Triumphs Show 176: Using material culture as a means to generate an enquiry on the British Empire

Teaching History feature

By Kathryn Elsdon and Hannah Howard, published 1st October 2019

Spicing it up

Triumphs Show is a regular feature which offers a quick way for teachers to celebrate their successes and share inspirational ideas with one another. While the ideas are always explained in sufficient depth for others to be able to take them forward in their own practice, the simple format allows teachers to present individual activities or one-off events that have had a particular impact on their students. See all other Triumphs Shows

After spending the better part of an afternoon session at university with our fellow history trainees ‘wrestling’, in the words of Byrom and Riley, with planning an enquiry on the British Empire, we both left feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with our efforts. Although as trainee teachers we expected to find planning an enquiry challenging, we quickly found that when it came to tackling the British Empire we were not alone in our frustration. Indeed, one of our placement departments was experiencing similar difficulties.  As Byrom and Riley suggest, it is our job as teachers to grapple with the challenge of content selection – both in terms of the topics we select and the content we choose to teach within any particular topic. But this challenge seems to be magnified ten-fold when teaching the history of Britain’s empire: a complex political, cultural, social and economic phenomenon that has a broad chronological and geographical scope...

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