History Pedagogy as 5 features

One of our YorkClio team, Hugh Richards, was asked by SLT to define the subject specific pedagogy of History in 5 features. Definitely a ‘phone a friend(s)’ moment! This has really started us thinking – hard! We have pasted below our working thoughts after 36 hours batting it about. We’d love to get a wider discussion going on about this. There is comment function on this blog page. Or tweet with #historyhydra. Please chip in!

History Pedagogy as Five Features – first stab at the Hydra. 

Note this was a collaborative effort with some other Heads of History across the city – Helen Snelson at the Mount/University of York and Ruth Lingard at Millthorpe. 

Preface: The nature of school history is that there is considerable overlap with academic history. They are not the same, but it is fair to say that there is more overlap than is the case with many/most other school subjects.  

1)Making learning enquiry based: usually the teacher will define the enquiry. It should be framed as a question over which there is genuine historical debate. To be successful it will require students to fully engage with the relevant narratives and with the relevant disciplinary and substantive concepts. It is sometimes possible and desirable at KS3 for students to define the enquiry themselves (more in the manner of university level of history.) (In Denmark this is what they do at their equivalent of history A-level!) Crucially, enquiries will end with clear, conditional conclusions or judgements about the past (see point 4). 

2) Presenting narratives of the past: this is about what is generally accepted to be known about ‘what happened’ and we underestimate the need for contextual knowledge at our peril. It is the teacher role to make clear champion, and to model, the status of a narrative. That is, to use language of certainty / uncertainty, as defined by the fragmentary/contested nature of the evidence on which it is based.  

3) Conceptual learning: to teach students so that they can define disciplinary and substantive concepts as tools to unpick and explain the historical narrative. To teach them how to engage with these concepts in the manner of a historian, for example to test hypotheses, organise thoughts and weigh up evidence – all in relation to the historical narrative.  

4) Conditional conclusions: to teach in a way that makes it clear that all conclusions made by historians are open to evidence-based debate. The debate is ongoing. This links back to 1) that the enquiries in school should be areas of genuine historical debate. It also requires history teachers to continue to be engaged in this debate by constantly updating their subject knowledge. At the higher levels of the school curriculum this involves engagement with the ‘multi-voicedness’ of the past and the nature of historical truth.  

5) Historical communication: to teach the accepted vocabulary, register, structures and modes used by historians to communicate. This should enable students to feel confident in expressing their own evidence-based views in relation to historical debate.  

Endnote: This assumes entitlement and equity – the aspiration that all should be given the opportunity to be able to go as far as they wish with academic learning about the past. Additionally, there is a huge contribution of history as a subject to citizens who are happy and fulfilled in a thriving multi-perspective democracy.  




The Process of History display

A lovely resource that is being shared by our friends at Huntington School. Inspired by hearing Ian Dawson at the Northern History Forum, it makes a great corridor display: Process of History Display.  Why not book for the Northern History Forum coming up on Weds 22nd Nov at Leeds Trinity? Book here! The sessions don’t start til 5pm, after social time, so there is time to get over from York after school.

Talking History with SLT

Christine Counsell gave a really helpful session on ‘Talking History with SLT’ at the SHP conference this year. Here is a summary note. Any lack of sense is the fault of the note-taker! Hopefully it will be useful for prompting thoughts and ideas about how to explain our subject to SLT colleagues.

CC on Talking History with SLT

‘Doing History’ – display and ex book versions

Here are links to a classroom display and exercise book version of ‘Doing History’. It is designed to explain to pupils what we do in history. Thanks to Hugh Richards for initiating and driving this work in consultation with many people. Doing History, Exercise book edition    Doing History 2017 display

Teaching the Domesday Survey

Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson from Yorkclio have been working with Professor Stephen Baxter from the University of Oxford to develop resources for teaching about the Domesday Survey. The attached resources are adaptable for Key Stage 3 or GCSE and the whole lot can be done in one lesson. The story of Domesday is so exciting and some of this can be missed by students. These trialled and peer-reviewed activities should solve that problem!

Resources for learning about the Domesday Survey and the challenge facing the scribes: How revealing of Norman skill is the Domesday Survey  The first part of the story of the Domesday Survey   Eight wapentakes  Ten landholders

Resources for learning about what Domesday Book reveals about the Conquest: What can Domesday reveal re Conquest  PPT people and places on map  What can Domesday reveal places   Sheets on which to collate findings

If you want to catch up on the latest research about the Domesday Survey – here are some notes: Domesday Book


Are you studying Hardwick Hall as part of the AQA GCSE course 2016-18?

Here are free resources for anyone studying Hardwick Hall as part of the Elizabethan depth study for AQA GCSE.

