This essay was submitted to the University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies by Andrew William Panton, B.A. (in residence at Pembroke College) in May 1968 in part-fulfilment of the course requirements leading to the award of the University's Diploma in Education.


The task that confronts every school teacher has two sides to it. The teacher, irrespective of the subject he teaches, has constantly to bear these in mind. Firstly, he must consider the subject which he is teaching, and, secondly, the pupils whom he is teaching. Thus teaching involves a threefold relationship between teacher, subject, and pupil. The function of the teacher has been seen as a bridge between the pupil and what he seeks to learn. One might go further and say that the teacher is a catalysing agent that fuses two elements into a dynamic working relationship. The teacher should strive to maintain a balance between his responsibilities to both subject and pupil, although as an educationalist the latter responsibility is the more weighty of the two.

Having made this fundamental point concerning the nature of the teaching problem, we must now consider the aims of teaching history. To do this, we must first make clear what we aim to do in any educational process. A satisfactory definition of an educative process is most elusive and seemingly impossible to render in epigrammatic form. R.S.Peters' description of it as a process of initiation into respectable modes of thought is useful, but leaves much unsaid. Education is more than the receipt of the skills of particular academic disciplines: it should have some higher cultural purpose, to which all these disciplines should be able to contribute. A.N.Whitehead has described this cultural purpose of education as "activity of thought and receptiveness to beauty and human feelings".

This, then, is the basic educational framework into which we must fit the aims of our subject. Now we must consider what it is we are teaching when we teach history. Where does history start and where does it end? Is history exclusively a study of the past, or should it be a constant dialogue between past and present? These and many others are the questions which the history teacher must always be asking. But let us first investigate what the academic discipline of history consists of.

Most of us would agree that history is the study of past human actions and activity. But what is really at issue is not so much what we are to look at, but how we are to look at it. W.H.Burston finds three basic characteristics that typify the study of history. Firstly, the historical events that we study cannot be observed, for the vital part of the events are the motives which caused them. Secondly, history is an independent body of knowledge obtained by scholarly methods of research, and as such is studied in detachment. Finally, a historian is especially concerned with the uniqueness of each event. If we accept Burston's characteristics of historical study - I personally find them very convincing - we must now consider their implications on the aims of the history teacher.

Let us begin with the first one: that historical events cannot be observed. The motives and intentions and purposes behind them can only be inferred from the historical evidence available, Thus history is a subject studied in a way geography and science are not, and teachers cannot present it in a way similar to the teachers of those subjects.

The implications of our second characteristic, that history should be studied in detachment, lead us to more controversial conclusions. Detachment is a word little to the liking of history teachers, and, as Burston has said, "to demand a completely detached attitude to the past is surely to invite not merely a disinterested attitude, but an uninterested one as well". But it must remain the duty of the history teacher not to encourage partisan attitudes to the study of history. This is a hard enough task in the study of any period, but almost impossible in the study of the contemporary world, where factors of personal interest and group loyalty affect our thinking to a far greater degree. Thus history teachers would be well advised not to go beyond 1870 in their studies. No one could sensibly argue that contemporary society should not be studied, but it does not seem that it can be well adapted to a historical study at school-level.

One reason given for the teaching of contemporary history at school is that appears more relevant to the everyday life of pupils, and thus it engages their interest more readily. Similar motives have led history teachers to teach what Professor M.J.Oakeshott has called "the practical past". This approach is directly contrary to our third characteristic, that history is concerned with the uniqueness of events, that is, the peculiar set of circumstances that have led to them. Here it differs from sociology, which, though also interested in the past, attempts to classify events, to stress not their unique aspects, but to explain them in terms of general laws. Such a study entails reading history backwards, extrapolating certain aspects of events, isolating them and using them in support of theories deriving from contemporary circumstances. Such a study is a legitimate one, but it is not an historical one. Yet, studying the past for its practical effects on the present is just such a study.

The history teacher should be careful to distinguish between this "practical past" and the historical past. It cannot be wrong that pupils of the present should wish to trace the origin of some contemporary problem in the past in the past, but they should do so under the appropriate banner. It seems likely that sociology and economics will have big futures as school subjects. Both are better equipped than history to carry on this dialogue between past and present. It cannot be the duty of history teachers to disregard the traditions of their discipline in the face of of pressure to teach material that cannot be dealt with in a historical manner. By distorting the nature of his subject, the history teacher can do good neither to it nor to his pupils. If history is a subject worthy of study at school, then it must stand or fall according to its merits, What these merits are, let us now consider.

