An Uncomfortable Truth: The case for teaching the New Zealand Wars

An Uncomfortable Truth: The case for teaching the New Zealand Wars

Open Seminar, UCL Institute of Education, 12th September 5.30-7.00pm

Steve Watters, senior historian and educator for the New Zealand Ministry of Culture and Heritage


New Zealand’s national narrative mythologises our experiences of war. It is a central element in our expression of national identity. Our national memorial day, Anzac Day, has come to represent a kind of retrospective nationhood. Largely missing from these conversations has been the significance and relevance of our own internal wars of the nineteenth century which saw the British Crown wage war against Māori. These conflicts don’t fit with our perception of who and what we are as a people and a nation. They have been either ignored or placed in the ‘too hard basket’ essentially because their devastating impact, both short and long term, fell largely on Māori. As history is not a compulsory subject in the New Zealand Curriculum there have been calls to make it so as a way of addressing these gaps in our understanding of our past. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, believes teaching New Zealand history is “commonsense” but has stopped short of making the New Zealand Wars compulsory content, a view shared by her Education Minister, Chris Hipkins. Following a brief overview on the New Zealand Wars of the nineteenth century, this paper will:

  • examine the particular challenges of commemorating what was not a single conflict but multiple conflicts spread over time andplace and from the perspective of Māori (iwi);
  • discuss the place of existing New Zealand Wars memorials which typically reflect the characteristics of a colonial society and whether or not a national monument to these wars is needed; provide an opportunity to consider the merits or otherwise of a compulsory national history curriculum.

The event is free and all are welcome to attend. Refreshments will be provided. Register here.

Please note that booking is essential as places are limited.

Posted in Seminars

The History Educatorion Research Journal

HERJThe History Education Research Journal is a free, open access, peer reviewed internatioinal research journal focused on all aspects of teaching and learning in history in formal and informal educational contexts. It is published by UCL Press, a major university press, in collaboration with the Historical Association through Igenta Connect.

Read it, write for it? Send us your papers.

Papers are accepted throughout the year on a rolling basis, however, the deadline for submission for the upcoming edition (17.1) is the 30th August.

Full submission details are on the HERJ home page, here.

Posted in Calls for Papers, Uncategorized

What is powerful knowledge in school history? Learning from South African and Rwandan school curriculum documents

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What is powerful knowledge in school history? Learning from the South African and Rwandan school curriculum documents

27th June 2019, 2-4pm, UCL Institute of Education

Dr Carol Bertram, University of KwaZulu-Natal

The seminar explores the question of what is powerful knowledge in school history, drawing on an analysis of secondary school history curriculum documents from South Africa and Rwanda. The paper engages with how these official curricula make selections regarding history topics, and how conceptual relationships are structured, and then interrogates to what extent the curricula might give learners access to powerful historical knowledge. The post-apartheid South African history curriculum chose a disciplinary focus, which aims for learners to develop the skills to analyse historical sources and evidence and to recognise that there are different interpretations of particular events. In contrast, the Rwandan history curriculum takes a collective, memory-history approach which does not focus on historical enquiry and has a strong focus on nation-building and citizenship. I engage with the implications of what this means for the idea of powerful knowledge in school history and argue that the socialisation aspect of school history cannot be ignored.


This is an open seminar and all are welcome. Registration is, however, essential.


Posted in Seminars

Working with Historians and Historical Interpretations in Schools: Event Report

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Arthur Chapman’s introduction to the day

Arthur introduced the day by problematising the use of historians in the classroom. Those present were reminded of the very narrow approach taken to historical interpretations, considering academic writing alone with an exam-board driven focus on evaluating historical interpretations with a view to identifying a ‘more correct’ version. Students need access to historical interpretations in all of their complexity, looking at how historians formulate questions, the genre of writing that they use, the focus of their work and the research strategies behind them. Arthur reminded those present to look at all forms of interpretation, and offered the helpful language of thinking about histories, whether they be ‘academic’ or more popular forms, are reconstructions of the past and the purpose of the history classroom is to ‘deconstruct’ them, unpicking the journey that has been taken from the traces of the past to the representations offered up today.

Introducing historians into the classroom

Warren Valentine, of Dartford Grammar School for Girls, followed this up by producing case studies of how he has used the introductions from academic histories of Weimar Germany and Revolutionary Russia in the classroom. Warren demonstrated the challenges that can come from trying to use academic historians to support students in working with summary historical overviews. David Hibbert, of The Weald School, reinforced this message of gradually building up students work with historical interpretations, by considering the importance of understanding the full process of writing history as part of a carefully planned progression model. Where Warren’s work showed how students can struggle to evaluate historical interpretations without understanding the process of writing history, David showed how this could be done. David shared his collaborative project with Dr Jason Todd (University of Oxford), which involved sharing with students an interview with Dr Yasmin Khan about how she came to be interested in the relationship between Britain and India in the Second World War. David’s work showed how to demonstrate historians as people and the challenges they face when working with evidence.

Holly Hiscox from d’Overbroeck school, similarly demonstrated the potential for making use of historians to show the process of constructing history. Where many teachers wince at the A-level coursework (“Non Examined Assessment), Holly has risen to the challenge of getting students to evaluate the historians they are asked to use in their independent research. As part of a seven lesson sequence Holly invited three historians into her school who discussed the challenges they faced in producing their written work. It was fascinating to hear that academics similarly struggle with word limits and this, among many other factors, has an influence on the end product. Supplemented with reviews of historians’ books, Holly’s work demonstrated the powerful ability of humanising the historian and unpacking the choices they make to complexify the process of writing history and dramatically changing their view of historians and the value of their writing.

