Teaching Local History
Posted 17 February 2004 - 11:33 PM
Therein lies the problem. My area’s local history is special to me, there’s no one else teaching the 1903 Sacriston mining accident and the story of Robert Richardson’s miraculous escape from the jaws of death after four days lying on a coal tub bed 500 feet underground in an air pocket of a flooded mine. However there are many people teaching similar topics in similar places and there’s a vibrant and flourishing industry in local history research, projects, website development and publications which is developing all the time.
The purpose of this seminar is to look at how we can improve the teaching of local history and to suggest where extra help and resources might be available to make our work easier as teachers. I’ve also asked a number of other agencies to contribute to this work so as to promote their activities here and to suggest ideas that might help teachers to improve their teaching of local history. As I’m teaching in the north-east of England a lot of my experience is steeped in this area so we need people to add further examples and suggestions for the rest of the UK, the more contributions the merrier.
Posted 17 February 2004 - 11:35 PM
1) The knowledge base required to teach local history takes time to amass and finding out what’s worth teaching can take ages. Then….
2) The lack of easily available materials for use in the classroom and the difficulty in producing these, given all the other things we’re expected to do as teachers.
3) The massive amount of time it takes to research and collate the relevant materials and then turn these into something workable in the classroom.
4) It’s actually pretty costly to get the materials you want copied (£5 to digitise anything at my local studies centre and the issue of copyright for photocopying or use of resources)
OK. So we know there’s plenty of obstacles, why study local history?
A) We need to develop our pupils’ awareness of the local community and to show its’ importance in framing the places where we live.
If we don’t teach our children what has happened in their home towns and villages, who will? We risk creating a culture that ignores our heritage.
C) Local history cements our place in the curriculum, giving our subject greater worth and validity to students, the community and to the teaching of citizenship.
D) It shows students that the older people from their community have experienced great events and hardships, known good times and bad and that they have been part of great historical times.
E) I would argue that we need to look at developing more units on local heritage to be part of the burgeoning vocational GCSEs, particularly Leisure and Tourism and increasing the number of students who do study history in some shape or form in KS4. This can also help you maintain your position within the curriculum in KS3 if more pupils are going onto study history.
You can include field work and visits within your study but there has already been an excellent seminar held earlier on this subject which is well worth revisiting.
Posted 17 February 2004 - 11:38 PM
A simple one – Take a picture of your local high street, use it for a comparison exercise, looking at anything you want to focus on like the clothes, transport, shops, jobs etc. One enlarged picture can offer a world of possibilities. If you were lucky enough to have plenty of pictures you might be able to put together a gallery of local history images and use this for a display of work.
Get an outside speaker to come in and do a presentation or work with your students. These can provide a valuable research facility and they will have a wealth of materials that you probably couldn’t hope to put together in your own time. If you don’t know who to turn to go to your local library, archives or contact the local history association and they may be able to put you in touch with someone appropriate. The British Association for Local History promotes and publishes local history research and may be able to help you to find someone working in your area. Try them at
Alternatively you might like to try Local History Magazine which supports anyone with an interest in local history including links to courses, advice on research and a number of local history societies. You can find out more at
Put together a local history display for a parents’ evening or presentation night showing your students’ research or better still publish it and add it to the current base of local knowledge via an internet site or as some schools have done you can put a book or pamphlet together.
There are a number of competitions you might consider getting your pupils to become involved in. One example is the Historical Association’s local history competitions. If you look elsewhere on this forum you’ll find similar examples of competitions you might like to try out with your students.
Have pupils imagine they were interviewing people at a particular local event, get them to research the topic and then record a video news item or write a newspaper report of the event. You might use these for parents’ evenings. If this isn’t your idea of fun then why not ask them to put together a PowerPoint presentation or a worksheet to use in the classroom? Then you’ve got a permanent resource you can use time and time again.