The particular merits of history as a school subject are of course directly related to the aims of the teacher. It is to give our pupils the benefits of these merits that we teach history, and we justify the place of history in the school curriculum for the same reason. What history has to offer boys and girls can profitably be divided into two sections. The first I would call, for want of a more concise term, "the imaginative-experiential motive", and this is applicable to pre-"O" Level children. The second, what I would call "intellectual motive" comes later. But what is it about history that children like?

To children the only way in which the study of history can be justified is on grounds of interest. They cannot appreciate our deeper motives. Thus, it is a clear duty of the history teacher to satisfy curiosity about the past. Many children have have an instinctive interest in the past, and no particular appeal has to be made to them. Others, however, have to have their interest in the past kindled and then stimulated. It is the first and most obvious task of the history teacher to arouse and then maintain such an interest. A direct appeal to the children's imagination is the surest way to do this. To go further, the imaginative stimulus that history can afford to young minds is the main justification of history as a pre-"O" Level subject. Of course, history can claim no monopoly in stimulating the imagination of the young, but it can do this in the social context. To understand the problems, and to study the living conditions of our ancestors, is to widen the experience and exercise the imagination. To succeed in doing this, a quantity of sympathetic imagination is necessary, a humility about one's environment and a willingness to enter into a new experience. Children can do these things with less difficulty, perhaps, than adults, having fewer preconceptions than their elders. Project methods lend themselves particularly well to such experiential aims. History presented in such a way is a moral education in the widest sense. It is not escapism, unless all exercise of the imagination is this. Still less is it irrelevant to the problems of modern life. Anyone who has studied the problems of other societies can confront those of hos own with greater stature.

As the pupils grow older, the intellectual aspects of history should become most important. History, like all other academic disciplines, provides a valuable programme of mental training. From "O" Level onwards, the teacher should be primarily concerned with this programme. The study of history teaches students to arrange and select material, to develop a critical sense in the evaluation of sources, to produce coherent and cogent arguments and to form reasoned conclusions. Thus, the history teacher should be careful to stress that the technique of essay-writing consists not in cataloguing historical information, but in the production of a well-balanced argument, answering a question which has been thoroughly considered. History taught in this way helps to train the mind in one of the most practical and valuable directions that education can provide.

To stimulate the imagination, widen the experience, and train the mind, these should all be the aims of the history teacher. But history should always have an underlying moral purpose. For it is the study of mankind, and any study of mankind, and and study of mankind, short of the strictly biological, must have such an underlying purpose. But the moral aspect of history is concerned with the searching out of the motives behind  individual human actions, and it is not the function of the historian to subject these actions to some moral code. Whig history, though discredited intellectually, still exerts a strong influence over classroom practice. That this is so is to some extent due to the methodological difficulties of presenting the subject in an apparently relevant manner, but history teachers should never plan their lessons to demonstrate the truth of  any particular moral principles.

Butterfield's contention that moral judgments must be kept out of history is, as Isaiah Berlin has pointed out,  unrealistic if history is to be written in everyday language, but he is surely correct in his view that moral judgments can never play a major part in the historian work. To give them a prominent place in history teaching takes one into an atmosphere of pseudo-morality, where sententiousness competes with glibness, hypocrisy with naivety. And, as Butterfield points out, " ... in the world of pseudo-moral judgments there is a general tendency on the one hand to avoid the higher regions of moral reflection and on the other hand to make moral issues out of what are not really moral issues at all". This is not to say that moral judgments have no right to intrude themselves into our study of history. No one can study historical events without having some feelings as to the propriety of some of them. But these views will be intensely subjective, and for this reason can never become part of the mainstream of historical narrative. Moral questions can become a valuable incidental to the study of history, but the teacher should be careful to encourage an atmosphere of humility in this field. For morality can never be taught, but a responsible attitude towards it can be fostered.

No discussion of history teaching and its aims can be concluded without a word about examinations. Here the teacher becomes brutally aware of his dual responsibilities to pupil and subject. Should he ensure his pupils' success in examinations at the cost of doing violence to the aims of his discipline? This is a question that must confront every teacher. It is not, however, an honest dilemma, for, if an examination pass is not complemented by a parallel educational benefit, it is not worth having. The good of the pupil and the subject must be sought simultaneously. The good of neither will be served without that of the other.


First Year: - 3 lessons per 40 lesson week, one of which will be devoted to local history.

