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SHP in London: Local History and the National Story

Why are people here on a Saturday in late November? No exam sessions, no functional reviews – the first two people I spoke to told me they’re here, hoping to leave ‘bubbling with enthusiasm’, inspired by ideas that will feed into their teaching, helping them inspire their students in turn.

The choice of Michael Wood to start the day has fitted this aim of ‘bubbling with enthusiasm’ really well. To be honest, I’d wondered about the advisability of beginning with a ‘non-teacher’ but I was wonderfully wrong. In describing the development of his recent TV series about Kibworth Michael bubbled with his own deep enthusiasm – for ‘history from below’, what the ‘local’ reveals about the national story, but running through everything he said was his total conviction in the value and interest of history, and his own love of history and his respect and empathy with the people of the past.

What also emerged is that it’s perfectly possible to create a strong sense of the overview of British history from a local perspective – and, importantly, this pattern is obscured by putting too much detail and too many events in – too many trees (too many dates, too many kings’ names, too many events) obscure the wood of the pattern of British history.

What else was memorable?

  • To 10th century Saxons, England was a country of many nations, many peoples
  • Ridge and furrow was the deep bone structure of the world of our ancestors
  • The history of ‘Britain’ looks different from every locality – and the importance of looking for localities

Finally, one problem – how can we replicate stratification in the classroom – the exploration of layers representing Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, Viking etc.

So – verdict so far? Bubbling already.