‘What is history?’ Africa and the excitement of sources with Year 7

Teaching History article

By Adbul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn, published 17th December 2020

Many history departments choose to begin their Year 7 curriculum with an introduction to the nature of history and the processes in which historians engage as they develop, refine and substantiate claims about the past. In this article, Adbul Mohamud and Robin Whitburn report on an such an introductory unit, designed with a specific focus on the history of Africa and an emphasis on the work of African historians in constructing interpretations of the past based on archaeological sources (such as artefacts and surviving buildings) as well as written materials. With contributions from Sharon Aninakwa, Ciara McCombe and Nebiat Michael, three history teachers who trialled an early version of the enquiry, they explain its power not only in shaping in students’ understanding of what history is, who engages in it and how they do so, but also in establishing important ideas about the richness and diversity of African history and the deep roots within that continent of both Christianity and Islam...

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