Here, Anne Hudson and Gabrielle Reddington, who have taught pupils and trained teachers for decades, continue their reflections on teaching history well.
In the first part of our blog, we shared our conversation about the importance of a rich diversity to our history curriculum. We have continued talking and, in this blog will share some of our conclusions based on our work as, with and observations of history teachers. We suggest a framework that can support integration of teaching about diverse experiences in the past and share some examples of this in action.
We have found that the best history teaching is 3 dimensional. It enables students to learn about our human experience in 3 dimensions:
- Time – ancient through to contemporary
- Space – local, national and global, picking up threads of human connectivity and interaction within and beyond the ‘national frame’
- Identity – recognising all communities’ multiple and interconnecting layers of meaning, including ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, language, disability and class.
Keeping these 3 dimensions of history in our sights as we plan helps us to make it possible for our pupils to develop a rooted knowledge of our subject’s second order concepts such as continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity and difference and historical significance. Combining our unique subject approach to the planning of ‘problematised’ enquiry questions and a determination to reflect our diverse communities brings forward some exciting opportunities. Why did Ethiopian independence survive the nineteenth century? How did the Tswana kingdoms hold off colonial rule when it was encroaching on the rest of southern Africa? How free were black Tudors by comparison with later black British people? What was the significance of care in the community for disabled people? How influential was Bess of Shrewsbury in male dominated Elizabethan England? Why did the Roma migrate so widely across Europe?
In terms of time, chronology matters. Young learners need a light shone on the achievements of African civilisations – some of whose literary traditions date back to the 300s CE (Gragg, 2008), and some of whose rulers initially refused to participate in the lucrative slave trade on moral grounds (Green, T. 2020: 4). They need a sense of the achievements of African people before they encounter them as victims of slavery. Doharty (2017) shows how the disproportionate focus on slavery alienated black students. There is even more reason for white students , particularly those who seldom interact with black people, to have a sense of how people of African descent pre-dated, resisted and transcended slavery.
In terms of space, it is important that young people have the sense of a hinterland that extends across continents and long predates even Tudor England, let alone Windrush. White youngsters, just as much as black, need to be aware that so-called BAME communities are actually a majority, globally. They need to appreciate the prowess of pre-colonial Asian and African civilisations and indigenous American societies before encountering them through the lenses of empire, colonialism and slavery. This might include knowing that thirteenth century Malian emperor Mansa Musa was the richest person ever in world history (Green, T., 2020, p 39). Discovering the splendour of Akbar’s Mughal empire – the largest manufacturing and economic power in the 17th century world – would provide a useful context for learning about the foundations of Britain’s industrial revolution.
When we teach about identity, we need to instil a sense that this island’s diverse population is descended from waves of outsiders, who first started arriving 12,000 years ago. There is fantastic scope to draw upon community history within Britain as well local communities’ global links.
Some practical ideas for delivering three-dimensional history teaching to promote diversity and inclusion could be:
- Beginning Year 7 with an intriguing African enquiry using Sharon Aninakwa and Robin Whitburn’s excellent ideas and resources – HA Conference presentation currently still available on the website – see link below.
- Investigating the impact of the Roman empire by exploring African remains at Hadrian’s Wall and black emperor Septimius Severus (Birley, 1999)
- Following the example of The Weald School make the ongoing comparisons between India and Britain more consistent and explicit throughout Key Stage 3 curriculum in order to help prevent students seeing their engagement with India as being a self-contained episode. (Hibbert and Patel, 2019).
- Kauffman’s Black Tudors provides fascinating vignettes to widen understanding of the ethnic scope of Tudor society
- Using a range of useful resources and approaches for evoking links between British migration stories and Britain’s own civil rights movement materials as demonstrated by Martin Spafford (2019). He shows how learning about the stories of migrants to Britain can help students understand how ‘Britishness’ has changed and developed over time. We need to ensure that pupils look for the voices and stories of all: women, children, LBGTQ people, people of different faiths and different abilities.
- Using the ‘Traveller’s Times’ resource pack to develop insight into the heritage of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people
- Introduce English Heritage’s materials into relevant period studies to integrate understanding of LGBTQ history
A three-dimensional approach will help ensure that pupils look for the voices and stories of all: women, children, LGBTQ people, people of different faiths, cultures and abilities. It will equip them as global citizens striving for cosmopolitan democracy.
Birley, Anthony R. (1999). Septimius Severus: The African Emperor. London: Routledge.
Doharty, N (2018) “I FELT DEAD”: Applying a racial microaggressions framework to Black students’ experiences of Black History Month and Black History. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22 (1). pp. 110-129. ISSN 1361-3324 DOI:
Gragg, G. (2008). “Ge’ez (Aksum)”. In Woodard, Roger D. (ed.). The Ancient Languages of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Aksum. Cambridge University Press. pp. 211–237.
Green, T. (2020) A Fistful of Shells, Penguin Books.
An African Start to Secondary History with Sharon Aninakwa and Robin Whitburn
Hibbert, D. and Patel, Z., (2019) ‘Modelling the discipline: how can Yasmin Khan’s use of evidence enable us to teach a more global World War II?’ in Teaching History 177, December 2019
Kaufman, M. (2020) Black Tudors, OneWorld Publications
Mohamud, A. and Whitburn, R., (2016) Doing Justice to History, London, UCL Institute of Education Press
Mohamud, A. and Whitburn, R., (2016) AQA GCSE History: Migration, Empires and the People Paperback –, London, Hodder, 2016
Spafford, M. (2019)’Migration stories, the British civil rights movement and the impact of the Cold War on indentity’ in Exploring and Teaching Twentieth-Century History A secondary education publication of the Historical Association, December 2019