We are delighted to feature a blogpost from an A Level student that offers an insight into history learning beyond the classroom and how it raises achievement…
While 2021 saw other people spending their ‘staycation’ at campsites or British beaches, one pupil spent several weekends camping inside a castle and on a battlefield! Melissa started doing Living History events in 2019, as part of the Ferrer’s Household, but this year found herself expanding into new territory – playing Maid Marion at Nottingham Castle! Initially she got into historical re-enactment for fun, but soon realised that it could give her new perspectives on History. Melissa achieved a grade 9 at GCSE and is now starting History A Level in year 12, here she explains why Living History is such a valuable way to enrich History learning beyond the classroom.
As a reenactor, it is expected that you are ‘authentic’ while the public are present. This means wearing appropriate historical clothing and not interacting with anything modern. This quickly gives you a sense of what it would be like to live in medieval times. I’m used to how it feels to walk around in thick, woollen clothes and to eat medieval food. Not only does it force me to appreciate modern amenities, but it has given me a taste for what the lives of real people were like.
The Ferrer’s Household is a late 15th century group focused on crafts. Our biggest boast is a fully working forge, but we also showcase wood turning, fletching, pewter casting, and cookery. Young people within the group are encouraged to explore as many crafts as possible. I’ve learnt many new skills and now understand how ordinary people would have made a living. It’s fascinating to create and handle objects that would have been used in medieval times.
I’ve also learnt a lot about weaponry. The Black Knight Historical Robin Hood weekends had a big focus on archery. I was able to fight at the re-enactment of the Battle of Shrewsbury too. I now feel very well acquainted with a longbow, and I understand the skill that went into being a good archer. For safety reasons most reenactors shoot comparatively lightweight bows compared with medieval men. It takes quite an effort to shoot my bow, so I can understand why archers’ skeletons have been discovered to have deformed vertebrae.
Participating in living history events has taught me other valuable life skills. The main thing I’ve learnt is how to present information in an interesting way, tailoring it to my audience. Re-enactment teaches the ability to think on your feet, play a part and to interact with new people. Talking to fellow reenactors is not just a networking opportunity, but a chance to learn about other periods of history.
Taking part in living history events this summer has given me a new perspective on history. It’s inspired me to do further research, shown me what daily life might have been like and taught me valuable skills. I’d like to thank Black Knight History and The Ferrer’s Household for their wonderful opportunities this summer. I’d highly recommend that other history students check out living history events near them. They should talk to the reenactors about their experiences and ask lots of questions – teachers could get a new perspective on a historical era too!
Photo credits: Vicky Owen and Rebecca Creagh