The Ancient World.
1st Term: Early civilisations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Crete-Mycenae. Classical Greece: Athens, Sparta, Xerxes' expedition, Alexander the Great.

2nd Term: Rome: Rise of Rome, Punic Wars, Julius Caesar and the end of the Republic, Roman Britain.

3rd Term: Rome: Project work on aspects of Roman life. Rise of Christianity. Barbarian invasions. Byzantine Empire.

Second Year: - 3 lessons per week, one for local history.

The Medieval and Early Modern World.
1st Term: Dark Ages: Sub-Roman Britain and King Arthur. Settlement of Anglo-Saxons. Early English society. Conversion of Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The Rise of Islam. Charles the Great.

2nd Term: Middle Ages: Vikings. King Alfred. Norman Conquest. Medieval Manors. The Crusades.

3rd Term: Renaissance. Wide coverage of Renaissance World. Project Work. Reformation in Europe. Emperor Charles V. Ottoman Empire.

Third Year: - 3 lessons per week.

The Tudors and Stuarts.

1st Term: The Early Tudors: Wars of the Roses and establishment of the Tudors. Work of Henry VII and Wolsey. Henrician Reformation. Edward VI and Mary I. 

2nd Term: Elizabethan England: Church, Parliament, Mary Stuart, Spanish Armada. Project on some aspect of Elizabethan England.

3rd Term: The Stuarts: Civil War. 30 Years War. Interregnum. Restoration. Glorious Revolution.

Fourth Year: - 2 lessons per week (plus 1 lesson allocated to Modern Studies/Civics).

Hanoverian and Early Victorian Age.

1st Term: Age of Walpole. Jacobite Rebellions. Eighteenth Century life (upper classes, working classes, education, law, recreation). British and French in North America. American War of Independence.

2nd Term: Agricultural Revolution. Industrial Revolution. Canals and roads. Wesley and Methodism. George III and the Constitution. French Revolution.

3rd Term: Napoleonic Wars. Reaction and Reform. Railways and steamships. Science and industry in Early  19th Century. Peel and the Corn Laws. Life in mid-19th Century (town and country).

Fifth Year: ("O" Level, Combined Oxford &Cambridge Board: 1763-1846): 3 lessons per week.

1st Term: George III and the politicians 1763-84. Events leading to the American War. The Amercan War of Independence. Industrial Revolution. Peace-time policy of the Younger Pitt. Napoleonic Wars 1793-1806.

2nd Term: War-time policy of the Younger Pitt. Napoleonic War 1806-15. American War 1812-15. reaction and Liberal Toryism 1815-30. Foreign Policy of Castlereagh and Canning. Whis and Reform 1830-41.

3rd Term: Palmerston's foreign policy 1830-41. Peel's ministry 1841-46. Revision for exam.

Sixth Form Syllabus: "A" Level, Combined Oxford & Cambridge Board: English History 1471-1688; European History 1461-1721; Special Subject as prescribed): 8 lessons per week - 4 English History; 4 European History).

Lower Sixth Year:

English History:
Revival of royal power under Edward IV and Henry VII. Wolsey: domestic. Wolsey: foreign affairs. Henry VIII and the break with Rome. Thomas Cromwell and the Reformation. Tudor revolution in government? Edward VI's reign. Mary and the Counter-Reformation. Price Rise in 16th Century. Enclosures and the wool trade. Elizabeth: Religion. Elizabeth: Parliament. Elizabeth: Foreign affairs. 

European History:
The rise of the nation states. Italian Wars. Reformation and Luther. Emperor Charles V. Ottoman Empire. Reformation and Calvin. Counter-Reformation. Philip II of Spain. The Revolt of the Netherlands. The French Wars of Religion.

Upper Sixth Year:

English History:
James I and Parliament. Charles I and the 11 years' tyrannny. Causes of Civil War. The Civil War. The Commonwealth. Oliver Cromwell. The Restoration Settlement. Charles II and Parliament. foreign policy of Charles II. James II and the causes of the Glorious Revolution.

Special subject in spring term.

European History:
Reconstruction of France under Henri IV and Richelieu. Thirty Tears War. Foreign policy of the Cardinals. Mazarin and the Frondes. The rise of Sweden. Rise and fall of the Netherlands. Louis XIV: domestic. Louis XIV: wars. Decline of Spain. Emperor Leopold I. Charles XII and the decline of Sweden. Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia. Russia under Peter the Great.

