What is history?

This is such an enormous topic and would fill the complete site. All I want to do is to offer a clear view of what history in schools should be and to point you in the direction of further reading. At a time when the new curriculum for Key Stage 3 history has just been published it is worth taking stock. There seems to be a recent trend from OFSTED and others to stress the extrinsic purposes for history. Paul Armitage’s report of July 2007 History in the balance complained that history departments “seldom give clear enough emphasis to the study of issues of immediate importance, such as how the UK was formed; why, over time, Britain has fought wars; the struggle to establish and maintain a parliamentary democracy; and the evolution of human rights. A curriculum that does not meet both individual and societal needs renders the subject irrelevant”. This to me opens up, yet again, the debate about extrinsic and intrinsic uses of history. Plenty to discuss here, then!

By contrast the statements in the opening pages of the current history curriculum  seem positively anodyne. They are worth quoting in full.

History fires pupils’ curiosity and imagination, moving

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