The pack is a mash up and more of the AQA resources. It is designed to introduce the historic environment study, has some preparation ideas and is then a workbook to use on site. Teaching pack

Here is a VR tour of the Hall for use by anyone who can’t get there, and also useful for revision. VR tour of Hardwick Hall

Are you studying Durham Cathedral as part of the AQA Norman England Unit?

Last week we were lucky enough to be joined by research Assistant Dr. John Jenkins from York University for an hour session on the Normans and Durham Cathedral. Here is a brief transcript of what he told us.  Please share with any colleagues studying Durham Cathedral for their Historic Environment.

  1. UniversityDurham is unique in that it combines the role of Church and warrior bishop. The Earls of Northumbria had not been successful in ruling over the people. Tostig had been replaced by Harold, Copsi had been given the role by William but lasted only 5 weeks in the job until he was burnt out of his church and beheaded. He was killed by Oswulf, grandson of Uchtred, who installed himself as Earl. Oswulf was killed in the autumn by bandits after less than six months as Earl. The role then passed to Gospatric who later joined a rebellion with Edgar Atheling and the Danes. As a result of this rebellion William stripped him of his title and placed Waltheof in the role. In 1075 Waltheof is caught up in another rebellion against William, and, despite confessing he is executed by William.

Clearly the Earldom of Northumbria was causing major problems for any English King.


John explained you need to understand that the people of Northumbria felt they owed their allegiance to a higher authority than a King. They were the ‘people of St. Cuthbert’. St Cuthbert had been a monk at Lindisfarne and Melrose in the 7th Century and had been given the status of Saint. His remains had been moved across the North of England in reaction to various Viking invasions but by the 10th Century he was firmly established at Durham Cathedral. The people of Northumbria identified themselves as ‘waliwerfolc’ – essentially People of the Saint. This means that St. Cuthbert was their protector. In the Harrying of the North, Simeon reports that the Normans turn back at Northallerton because Cuthbert has sent down a mist.

Durham was not any use in the strategic sense. Instead the Normans build Newcastle as this is a much more useful strategic position.  However Durham has significance as a religious site. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, William visits Durham and goes to the shrine of St. Cuthbert. Here he confirms all the liberties and lands of the cathedral and gives gold and vestments.

Simeon gives an alternative story in which William doubts whether Cuthbert is really in the tomb and tries to open the coffin. At the moment he does he is stricken with fever and rides away in terror. He then sends gold.

John points out that it really doesn’t matter which was true, it was an idea that was believed by the people of Northumbria. William had realised that in order to control this region he had to respect their Saint.

The Normans decide to launch a new style of Earl/Bishop for a variety of reasons

  1. Bishops have no children as they are celibate so they can be easily removed without hereditary issues
  2. To make the job attractive there needed to be significant reward
  3. The Earls needed to use the powers of St Cuthbert to be able to govern
  4. The Earls needed considerable power – could offer rewards of monastic life to the sons of families who obeyed their laws.


William St Calais is the first of these new Bishop Earls

The Cathedral at Durham is rebuilt alongside the existing Anglo- Saxon one (called the White Church). Cuthbert’s remains are transferred in 1104. They also build a new monastery.

The new cathedral would have been built by a team of Norman stone masons and used the newest fashion for ceiling vaulting. The zig zag motive represents continuity with the old Anglo-Saxon style of decoration. (The Normans decorated much more figuratively). It was exactly the same length as St Peters in Rome. It would have been painted red, blue and green inside and probably white outside.

12 monks looked after Cuthbert and some could trace their lineage back to the 7th century Lindisfarne. (Monks at this point were not celibate)

William St Calais comes from a monastery in Normandy and he models Durham on this experience. William brings in Benedictine monks who are stricter and observe the rules of celibacy. In this way he takes over control over Cuthbert’s staff. Future monks have to observe celibacy.

Before 1083 women could also pray at the shrine of St. Cuthbert. William brings in strict rules based on his former monastery’s practise of denying women access to the shrine. Women end up pressing offerings into the walls or having to give them to the monks in an attempt to get close to the saint. Teachers could link this to wider changes in the diminishing status of women in the Norman period?

Durham Castle – it was small and never really used in battle. Not much of the original castle remains now. It was built in 1070 as the Bishop’s Palace and like all castles was largely symbolic. It would have been a simple motte and bailey and a curtain wall. John pointed out that the AQA pack showed photos of the later parts of the cathedral and castle. You will need to get students to cross out lots of the visible outline to give a true impression of how the castle  and cathedral would have looked in Medieval times.





WW1 military hospitals in York

Here is a useful resource about World War One military hospitals in York.  It’s been put together by Fulford and Fishergate Local History Group. The Mount School was used on the same terms as Bootham and I think they might be updating this, but it gives some useful pics and maps for students about how York linked to the casualty system. Might be useful for KS3 or KS4.