Take pupils to your local studies centre to do the research on a topic, the staff are almost always excellent, have infinite knowledge of every topic under the sun and can suggest exactly what pupils might find useful to look at. It should also be added that the experience of simply reading the local newspapers or looking at photos and maps from long ago can really enthuse pupils and develops skills in handling evidence and developing thinking skills that text books just cannot. See beforehand what you can have copied and how much these cost as I’ve found that we couldn’t always do what we wanted due to the high cost and the paperwork needed for copying. In some instances if you can’t go to them then get them to come to you and bring the materials you’re interested in! There might be a charge for this but it might be an alternative. It’s something that you might consider as part of your gifted and talented students enrichment policy or as an extra curricular activity (in some areas extra funding such as NOF might be available to assist). Some centres have started to put together their own research packs and worksheets as part of their work in the community so you might want to investigate these possibilities.
Increasingly there are a number of Internet based activities, so pupils can research the locality from the comfort of your ICT suite. There’s plenty of money being spent on developing local history research on the internet, try the NOF funded gateway www.enrichuk.org.uk as an introduction to a massive number of community based projects from all over the UK or there’s also the NGFL local history trail which offers a variety of quizzes, investigations and galleries. You can find this on http://www.ngfl.gov.uk/localhistory
There’s also the Centre for English Local History based at the University of Leicester. This can be found at
Although it’s aimed more at the amateur genealogists amongst us http://www.genuki.org.uk has the most amazing collection of materials and links to sites about local history everywhere in the UK. From there I’ve been able to discover some amazing sites based in the north-east that you might like to look at. For example the mining site at
is a must-see for any history teacher in the north east, as is Brian Pears’ north-east dairy of every bombing raid, fatality etc (Sorry I don’t have the URL handy!) during World War Two. I really like the fact that in my home village the only casualty of the war was a cow blown up by an incendiary bomb!
has a huge range of resources on the local history of the north east with a large database of images and information culled from the archives, libraries, museums and record offices of the area.
and the fantastic new development
that allows us to revisit the archaeological heritage of the area, including some brilliant virtual reality reconstructions of a medieval village and castle which any teacher would do well to look at. From the same team there’s the http://www.keystothepast.info
site which offers a huge database of archaeological knowledge of Durham and Northumberland and almost every village and town’s history.
It is imperative to use the community around you, there’s a welter of stories and pictures that need to be tapped from the older people who live around your school or college. For example what was life like during the Second World War? There are so many people from the time who might provide a valuable insight to the small stories that make our area so interesting so go and see them! However if you want a horror story…
I took a group of students to the local Age Concern centre to do some research on Darlington during world war two. Each student was equipped with a pen, a tape recorder and a note pad and set off to ask willing volunteers about their experiences of the Home Front. What followed was a series of touching memories of lost loved ones, stolen girl friends (the local American air base provided one man’s story of “one yank and they were off” and the loss of his girlfriend) and what had to be done to survive the war and rationing. However one poor eleven year old boy got more than he bargained for when he asked two gents what they remembered they replied “great sex, you couldn’t walk down the main street in the dark for couples rolling all over the place” they went on in this vein for a few minutes before the pupil couldn’t take any more and ran off to find me!
If I have one main suggestion though it’s that teachers locally join together to save time and unnecessary repetition of their efforts by sharing resources produced for use in teaching local history. I thought I would teach the industrial revolution era through a study of local developments in industry, coal mining and pit disasters, the birth of the railways, the whaling industry, and the development of industrial towns. However when it finally came down to it I just didn’t have the time, knowledge, resources and ability to put all of this together. Elsewhere on this forum I have suggested that we need to join together our resources and share our works so that we can develop the local history teaching content of our schools and colleges. Perhaps now might be the opportunity to discuss how we can do this and how we can best improve the teaching and resourcing of local history in the curriculum?
Posted 18 February 2004 - 04:14 PM
Posted 18 February 2004 - 04:23 PM
I am the Schools Development Officer for the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery, Killhope - The North of England Lead Mining Museum, and
Binchester Roman Fort (all DCC). This is a brief overview of our provision and hope this will be of use. I am an ex Primary school teacher whose specialism is history.
