How should we film the Middle passage? How accurate are Roots and Amistad?

This varied lesson challenges pupils to use evidence constructively to create their own version of conditions on the Middle Passage. They do this as if advising a film director. In so doing, they have to critically evaluate both film excerpts and written sources. Mathematical skills are used to estimate the space available for each slave and pupils are encouraged to use original plans of the slave ships’ layout to ask further questions they then set about researching.

Learning objectives

  • pupils combine information from a range of sources to reconstruct a plausible account of life on the Middle passage
  • they consider the value of testimony they know might be partial and are able to make measured judgements about its value in relation to what else is known
  • they apply mathematical skills of estimation and calculation in order to solve historical problems relating to tight packing.

Step 1

Start with slide 2. It is a complicated source but all you want is for pupils to appreciate that these are people shown in the diagram. Ask them what they feel on seeing this image.

Step 2

Now show slides 3 and 4 which explain why the image was drawn in the first place

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