What happened during the Great Fire and how do we know?

This lesson focuses on the idea of evidence and proof. Can pupils find evidence to back up statements made in books? Can they tell which is the strongest piece of evidence to support a statement. By learning how to select the sources which they think will prove most useful they are beginning to think as historians would, sifting and then weighting the evidence.

Learning objectives

  • children recall how the fire started and how it spread
  • they can describe the direction in which the fire spread and grasp how long the fire raged
  • they grasp that we use a range of sources, including eyewitness accounts, diaries, paintings etc
  • they make inferences and deductions

Step 1

Start with a mystery picture, slide 2 from the PowerPoint presentation which shows a surviving piece of charred wood. The children may be able to make out the 17th century writing of the words ‘Fire of London’. Discuss the fact that historians often have to work using fragments of evidence like this. History does not come from books. It has to be written from what has survived.

Step 2

Now pose the challenge. Can they use evidence from the past to work things out. We have

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