History@Portsmouth

University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Empire and its Afterlives 1: Applying the skills of the historian to the present

This is the first post in a series of four showcasing the work of second year students from across the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Social Sciences

Pair of lepards from Kingdom of Benin, Nigera, National Museum, Lagos

Pair of 16th century leopards from Kingdom of Benin, Nigeria, National Museum, Lagos

Click this link to see a video of George the Poet on the Benin Bronzes

Empire and its Afterlives is a module available for second year students across History, Politics, International Development, International Relations and Languages. Newly created for the 2020/2021 academic year by Natalya Vince and Tony Chafer, it encouraged students to draw on research from a range of disciplines in order to better understand empires from a historical perspective, their legacies, and the way they are present and represented around us today, in former former colonial countries and former colonies. During the sessions, students discussed historiography and museography, delved deeper into historical methods and methodology, brought literature, personal memoirs and academic literature into conversation, and related those questions to their own experience of the representations of empire across the globe.

One of the assessments for this module asked students to select a primary source about empire which they think should be introduced to the curriculum, and then pitch their selection in a mock podcast episode. Students could choose to which country’s curriculum, age group and subject area they would add the source. They expanded on their own experience of schooling by conducting additional research drawing on curriculum guidelines, education reports, and academic publications. In addition to the recording, students submitted an annotated bibliography of five sources, detailing how each source helped them prepare for their pitch.

This carved dance mask is a particular type in which foreigners are represented as caricatures in Mexican dance performances, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Accession no.1951.11.12

This carved dance mask is a particular type in which Mediterranean foreigners are represented as caricatures in Mexican dance performances, Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, Accession no.1951.11.12

This blog series will feature some of the debates and questions raised by students in their pitches, including the range of sources and different ways in which they suggest these be included in the curriculum. Although some students put forward opportunities to amend key texts in Literature and in Politics, most students chose to include their proposed source in the History curriculum, in order to move beyond History being reduced to being “all Tudors and World Wars”, as one student commented. This focus chimes in with the idea that the history curriculum should ensure that all pupils know and understand ‘how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world’, as outlined in the History programme of study for Key Stage 3 (ages 12-14, firs three years of secondary school) in England

Note: Although several of the students’ recordings talk about “the curriculum in the UK”, as education is a devolved matter, most of the time the exam boards and education levels referred to are the English and Welsh ones, although some suggestions would also apply to Northern Ireland.

 

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