All of these museums offer excellent hands on sessions at each site -
they focus on the local aspects and how this fits into the wider context of
the army, war and conflict; lead mining; and the Romans in Britain. Each
has their own webpages within the Durham County Council website :
DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery: exhibition galleries in the museum focus on the story of County Durham's own Regiment and how this fits into WW1 and WW2 in particular. We run handling sessions based around our collections with genuine artefacts from WW1 and WW2, and have quiz sheets available to aid focus in the exhibition galleries. Whilst we have standard activity sessions, we can offer more tailormade packages in discussion with teachers. We are in the process of redeveloping all of the museum's schools provision. http://www.durham.gov.uk/dli
Killhope: Killhope has just won the Guardian Award for the best Family
Friendly museum in Britain, and is a UFA approved site. Killhope tells
the story of lead mining in 19th C North Pennines and Weardale in
particular -it has many original buildings and authentic reconstructions such as the wheel and jigger house machinery. You can also go underground. The majority of visits are lead by the well informed and friendly Information Assistants who take groups around the different parts of the site. Loans boxes are available from Killhope with a variety of objects and documents relating to local history (these include letters, census returns and newspaper cuttings amongst others). As well as history, you can also inspire learning in science and technology, the arts, geography.
Binchester: Near Bishop Auckland, and on the Dere Street trail. This is
one of the largest forts in the North, but has only a very small part
excavated and accessible. It has the remains of the commandants bath house - probably the best preserved private bath house in the country. Also accesible is part of the commandants house and some of Dere Street itself. On site there is an education room with lots of different hands on activities(most suitable for Primary schools). We are in the process of developing a pack of materials to support KS2, entitled 'The Romans in Durham' which, when ready, will be web mounted on the Binchester web pages.
For more local history sources I would contact the County Record
Office, and in particular - Liz Bregazzi who as well as being an archivist is
responsible for working with schools and other education providers. On
the CRO web site already is the 'Story of Jimmy Durham' about a DLI soldier this has lots of info, lots of documents and photos and has activities suitable for KS3 students, but they can be adapted easily to suit other abilities.
Durham Learning Resources has lots to offer its subscribers -particularly object loans and books over a wide variety of topic areas.
Hope this is of some use - I'm always trying to find creative ways of
promoting the services we offer on a non existant budget!!
Schools Development Officer (Durham Studies)
Durham County Council
DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery
tel: 0191 384 2214
Posted 20 February 2004 - 08:17 AM
A History and Citizenship education project for KS 2 / 3
Theme: People from different backgrounds have integrated with the Dales community throughout the whole of its history
'Dales Folk?' is a collection of teaching resources, about the lives and times of people who have lived in the Dales since the earliest settlers arrived during Mesolithic times. The project aims to promote understanding and enjoyment of the rich cultural heritage of the Dales and inform understanding of the Dales communities of today and tomorrow.
Materials have been produced for use with KS2 / 3 students, in history, citizenship, literacy and creative arts particularly. The ideas involved have the potential for much wider application.
The core resource is a series of 10 short pieces of writing, each set in a different period of Dales history, including Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman. Period illustrations, museum objects for loan and ideas for teaching are being developed.
'Dales Folk ?' asks each of us to examine our own ideas and inform our own opinions, about who Dales folk have been, who they are now and who they are becoming. It does this in 2 main ways:
- by asking questions which develop our current and historical understanding, eg:
§ Who are Dales folk and what are they like? … appearance, language, clothing, lifestyle, …
§ How have Dales folk interacted with 'external' communities? … emigration, immigration, …
§ How have Dales folk affected the Dales landscape? … buildings, settlements, agriculture, …
- by providing materials which use our understanding of Dales life in times past, to highlight core ideas in personal and social aspects of citizenship education today, for example:
§ Dales life, has always involved encounters between people from different backgrounds.
§ People of different origins have integrated with the Dales community throughout time.
§ Many Dales folk of today are direct descendants, each one a 'mix', of people from the past.
§ Integration of people from different backgrounds, is an important issue in Dales life today.
Consideration of 21st century Dales folk encounters and their consequences, is seen as a natural outcome of the project. 'Dales Folk?' offers suggestions on how to facilitate this with students.
'Chol Theatre' are developing a drama workshop based on 'Dales Folk' historical writings, which explores issues involved in integration of people from different backgrounds with Dales folk today.
Materials will be available following trials over the summer of 2004.
Contact the Education Officer. Tel 01756 752748 email email@example.com
Posted 21 February 2004 - 02:42 PM
These are a few examples of things that I refer to in my teaching:
There is a Roman road in Ilkley along with a few archealogical remains. I use this as a point of reference when we look at different historical skills and use photographs of other relatively local sites to illustrate points. we also use resources that relate to the Romans in York which isn't really local to us but helps the students to recognise that the Romans heavily influenced the area in which we live.
