appreciation of Ian by using the Comment column.

 Posted by at 1:03 pm

HA Teaching Fellowships in Fifteenth Century History: Programme Details

 HA Teaching Fellow, Info  Comments Off on HA Teaching Fellowships in Fifteenth Century History: Programme Details
Nov 042015

More details on the programme for the HA’s Teaching Fellowship programme are now available and can be downloaded [ here ].

In developing the programme we are trying to maintain flexibility until we are further through the recruitment process while also giving potential applicants a clear idea of the likely structure and content of the course – a tricky juggling act!

We hope this flexibility enables us to adjust the programme more precisely to teachers’ needs in terms of the content covered. Hence the ‘programme’ lists a range of topics from which we will choose in due course.

For details on how to apply for a Fellowship (closing date 4 December) see the HA website [ here ]

If you have any queries or would like to discuss the nature of Teaching Fellowships do contact me [ here ] or the HA via the link above.

And if you are attending the Northern History Forum at Leeds Trinity University on 18 November I will be at the HA stand from 4pm to discuss the Fellowship programme.


 Posted by at 9:29 am