Revision for exam in summer term.   

Commentary on Syllabus. 
In constructing a school syllabus, the history teacher has to remember the two-fold responsibility that we encountered in the previous section. His syllabus should be both faithful to the structure of the subject and concerned with the gradual development of the pupil. It has, too, a double function: firstly, it lays down the the order in which these contents are to be studied, and, secondly, it lays down the order in which these contents are to be studied. The latter raises the whole problem of the structure of history, while the question  of content involves the problem of selection in the study of history. 

Most historical syllabi adopt a chronological approach to the problem of the order in which we study history, and in the syllabus outlined above I have followed this practice. It has been said, however, that such an approach is merely traditional, is not necessary to the study of history, and indeed that history can be better studied from the present backwards. This I do not believe. The wide adoption of the chronological approach would seem to demonstrate that this is the natural method. Furthermore, to study history backwards implies that study of the "practical past" to which I have objected. 

The problem of content poses the larger problem of selection. This problem should be sub-divided into its four component parts: the events, periods and aspects of history that we study, and the scale in which we study it. The first problem of selection, that of selection, I do not propose to study at length. Our choice of events cannot be altogether personal, for some events would appear to be of greater importance than others. The criteria for such judgment involves great controversy, but would seem to depend, firstly, on what we consider important in our own experience, and, secondly, on our interpretation of historical events in general. In my own syllabus I have taken care to select topics suited to the intellectual development of the pupils. For the younger pupils the topics should be suitable for the imaginative experience, which I believe to be the great value of history in the junior part of the school.

The second problem, that of periods, is of immediate concern to the framer of a syllabus. The old dilemma of Outlines v. Periods, first described by Professor Tout, rears its head. Those who maintain that history is the story of the development of community must find the division of history into periods inhibiting to their purpose. Those who see history as an imaginative reconstruction of the past demand a detailed study of s few periods of time. This is the "patch" philosophy. Both viewpoints have much to be said for them, but both, too, have their disadvantages. The supporter of outlines is surely right to emphasise the essential continuity of
history, but history that is only concerned with outlines will tend to be superficial.The advocate of the "patch" approach is right to demand a study in depth, but unless these patches can be put into their place in time, much of the advantage of the historical perspective will be lost. Thus, it seems highly desirable in the framing of a syllabus an amalgam of both these points of view should be sought. Both the horizontal perspective of the "outline" approach and the vertical perspective of the "patch" approach are necessary to the study of history.

Thus, in my outline syllabus I have attempted to balance the two. The first year's work is a study of the best known aspects of the Ancient World, while the next three years' work covers the history of England from Roman times to the Great Exhibition of 1851. The only long break comes in the second year where I have jumped from the Crusades to the Renaissance, thus leaving out the High Middle Ages. This is regrettable, but
on balance seems the most expendable period. At the same time, I have set aside time in the first three years for studies in depth on Rome, the Renaissance world and Elizabethan England. Here, I envisage some from of project method to be adopted. For the fourth year this seems unnecessary, as the work chosen is aimed at providing a background study to the next year's "O" Level work. By doing this, it is hoped that "O" Level history may be less superficial than it so often is. The "A" Level Course, by providing two outline and one special subject paper ensures the balance between outline and patch. I have chosen the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries for the "A Level Course because of the great variety of material they cover. Constitutional, religious and international issues all appear prominently.

I have not included any modern or contemporary history in my syllabus for the reasons outlined in the sections above on the aims of history teaching, but I have in the fourth year put aside one lesson for Modern studies, and would presume Geography to have done the same. This subject would include contemporary history and Civics, which I have left out of the history syllabus. In the "O" Level year, I have calculated that both History and Geography would need the extra lesson again. One period of Modern studies at least would be desirable, but owing to the pressure of "O" Levels might be impossible. In time, it might become an
"O" Level subject in its own right. (The Scottish Examination Board already sets such a paper.)

The third problem of selection that we have to consider is one of aspect. My syllabus follows the traditional general history approach to this problem. I have not included in it a course of social or economic history as such. The advantages of aspect history seem to me to be somewhat doubtful. Apart from general structural doubts about the value of extrapolating certain aspects of the historical narrative, there are other difficulties. The obvious strong point in the case for social history is that it is nearer the child's experience, and should thus be more intelligible and appealing to him. Such a fact can only be shown by experience, but it would seem that, if this is true, it is because it has become descriptive history. History bereft of politics, and with no sociological apparatus to explain it, appears devoid of intellectual discipline. Economic history, properly so-called, is not suited to pre-"A" Level work, and even at the later stage, if not studied in conjunction with economic theory, its value is small.

