Posted: 23rd June 2022

Caitlin H, Year 12, Deputy Head, has started a ‘History Club’ with the hopes of studying History at University to share her passion with others.

Last term, through the independence I gained as a sixth former, I decided to run an after school history club. My hope for this was to provide a different approach to learning history – rather than it being based on a set place, or time period, I explored the importance of individuals throughout time. This included individuals as far back as Boudicca (the Iceni queen) all the way to the importance of Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale.

Although I was focusing specifically on individuals, I wanted to bring in further contextual knowledge including the Wars of the Roses, and the Crimean War as it shaped and transformed the world as we know it today. As a result of this, I could create a holistic view of history – not only exploring the important role of individuals, but the factors and events that sculpted (or sometimes catalysed) their contribution to our world. By exploring all of this, in ancient to modern history, I helped emphasise the importance of the consequences these events/ developments had on modern life; such as the significance of Karl Marx’s communist manifesto on the formation of the modern communist movement, and Mary Seacole’s role in improving 19th century hospital sanitation.

Another key part in history – as we investigated – is actually how much of history we do not know the truth of and (possibly) never will. I wanted to highlight the importance of understanding that history can often be ‘re-moulded’ to fit a specific viewpoint and generate an edited version of what the truth really is. Some of these unanswered questions included:

Did Emperor Nero actually play the lyre whilst watching the great fire of Rome?

Did King Richard the third kill, his nephews, the Princes in the tower?

On this same idea, in particularly with historical figures such as King Richard the third, I helped the students gain an insight into the importance of literature to sometimes re-write and change our understanding of the events in history. To be more precise, the significance of the works of Shakespeare (within the play ‘Richard III’), to be interpreted as a form of propaganda to appease the Tudor Queen Elizabeth; because it is through the vilified portrayal that changed our understanding of what Richard the third was actually like.

History has always been something that interests me and that I fill my free-time with. In the future, I want to complete a history degree and be able to share my own passion with others, in the same way that I hope this history club has expanded the students’ view of the world. In my opinion, it is only by gaining this insight into what has shaped us as individuals that we can ever truly understand what and who we are as a society, and learn from the mistakes we make. Ensuring history is remembered is crucial as “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana, philosopher, essayist, novelist and poet).

 

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