The Norman Conquest:
We use extracts from the Domesday book and look at the way in which the rebellions in the north were put down. Students visit Skipton Castle as a local history study and the activities they complete develop students understanding of the way in which the region as a whole was controlled and managed. With some groups we also look at peices of local folklore which originate from this era.
The English Civil Wars:
Bradford Cathedral was at the centre of a siege during the English Civil Wars. The cannon that were fored at the Cathedral were cited just a few hundred yards from our school so its very easy to look at the site and location of these events. Students visit the Cathedral with the RE department just before we teach this, so we've managed to coerce our colleagues into adapting their visit to cover many of the things that we want to illustrate to students. These lessons really are the first time thatmost f our students get any sense of what has made Bradford a fairly large and industrial city. They are usually quite interested in some of the tales about the way that the siege was conducted and are usually quite surprised at the role of wool in the siege - inded this is often the first time that they are introduced to the economic history of the city, something that we can then link to later migration into the city during the Industrial revolution and einto the 20th century.
Lots of other stories that are used for these studies. Mainly ones that suit the bloodthirsty boys, though there is ample opportunity to develop an understanding of society through a visit to Bolling Hall which is just a 5 minute bus journey from school. Many students opt to make this visit in their own time as a result of lessons. Combined the use of local sources, sites and fairly interesting stories stimulates interest much more than studying national events on their own ever did. The emphasis on the local elements appears to have made students more willing to delve into the political aspects of the conflict.
The Industrial Revolution:
Working in inner city Bradford this is extremely simple. You only need to look out of the classroom window to see examples of different types of mills, houses etc. There are lots of resources available and most of our teaching of the industrial Revolution concentrates on developments in the local area. In the city there are some fantastic examples of Local History being taught: studies of Undercliffe Cemetry looking at the mauseleums of the wook barons, for example. Given a little more free time I'd like to develop some resources on the way that Industrialisation has altered social and leisure activities in the area. Lots of differnet things to bring in here: 2 professional football clubs, a county cricket ground, numerous cinemas, parks and a colourful series of political events: formation of the Labour party for example. Best not forget the Rugby League either.... they are the World Champions afterall. Combining these could span the period 1750 to the modern day, could link in with studies of conflict as well.
First World War:
Use of local archives, Commonwealth War graves commission website to search for details of local pals battalions, local newspaper cuttings about events of the war and the impact of war at home. Local memorials and the cenotaph are also used.
Posted 21 February 2004 - 04:29 PM
As usually, I shall try to give a French touch.
Teaching local history is part of our job, but, in France, it had a greater place before 1995.
The Curriculum is partly responsible for this.
As Dan shows, if you have to study the Roman Empire, you can use local documents, texts or archeology. But having to teach Classical Athens, or The Mediterranean in the XIIth, in a "classe de seconde", is much harder.
We may focus on historical inequalities between places : some have had a leading role in history, and their architectural heritage is a strong factor of the appeal for tourists . Some have been studied by professional historians. So we can use not only raw archives but also benefit from a professional view.
Historical maps are a marvellous tool for local history.
Living in Florence must be nice. For my Renaissance teaching, I use this Della Catena Map of Florence, ca. 1471-82 : http://www.stg.brown...o/overview.html
I could do the same with Bruges or one of these renaissance cities, from Civitates orbis terrarum - Braun and Hogenberg 1572 :
For modern Normandy, I use this one showing Caen in 1718 :
Usually, if a place which has escaped damage from the war and has avoided 1965 town planners, even an ordinary town or village can have useful resources.
I see 3 main sources :
Local or general archives,
Vire, the small town where I work, will be my case study.
This XVIIth century view is useful to teach the geography of this city.
The center was destroyed on june 6th, 1944 ; in the bombing of the city, 350 people were killed.
We still can see the city wall, some medieval towers and some XVIIIth buildings.