Another branch of history - local history - , I have provided for in the syllabus, giving it a lesson a week for the first two years. Such a study should give to the child an interest in his immediate environment. Also, it trains him or her to be more observant of it. Though subsidiary to the main aim of history teaching, local history has much to teach the child.

The final problem of selection in the composition of the history syllabus is concerned with the scale of study. In my syllabus I have kept mainly to English history in the years before "A" Level. It is fashionable today to speak of the need for World history, an idea that springs from an equally fashionable contempt for patriotism rather than from any from any solid intellectual basis. The great virtue of national history is that it allows generalisations about the activities of groups of people, a fact convenient for both the teacher and the pupil. But where foreign events are seen to impinge on the history of the nation, I have not hesitated to include them in my syllabus, while making no apologies for the national scale of study. In such a syllable, both the imaginative and intellectual aims of history teaching can be dealt with adequately. World history at the present time would add nothing essential.

III.  DETAILED DESCRIPTION of three units of instruction and three individual lessons.

A.  The conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.

Form: a below average grammar school 2nd Year. 5 lessons, 1 in detail. Text-book: "Portrait of Britain before 1066", by Donald Lindsay and Mary Roper Price (Oxford 1963). Ch. 12, pp. 153-170.

Lesson 1. Aim: To discover the religious situation in Britain before conversion attempts. Begin by reminding the class of their recent study of Anglo-Saxon society, picking out important points. Then refer to diagram of Anglo-Saxon village, recently made. Now make connection from this work to new work by oral questioning:

Teacher : "What thing stands out most in the village today?"

Desired answer: "The Church."

Teacher : "Did the Saxons we have just been learning about have a churches?"

Des. Ans.: "No."

Teacher : "No. That's right. The Saxons were 'Pagans' or 'Heathens' (Write up on the board). Does anyone know what these names mean?"

Ans.: Probably fairly close to required meaning.

Teacher : "If someone was 'pagan' or 'heathen' it meant that he didn't believe in the same god as the Christians. Can anyone suggest why the Saxons were not Christians?"

 Ans.: (Pause) Unlikely.

Teacher : "Well, where did Christianity come from? Who brought it to Britain in the first place?"

Des. Ans.: "The Romans."

Teacher : "Good. Now can anyone suggest why the Saxons knew nothing about Christianity?"

Des. Ans.: "Because they came from a place that the Romans never ruled."

Teacher : "Yes. Good. The Anglo-Saxons came from North Germany, which had never been in the Roman Empire, and so, they, unlike the Britons, had never heard of Jesus Christ. Now what we are going to do is to see how it was that the Anglo-Saxons became Christians."

Now tell them to write in their exercise books the heading "THE CONVERSION OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS". Then establish the meaning of the word 'Conversion' - not difficult after above questioning. That done, tell class to read p.153, which is concerned with what happened to the Christians in Britain after the Romans left.

When they have read this, test their understanding by oral questioning:

Teacher : "Where did the Christians go when they were defeated by the Saxons?

Des. Ans.: "To Wales, Cornwall and Elmet."

Teacher : "Where is Elmet?"

Des. Ans.: "Yorkshire."

Teacher : "Did the Britons want to convert the Saxons to Christianity?"

Des. Ans.: "No."

Teacher : "Why not?"

Des. Ans.: "Because they hated the Saxons for invading their country."

Next dictate a note to them which should appear in their books thus:

"1. What happened to the Christians.
After the death of King Arthur the Christians were pushed westwards by the Anglo-Saxons. In Wales and Cornwall they set up Christian kingdoms. In Yorkshire they was also a small Christian kingdom called Elmet. The Britons did not want to convert the Saxons, because they hated them for stealing their land." 

Then, make the point that the Saxons also had a religion of their own, even though it was not Christian: "They thought that their religion was the true one, and that the Christians were wrong. Now we are going to find out what their religion was like."

Set them to read pp. 154-157, and tell them to continue reading it at the start of the next lesson.

Lesson 2.  Finish reading pp. 154-157 - talk about primitive religions - make note on Anglo-Saxon religion - introduce story of St. Patrick - set reading of pp. 157-160 about Patrick - male note on St. Patrick - set homework: read pp. 160-162 and make own note on St. Columba.

