Using the present to construct a meaningful picture of the medieval past

Teaching History article

By Jessica Phillips, published 21st September 2022

‘Alluringly strange, discomfortingly familiar’

In this article, Jessica Phillips returns to a theme explored in the Historical Association’s publication Exploring and Teaching Medieval History in Schools – the challenge of teaching about the medieval past in ways that acknowledge its vibrant complexity and create a genuine sense of resonance rather than condescension or blank incomprehension.1 Phillips begins by explaining why such an approach is so important and serves as a valuable foundation for future learning. She recognises the dangers of presentism inherent in an approach that seeks to acknowledge points of connection between the distant past and the present, but argues that certain kinds of presentism serve as powerful tools and have been used very effectively by historians. She outlines a useful taxonomy of different forms of presentism and shows how her Year 7 enquiry sought to avoid naïve attempts at ‘time travel’ and instead make productive use of her pupils’ knowledge in the present to construct new meanings out of the experiences they were studying.

This resource is FREE for Secondary HA Members.

Non HA Members can get instant access for £2.49

Add to Basket Join the HA