1910 postcards are necessary to understand how this market town lived, combining industries and farming. http://hgtice.free.fr/vire/foire.jpg
In 1923, Paul Nicole, a professional historian (and teacher), studied The story of the town during the French Revolution. He has used local archives ; most of them have been destroyed in 1944. But his monumental thesis (800 pages) is not really used by my colleagues : a vulgarisation job should be necessary.
In 1975, some of my older colleagues selected and published very useful texts and statistics about the social and economic history circa 1860.
At that date, the main activities were pre-industrial : paper, wooden clogs… but the granite was used to modernise Le Havre or Paris, the woollen industry feared the english competition – Napoleon signed with Victoria a free trade agreement- . In 1862, in a nearby town, the cotton industry suffered from the American Civil War
In my teaching, I also use a very interesting letter : in 1857, Napoleon III complained about too low wages. One of his civil servants answered : “That ‘s not a problem. These workers live as their neighbours, the farmers, they have small needs ; for the factories, low wages compensate the higher cost for transportation (the train will arrive only in 1867) ; and above all, he wrote, the workers must not desagree : they don't go on strike about their wages…!!!
(in fact, strikes were forbidden until 1864)
On a local radio, in 1984, I have interviewed some local witnesses.
One was astonished on November 11, 1918 : he has heard the Marseillaise in the local catholic church.
In fact, some industrialists, who have moved from occupied Alsace to Normandy were radicals ( left republicans, and anticlericals) ; on the contrary, farmers, in the countryside, voted for the catholic and conservative parties.
Even in ordinary villages, it is possible to use archives.
Most French villagers wrote in 1789 a “cahier de doléances”, which described the village activities, and the farmers ‘complaints. You can also use the “cadastre”, a plan showing the whole village, houses and farming land (the first one was ordered by Napoleon, but most date circa 1835).
I shall add a surprising book : Alain Corbin has published in 1998 “Le Monde retrouvé de Louis-François Pinagot. Sur les traces d'un inconnu (1798-1876 ). From what he knows on XIXth century social history, Corbin imagines the life of an unknown clogmaker, near Chartres.
My daughter, studying anglo-norman medieval history, has used http://multimap.co.uk
For instance, she found a map, an aerial photo, and old photos of Minchinhampton (Gloucestershire):
To conclude, I may focus on 3 issues :
- This approach works well with a rural society, with old towns. In the 1980s, this approach was fed with nostalgia : many éco-musées were built, and traditional everyday life was idealized, even if, in fact, life was harder and shorter for the workers.
It should be much more tricky to do the same study with 1970 industrial estates, or with nowadays unchanging suburbs.
- Pedagogy :
I shall emphasize the gap between teachers and pupils.
As history teachers, we know what questions may be asked, what answers may be given. It can be more difficult for our pupils, who discover this history.
I may add another fact : in a rural society, part of the knowledge comes from the family and the social environment. Is it really the same in a suburb education ?
- Politics and local history.
France has changed from jacobinism to decentralisation.
Each political body is trying to build its own political identity. Sometimes reconstructing an artificial history. Sometimes publishing useful sources.
Geographers show that local history has to be integrated in a multiple approach. In 2004, we are not only French or English, but also citizen of the world, member of a regional and local society. And for some of us, member of Europe, or rather of one of its various history.
Edited by Dave Wallbanks, 22 February 2004 - 12:22 AM.
Posted 21 February 2004 - 05:46 PM
Posted 21 February 2004 - 07:56 PM
The town of Cwmbran is a 'new town', along the same lines as Milton Keynes, but nestling in the South Wales valleys between Newport and Pontypool.
The 'town' has very little history, unless you want to study the building of the town from the 1950's, which is done in local primary schools anyway.
Prior history is limited to the small villages and hamlets that inhabited the area previously, and these consited of very few people the amount of information available via local history groups and the internet is very limited.
However we found an excellent route into local history, a member of the local history society in Pontypool had created a database of local soldiers who died in the 1st world war by trwling through the archives of WW1 newspapers. we were able to 'edit' his database to soldiers just from the villages that now make up Cwmbran to produce an excellent resource. Analysis of this database allowed for pupils to enquire as to the contribution of Cwmbran to WW1 and also expand their understanding of recruitment, the 'structure' of the army, the theatres of battle and the spread of casualties.
