Teaching Year 9 to argue like cultural historians

Teaching History article

By Alexander Benger, published 3rd July 2020

Recasting the concept of empathy as historical perspective

Alex Benger asks whether the mode of enquiry adopted by cultural historians, the construction of webs of past meaning from past perspectives, is underexplored in school history. Benger used a cultural history approach in his building of an enquiry for Year 9 around one man’s experience of the First World War. Here he examines his pupils’ efforts at interpreting source material within layers of period context in order to build ‘thick descriptions’. Making a link with the somewhat discredited curricular goal of empathy, Benger argues for the introduction of the concept of ‘perspective’ as a way of translating cultural history into school history...

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