Lesson 3.  Talk about St. Columba - point out illustrations from "Pictorial Education" - set question "Why I became a monk at Iona." - set drawing of a picture of a monk at Iona.

Lesson 4.  Finish off previous work - set reading pp. 162-164 about Pope Gregory the Great - talk about Augustine's expedition to Kent - set homework: read pp.164-167 about Augustine. Then write a letter from Augustine to Gregory, giving progress report on mission and a description of how Saxons live.

Lesson 5.  Set reading of pp. 167-170 about spread of Christianity to Northumbria - talk about early conversions and effect of them - give out duplicated map of Great Britain. Tell class to draw in the seven kingdoms from the map on p.169 - put diagram on board showing by arrows the way in which Christianity spread. Tell class to copy this. 

B.  The Causes of the American Revolution.

Form: a top stream grammar school 4th Year. 4 lessons, No. 2 in detail. Text-book: "Britain, 1714-1851", by Denis Richards and A.O.H. Quick (Longmans 1961). Ch. 5, pp. 65-70.

Lesson 1.  The Mercantilist System. Prepare diagram on blackboard, demonstrating principles and working of the system. Introduce topic by pointing out that causes of differences between G.B. and colonies were long-standing and went back well beyond 1757. State that trade problems were one of these causes. Expose diagram. Point out salient features, and tell class to copy diagram into their exercise books. Then discuss advantages and disadvantages of the system both for G.B. and for colonists. 

Lesson 2.  Introduce lesson by reminding class of work done in last lesson: "In our last lesson, we had a look at what is called the Mercantilist System, and we were particularly concerned to look at it from the point of view of a background to the American War of Independence. Now, close your books, and let us see how much you can remember."

Then pose certain questions about the Mercantilist System to the class in general:

Teacher : "What were the main points, the main characteristics of this mercantilist system?"

Des. Ans.: "Colonies provided raw materials and sent them home to Britain."

Teacher : "What were these raw materials?"

Des. Ans.: "Sugar, cotton, tobacco, furs, naval stores, etc."

Teacher : "Yes. Good. but why did Britain prefer to get these things from colonies rather than from other foreign countries?"

Des. Ans.: "If you buy from foreign countries, you have to let money leave the country. If you buy from colonies, it stays in the country."

Teacher : "Well, in the empire anyhow. Yes, excellent. It was thought that you could measure a country's wealth by the amount of money in its treasury. Thus more money must be brought into the country than is taken out. This then creates what we call a favourable balance of payments. Having colonies helped the balance of payments, because you could now buy your raw materials from your own countrymen."

Now, tell the class to take down notes on the Mercantilist System: "As this is a very complicated subject, I want you to take down some short notes about this. The heading is: 'Causes of the American Revolution", and the first sub-heading is 'The Mercantilist System'. (Note-taking will involve a continuation of the above discussion; teacher will coax ideas from class, then write them down on the blackboard in his on words. Notes will appear in this form:

"1. Principles of Mercantilist System.

 a.  Colonies produce raw materials for mother country.
 b.  Most of these raw materials could not be sold to other countries. (Enumerating Laws)
 c.  Goods imported into colonies from Europe had to go via Britain and pay duties there.
 d.  Colonists could not develop their own industries and had to buy manufactures from Britain.
 e.  All trade was conducted in British ships.
 f.  Colonies increased employment in Britain.

 2. Advantages for the Colonists.

 a.  Balance of trade favoured them. They sold more to G.B. than they bought from it.
 b.  They were assured of a market for their goods in G.B.

 3. Disadvantages for the Colonists.

 a. Trade restrictions limited profits of merchants. (But large profits came from smuggling.)
 b. Imported manufactures made more expensive than if they had been made in America.)

Teacher : "In fact, the Americans were really quite well off under the mercantilist system, though some of the restrictions were a nuisance. The real issue was why should the colonists have to submit to any restrictions. They were becoming stronger and stronger, and did not see why they should have to obey laws passed three thousand miles away. Also, since the defeat of the French in the Seven Years War (1756-63), they were no longer dependent on British military force.

"Now, at the same time, the British Government was becoming more and more determined to assert its rights over the colonies. As a result of the Seven Years War British territory had doubled in size, and the cost of defending it had increased enormously. The war had increased the Government's debts. So it was determined that the colonists should help to pay for their defence by taxation. The colonists, however, were very reluctant to pay taxes fixed at Westminster, and thought that they should tax themselves, if anyone was going to.

