SMART TASK – How did a small country on the edge of North West Europe manage to rule a quarter of the world’s land surface and 400 million people?

This lesson asks an important question that the textbooks rarely cover and comes after students have looked at events in Africa and India in depth.  Pupils are presented with an hypothesis that the reason why the British were able to maintain such a large empire was the use of force.  Can they challenge this oversimplification and come up with a better explanation of their own?  They are given 14 influence cards to help them think through the paradox.  Following discussion, pupils have to communicate their ideas on one side of A4 using images only.  But which will they chose?  Which will be shown as the most significant?  How will they show links?

Step 1

Pose the puzzle. How on earth could such a small island control such a massive empire of 400 million people covering a quarter of the world’s land mass?  Float the question, but don’t ask for an immediate answer.  Instead, to give all pupils some confidence, show the simple Low cartoon (PowerPoint presentation slide 2) which suggests that Britain controlled Ireland and India by force.  A Belloc poem (slide3) further confirms this, as does a still from the film Zulu (slide 4).  But if it wasn’t force

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