SMART TASK: Why were mining towns such lawless places?

This is a very straightforward, yet highly effective task which asks students to distinguish between the generic and the specific, to speculate about possible reasons from clues, to think creatively about historical myths and just as importantly to know how to get full marks on this GCSE question.

Step 1

Start the lesson by setting the scene. Ask students to imagine they are young men seeking their fortune. They are away from any family or social control and hell-bent on making as much money as possible. Imagine these men simply arriving in an area with no government, no police, no army, no churches or any other form of social control beyond survival of the fittest. Add alcohol to this potent mix with liberal doses of gambling and prostitutes and you can see why things might ‘kick off’.

Now think of a group of men turning up who want to “claim” a piece of land where they will mine for gold. They simply stick their tents and tools down on the ground and it is theirs. There is no local land office of the US Government where they can go and register their “claim”. Therefore if a few months later when

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