Cunning Plan 152.2: using Gillray’s cartoons with Year 8

Teaching History feature

By John Carter, published 4th October 2013

Using Gillray's cartoons to enable Year 8 pupils to understand 18th-century Britain

The past 30 years have seen a general revival in scholarly activity relating to ‘all aspects of 18th-century British history'. However, this increase in academic study, which has broadly coincided with the introduction and development of the National Curriculum in England, has not resulted in the period being studied in great depth within secondary schools. Aspects of the 18th century are certainly explored but often, as in the case of the transatlantic slave trade, these are not always well situated in the wider context of the period. Studying the development of political power in Britain has featured in all iterations of the National  Curriculum, and to ignore such a pivotal century would seem notably neglectful.

James Gillray's rich response to the events of the period, and particularly the French Revolution and the reaction that it provoked in Britain, provides an excellent ‘way in' that allows teachers to explore the political ramifications of an event that sent shockwaves through British society. These two enquiries are offered as examples of how Gillray's work might be used to develop pupils' understanding of the period...

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