Notwithstanding the on-going politically motivated point scoring arguments between Michael Gove, Tristram Hunt and Tony Robinson, regarding the teaching of the history of WW1; surely we are missing a trick here. Whilst every historian and lay person alike realises that ‘Blackadder’ did not recount the ‘truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’, it gave a flavour of the timeframe and events, and entertained a generation of school children. It may even have encouraged and inspired some of them to delve into the detail and depth of the total war ‘to end all wars’ and discover the facts for themselves.
In my book, anything that enthuses a child to enquire into why we, as a nation, are as we are, and why our story fits into a history of the world, is certainly beneficial. But more importantly, it helps us understand who we are. This can be done even more intimately by delving into geneaology. There is no better time to delve into our family records than now. The centenary of world war one has brought up a renewed interest in geneaology, and a plethora of websites directing a would-be family historian to engage with the ‘Tommies’ or Officer material in their own family. Preferably while the family sepia photographs in the old biscuit tin are still intact and while Grandma can still identify the fresh-faced young man on the postcard!
So calling all History teachers! Your local county archive office is the first port of call and often welcomes prearranged visits from school children. They also publish helpful brochures. If you cannot manage that, get on the websites and encourage your class to research.
There is no better motivation to engage with a primary source than if it is someone related or connected to you; to discover that Great Grandad was a real life participant in the history of your country! How cool is that?