Resources from the Appeasement workshops for pupils on 19 April 2023

The history of appeasement, the successes and failures of peace initiatives in international relations, and the social history of World War II are popular topics in secondary schools, and at GCSE and A-level. They are, however, taught mainly from the perspective of history from above.

On 19 April 2023, Prof. Julie V. Gottlieb, Department of History, University of Sheffield, and playwright-director Nicola Baldwin ran a schools’ event that included a read-through performance of the play The Nervous State, followed by 3 different hands-on immersive exercises for students to choose from. By dramatising F.L. Lucas’s Journal Under the Terror, 1938, students and their teachers were able to enrich their understanding of appeasement by gaining insight into the psychological, personal, and popular experiences of living in times of acute international crisis. Participants also considered the ways in which we all inevitably internalise the failures of peace.

80 pupils from Outwood School, Sheffield; Chaucer School, Sheffield; King Edward School, Sheffield and Manchester Grammar School, Manchester, attended the drama performance and immersive exercises workshop at University of Sheffield on 19th April 2023.

There were four components to the event.

  • Pupils watched a live performance of The Nervous State, a play by Nicola Baldwin, dramatising F.L. Lucas’s Journal Under the Terror, 1938 (1939). Lucas was a fierce critic of Appeasement.
  • Journal writing based on interacting with Lucas’s Journal Under the Terror, 1938 (1939). Write your own journal entry to chronicle this moment in time and how you are responding to current events, delivered by Prof. Gottlieb.
  • Sources for a history from below and a history from within the Munich Crisis. Analysing and comparing Mass Observation, Lucas’s journal and Chamberlain diary letter, delivered by Jamie Jenkins.
  • Scene Study from Nicola Baldwin’s The Nervous State, a dramatisation of F.L. Lucas’s Journal Under the Terror, 1938 (1939) , delivered by Nicola Baldwin.

The pupils and their teachers appreciated the workshops and the opportunity to attend such an event in a university setting.

Following the workshop, students were asked what the play and workshops added to their knowledge on the topic. Here are some of their responses:

  • “Added an emotional perspective that you don’t get from a textbook”.
  • “I learned about just how much people experienced anxiety in anticipation of the war while others were excited”.
  • “It helped me to understand the struggle that ordinary people went through during this time rather than just the famous, important figures that we usually learn about”.
  • “Gave me inspiration”.
  • “About the public's opinion of what was happening and what information they were being given compared to what the leaders knew”.
  • “It gave me an idea of how individuals felt, which is often missing from sources”.
  • “The idea of how ordinary people responded to crises and in History as a whole: it was interesting to see the perspectives of ordinary people rather than leaders”.

The documents below 'Materials from April 19th Appeasement workshops for pupils' give an indication of the event's activities. The film ‘A History From Within: New Approaches to Teaching the History of Appeasement in the Classroom’ below features coverage of the workshops.

Attached files:

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