"So we have a situation in which both sides were becoming increasingly obstinate, and, as nobody backed down, Britain and her colonies drifted into war."

Work set to the class: "So for the rest of this lesson, and for your homework, I want you to read pp. 65-70 in your text-book, and then list chronologically all the events from 1763 to 1775 which had to do with the relationships between Great Britain and the colonies. (Demonstrate this on blackboard.) When you have done this, have a look at the chronological order and see if it suggests how the break came about."

Lesson 3.

Begin by looking at above problem. Try to establish that each side became more and more irritated by the provocative actions of the other, until both were determined that the other should be taught a lesson. Then, discuss following question: "What two conflicts of the colonists from 1763 to 1775 came into conflict with each other?" Juxtapose liberty and loyalty as desires, but show strong mercenary motive behind former. Demonstrate mercenary aspect of American discontent by Boston Tea Party incident. Instruct class to prepare lecturettes, presenting the arguments of both sides.

Lesson 4.

Hold lecturettes, selecting speakers without warning. all should be prepared top speak for either side. End lesson by pointing out that both sides deserve some sympathy. Show that opportunism of Americans and opportunism of British Government both contributed to the break that few had originally wanted. 

C.  Charles XII of Sweden.

Form: Upper Sixth. 3 lessons, no. 3 in detail.

Lesson 1.

Aim: To deal with the position of Sweden in 1697: Causes of Swedish success in Seventeenth Century. Swedish control of Baltic. (Class should contribute to this.) Familiarise with Baltic geography. Internal reforms of Charles XI. Subservience to monarchy. (Teacher to deal with these.) Set essay: "Was Charles XII responsible for the decline of Sweden?" Give reading: D.Ogg's "Europe in the Seventeenth Century"; L.W.Cowie's "Seventeenth Century Europe"; Cambridge Modern History Vol. V; and F.G.Bengtsson's "Life of Charles XII".

Lesson 2.

Aim: To deal with enemies of Sweden. Causes of hostility between Sweden and Russia, Poland-Saxony, Brandenburg-Prussia, and Denmark to be ascertained. (Done in conjunction with class.) Discuss ways of tackling essay question. Then give rest of lesson for individual work.

Lesson 3.

Aim: To deal with points arising from essays.

Begin by giving back essays on C.XII. Go through them briefly, stressing mainly constructional points, e.g. relation to question, use of paragraphs, etc.

The rest of the lesson will then be a discussion about C.XII and the decline of Sweden. In it reference will be made to points in the essays just handed back. The following material indicates the way in which the discussion will be led. Not all the points will necessarily be made by the teacher. It is hoped that as many as possible will emerge during the discussion. It is presumed that most of the essays make the point that C.XII was mad. The aim of the discussion is to consider this point carefully, to insist that theories be backed up, and loose argument exposed.

a. Discuss character of C.XII.

Was he mad? If so, what evidence do we have? His conduct of Great Northern War (1700-21) will probably be mentioned. He strained manpower of Sweden to breaking point - 146,000 out of less than one million, 30% of male popn. killed. Personal characteristics: he was brought up to be an autocrat and to feel himself accountable to no one but God. Thus, he disregarded the sufferings of his countrymen in the course of his wars. His education largely military: fighting became his raison d'etre. He had an uncompromising nature - Voltaire called him "The only man in history who was free from all vice" - and he was quite unable to accept defeat when he had embarked on some task. He could not understand weakness in others (read Peter the Great's speech in Bengtssson p.388).

Was this madness? It is hard for us to understand the mind of a man brought up in the position of C.XII. His suicidal wars have been considered evidence of his madness. Let us consider this point.

b. What alternative to fighting did C.XII have? 

If we agree that his wars proved a disaster to Sweden, we must still face the question of what alternative did he have. The other Baltic nations were determined to humble Sweden and recover lost territory. Great Northen War begun not by Swedish aggression but by intrigues of Augustus of Saxony, Peter the Great, Frederick III and Reinhold Patkul, the Livonian patriot. War was the only way in which Sweden could maintain her empire. A peaceful policy, one of appeasement, would have meant surrendering continental provinces. Swedish ability had already won an empire against great odds. C.XII was not entirely unreasonable in trusting to this ability again. If we do consider C.XII was mad, we cannot cite his war policy as evidence per se. If Sweden was not to decline, there seemed little alternative.

c. Does the conduct of the war give us this evidence?

