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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.



1 Comment

  1. Thanks for your thoughtful reflections on SHP’s first London Day Conference, Ian. I agree that all our keynote speakers and workshop leaders were brilliant. Judging by the evaluations, everyone came away feeling enriched and inspired. My favourite evaluation was ‘It was all cracking’!.

    Michael Wood’s session made me even more determined that SHP should do all we can to support local history in and outside the classsroom. It seems to me that connecting kids with the deep and varied histories of their own communities is one of the most important things we do as history teachers. Michael’s new BBC series (for 2012) on the histories of different communities across Britain will, I’m sure, provide even more inspiration

    Michael Fordham’s workshop on the the First Millenium in Britain made me even more determined to support the teaching of earlier periods of history in secondary schools. Nearly every history department in England teaches about 1066, but how many do an enquiry on Anglo-Saxon England? It would make such a great start for Year 7. I’m really pleased that Michael will be repeating this workshop at our summer conference so there’s another chance for people to catch it.

    I’m alreday getting excited about the next SHP Conference at The British Library (November 2012). The exhibition will be on the Mughals – another neglected part of the history curriculum…


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