Broadening and deepening narratives of Benin for Year 8

Teaching History article

By Josh Garry, published 15th July 2021

The underdevelopment of Africa: broadening and deepening narratives of Benin for Year 8

Josh Garry describes his effort to refresh his approach to teaching the British transatlantic slave trade. Drawing on reading, lectures and discussions during an Historical Association Teacher Fellowship programme, Garry built a sequence of lessons designed to contextualise the trade while showing African agency and complexity. The result was a sequence that encompassed a very long time span, It focused chiefly on Benin and introduced the concept of ‘underdevelopment’ as advanced by Walter Rodney. Garry unpacks the curricular reasoning process that took him on the path towards new vibrancy, dialogue and engagement for staff and pupils alike. 

I recall a metaphor used by Jamie Byrom at the Schools History Project annual conference in 2018. He spoke of a curriculum being like a sword that is constantly hammered and refashioned in the fire to make sharp. I look at the development of a history teacher in the same way. It is a vocation where one is constantly learning and developing a craft. Although I have seven years’ experience, I consider myself still near the start of my journey, trying constantly to refine rigorous sequences of lessons that allow my students to fall in love with the subject that I fell in love with. 

When I completed my training in 2016, I came across a video of a conference held by History Matters. History Matters is a group of concerned Black historians and teachers led by Professor Hakim Adi. The conference aimed to address the reasons for the under-representation of ethnic minorities studying history beyond GCSE and, in particular, the low numbers from African and Caribbean heritage studying history at university and choosing to teach history in schools...

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