If we are to find evidence for C.XII's madness, we are more likely to find it in his conduct of the war. He failed to take advantage of his great victory at Narva (1700), allowing Peter to recover and conquer the Eastern Baltic provinces. He allowed his personal vendetta with Augustus of Saxony to become his prior consideration and pursued him across Europe when he should have been dealing with Russia. (This is easy to see with hindsight, and it must be admitted that at the time Poland might have seemed a greater threat than Russia.) This is hardly evidence for madness.

C.XII's most disastrous mistake was to invade the Ukraine in the winter of 1708-09. Prudence demanded reconquest of the Baltic provinces. The difficulties of the course of action he adopted were enormous - and it may have been precisely this that attracted him to it. However, the sudden collapse of his ally, Mazeppa, Khan of the Zaporogian Cossacks, was an event that he could not have expected. Nor did it help that the winter of 1708-09 was the coldest on record. It would seem that over-confidence and foolhardiness led him to this disaster. Madness can hardly be proved.

David Ogg is probably right in thinking C.XII's behaviour after Poltava (1708), the best evidence for his insanity. having failed to get effective Turkish support against Peter, Charles refused to leave the fortress of Bender where he had stayed from 1709 to 1713. His bloody eviction was one of the most bizarre episodes in history. Even stranger was his constant refusal to consent to diplomatic attempts from Stockholm to come to terms. Yet he sent no instructions either. These actions do induce grave doubts as to the sanity of C.XII. 

d. Conclusion.

It seems that evidence is not strong enough to show that C.XII was a madman. That he suffered from delusions cannot be denied. His behaviour in 1709-13 was especially peculiar. But the picture Ogg paints seems exaggerated. He suggests that C.XII fought his wars inspired by the desire for military glory, but it is edmore likely that he was determined to retain the position Sweden had gained in 1660, and to destroy the power of the countries that threatened this. Perhaps the ease of his early success led him to make his disastrous error of judgment in 1708.

Thus, though his actions demonstrate eccentricity and irresponsibility, we have no reason to suppose that he was insane.

e. Reasons for the decline of Sweden.

End lesson by summarising causes other than the strain of the Great Northern War: Swedish empire never a political unity - very difficult to defend - small population of Sweden proper - excessive tools ruined Baltic trade - rise of Russia and Brandenburg-Prussia.

(Next topic to be considered.)



While I still hold a number of the opinions expressed in the essay above, my subsequent experience as a history teacher caused me to reconsider a great deal as well. I still believe that a history teacher has a duty to provide his students with a chronological perspective, and that some priority must be given to the history of Great Britain. However, I would strongly dispute the statements that world history can add nothing of value that cannot be provided by national history, and that the history teacher should not seek to cover any topics after 1870. The views I expressed in 1968 now appear astonishingly arrogant and naive, and indeed I suspect that even then I must have realised that they were very hard to justify. But in fairness to myself they, and the syllabus I proposed above, do reflect not only my own historical education at school but the relative paucity of historical textbooks and materials at that time relating to modern history and certainly to  modern world history. By the time I returned to school-teaching in the mid-1970s things had changed in this respect, and some increasingly exciting materials concerning modern World history were available. Indeed I introduced such a study as an option at the "O" Level/CSE stage into the Radcliffe School, Wolverton, Milton Keynes, Bucks, where I taught from 1975 to 1977. As a result of this  experience, I would now probably put forward modern World history (i.e. encompassing much of the Twentieth Century) into the syllabus for what are now Years 10 and 11. Another important influence upon me in the mid-1970s were the opportunities provided by the Schools' Council History Project, under which I arranged for my Third Year class (now Year 9) to study the History of Medicine as an in-depth project, and to look at cognitive skills in history, including the study of source materials, critical awareness and detection of bias. Another seminal experience for me was the discovery of a sunken medieval village near Wolverton, and on the basis of the excitement caused by this I would look very closely to introducing as much local history as possible into the early years of the secondary school. Finally, I would have to consider critically my concerns about "practical history". While there certainly is a methodological difficulty with the Whig Interpretation of History and the practice of only looking at those aspects of a period which can be made relevant to the present day, I now think that, if we wish to see history returned to its former position as a compulsory GCSE subject, as I certainly do, there must be a price to pay in terms of what precisely is studied and why. In the end history can only be justified as a compulsory subject if is taught as the basis for an understanding of how our society, both national and international, has developed. If this involves a measure of "practical history", then so be it.
Last modified onTuesday, 30 December 2014 22:55

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