Local history is mentioned wherever possible in other topics, but it is rarely possible. Having said that, the kids love the story about how the Blaenavon 'branch' of the Chartists' march on Newport in 1839 never made it to the bloodbath outside the Westgate Hotel because they gave up and got drunk in the Upper Cock pub (about 100 yards from our school!!!)
Posted 22 February 2004 - 11:39 AM
Perhaps the content is more focused on Year 6 - How Britain has changed since 1948 - but it also has potential for Year 9 - 20th Century World. Perhaps it could help make a good transition project?
Posted 23 February 2004 - 08:41 PM
However, I think that one of the easiest ways that a bit of local history can be put into a KS3 curriculum is through a visit to a local church. This is not rocket science, but does work. We study the Medieval Church in April / May time in Year 7, followed by the Tudors and the Reformation.
Just outside Harlow is a lovely Essex village called Nazeing. It is but three miles from the school, but is right in the heart of some beautifal Essex countryside. In the final week of the unit on the Medieval Church we take all of our Year 7s to Nazeing Church and do a study of the history of the church and how it matches up with their learning about the structure of a Medieval Church. It then allows us to tie this in to the work on the Tudor Reformation in the 16th century.
As I say, not exactly a rocket science example, but it does allow the students to see life beyond the town, and to get a sense of the historical area in which they do actually live. It is quite a shock for some of them to find out that there is a history for Harlow that goes back beyond 1960!
Posted 24 February 2004 - 10:06 AM
We talk about why Enigma signallers were trained on the island -geographically secure and easy to keep secrets - there's even a great source from a woman who remembers having to march through Liverpool to the midnight boat wearing pumps so people wouldn't hear them leaving!
Its a great way of giving pupils a link to their area and getting them more interested in history, particularly when they are told about supposedly top secret stuff!
We also do the history around us segment - on Victorian tourism in Douglas, its very difficult persuading kids that huge numbers of people did want to come here on holiday!
Posted 24 February 2004 - 10:38 PM
Great seminar Dave. I am taking the 'Sprinkle' approach to Local History throughout the Key Stage 3 SoW.
I agree that the best way of including Local history is to "sprinkle" it thorough key stage 3
This year I am going to take it further with Year 8. I am using local documents to examine what life was like in the catchment area of my school in C19th. We will also examine the local mining disaster.
We have a display board of then and now....showing photograhs from the early part of C20th and comparing with modern day photographs of the same places.
My catchment area is huge, taking from a large rural area. I keep meaning to visit all the war memorials to take photographs and look for local names to use in lessons...to spark off interest in the World Wars.
I find that dropping local history into lessons makes the pupils ears prick up..they love hearing about how Canute trimmed his beard when he stopped off on a journey, how the monks had a secret tunnel to the Cathedral, how Cromwell's army missed sacking a local Church because it was hidden by trees, local witch trials, Chartist Riots, mining disasters....
At Key Stage 4 specification content limits the amount of opportunities to look specifically at Local History...but that doesn't stop me from dropping stories in what life was like in our area during the wars....or using local regiments for information on WWI.
I spent a few hours over half term researching the local history of my catchment area and have complied a list of local history web links. It is option night this week and as an aside I am going to leave this list out for parents to take a copy...perhaps it might spark their interest in the study of local history.
Posted 01 March 2004 - 08:39 AM
Ø By guiding you to find appropriate sources for your chosen topic and Key Stage. We can discuss this over the telephone, or you can come and see me in the Record Office to select material.
Ø By coming out to your school to work with pupils on copy documents specific to your locality. There is a charge for this service, currently £30.
The Record Office’s website contains a wealth of detail about our holdings and information about local and family history. You can search the database, which contains all the catalogues of the archives we look after, and you can access images online. In addition, there is a section, The Learning Zone, specifically aimed at schools, where digitised copies of archives are used to support the National Curriculum, with teachers’ notes and suggested classroom activities. At the moment, there is only one topic, The Story of Jimmy Durham, a Sudanese soldier who was raised by and served with the Durham Light Infantry, with activities for History and Citizenship aimed at Key Stage 3 pupils. However, we will gradually add to the site; the next planned topic is about the Holocaust.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 0191 383 4210, or you can access the Record Office website on www.durham.gov.uk/recordoffice
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