The view from academia

Charlotte Crouch began the afternoon session introducing participants not only to her work on medieval French aristocratic women but on her work trying to bridge the gap between academia and the classroom. Charlotte told us about the mutually beneficial relationship that had been built up between PhD students at the University of Reading and PGCE students under the expert tutelage of Will Bailey-Watson at the Institute of Education at Reading. While PhD students learned some valuable pedagogical tools, these were exchanged for valuable subject knowledge. Charlotte exemplified the enthusiasm for PhD students to provide history teachers with what they want: primary source material and subject knowledge to correct the sense that “medieval history in school still feels like a man’s world.”

Dr Marcus Collins, of the University of Loughborough followed this up by bringing a sense of order to the disorder of the literature on the Beatles. Building on many of the themes of the morning session, Marcus gave those present a tour of the different genres of writing on the Beatles and how they have resisted historicization. It was fascinating to hear about the different directions academic texts and popular works on the Beatles have taken, with little to no overlap. Participants will have left Collins’ session inspired to reach into cultural histories of the twentieth century to introduce students to a wealth of different genres of historical writing.


Dr Hannah Elias from the Institute of Historical Research expertly chaired the afternoon session and an open forum in the afternoon. Hannah distilled the day into two key themes:

  1. How can a sustainable dialogue between historians and students (via their teachers) be established?
  2. How can classroom teachers be provided with the resources that support teachers in introducing a wider range of historical interpretations?


The commitment and enthusiasm of those that gave up on their time on a Saturday to attend suggests that there is certainly the commitment and interest in answering those questions. The readers of this blog are strongly encouraged to share their thoughts in the comments sections or asking their own questions of those who presented on the day who are certainly keen to continue discussing their work.


Warren Valentine, for HIESIG

Posted in Conferences, Seminars | Leave a comment

Working with Historians and Historical Interpretations in Schools

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UCL IoE, 15th June 2019, 11am-4pm

This free day-seminar (11am-4pm) at UCL Institute of education will explore working with historical interpretation and historiography with contributions from history education researchers, history teachers and historians.

The event will explore historical interpretation and historiography:

  • theoretically and in history education research;
  • practically, through exploration of examples of historiography and historical interpretation in classroom practice and curriculum planning in schools; and
  • practically, through exploration of ways in which historians engage with historiography and historical interpretation.

A key purpose of the day is to explore and develop practice. Time will be set aside on the day for an open forum through which the implications of presentations can be discussed and through which additional examples of practice can be shared.

Presenters: Holly Hiscox, d’Overbroeck’s School, Oxford, Arthur Chapman, UCL Institute of Education, Marcus Collins, Loughborough University, Charlotte Crouch, Reading University, Hannah Elias, Institute of Historical Research, David Hibbert, The Weald School, Jason Todd, University of Oxford, Warren Valentine, Dartford Grammar School for Girls.

The event is free and open access – all our welcome. Registration is, however, essential.

Posted in Conferences, Seminars

Children’s Rooms as Private Time Machines: an ethnographic approach to a hidden part of historical learning

Ritter Römer

Free open seminar, 20th May, 5.30-7.30, UCL Institute of Education

Professor Dr. Christoph Kühberger, Department of History, University of Salzburg

Children’s rooms can be understood as time machines. They contain many toys in which interpretations of the past are inscribed: plastic knights, princesses, ancient ships, computer or board games set in the past etc. They are therefore hidden places of informal historical learning. Christoph Kühberger tries to present this private world of children from a perspective of history education through an ethnogaphical approach.

The focus is on the “natives” themselves and their playgrounds. Their use of products of historical culture and the related understanding of past and history will be examined. Theoretical moments of research practice are also in the focus, as are authentic objects from the rooms and interviews with the children. In this way, an attempt will be made to reveal a new basis for teaching history. The aim is to understand children’s prior understanding in order to be able to build on it in school-based historical learning.


Christoph Kühberger, PhD is Professor for History and Civic education at the University of Salzburg (Austria). He was Professor for European Cultural History at the University of Hildesheim (Germany) and Professor for History and Civic education at the Pedagogical University of Salzburg Stefan Zweig (Austria). Current research interests: History Education and Civic Education, Ethnographic Research in History Education, Toy Research, New Cultural History, Ethics of Historical Sciences.

Relevant pre-reading


Refreshments will be provided. Registration is essential.



Posted in Seminars

Finding Wonder in History Education

Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, Australian National University

UCL Institute of Education, 3rd May, 5.30-7.30pm


This seminar turns on one idea: that history is strange. In unpacking this idea, Marnie Hughes-Warrington will outline the journey to and beyond a new history of histories told in her History as Wonder (2018) and explore how it might change the views of history we present to students. Using examples of histories from different times and places, she will show how the discipline of history carries the imprint of its entanglement with philosophy, and that in appreciating this we can explore the ethics of history in the classroom. This will set the stage for a glimpse of her new work, on how the various sizes and scales of histories teach us about ethics, and the questions they raise about whether our approaches to ethics in history making are fit for the twenty-first century. No background in history or philosophy are needed: all are warmly welcome.


Marnie Hughes-Warrington is professor of history at the Australian National University. She is the author of several historiography books, including Fifty Key Thinkers on History (three editions); History Goes to the Movies (2007); Revisionist Histories (2013) and History as Wonder (2018).

Free Seminar. All welcome. Refreshments will be provided. Registration is essential. Register here.

Posted in Seminars