SHP2014: Christine Counsell

Christine is talking about the curriculum jewel of interpretations and its protection.

Christine uses a variety of examples: an association of little ships from Dunkirk, a Facebook page dedicated to a destroyed mural commemorating the Chartists in Newport, a 19th century book of verse painting past kings in a distinctly negative lit. These are all equivalent in that they are all representations of the past that our students might come across. Across the curriculum, students need to cover a range of interpretations in order to understand how the past has been constructed.

Christine reminds us of McAleavy’s principles of interpretation: subsequentness, real interpretations, range of types including scholarship, a constructive, analytic approach, and focus on the process and context of construction. It’s also important to remember that it must be interpretations, plural. Christine suggests some possible enquiry questions, including, “What is Niall Ferguson trying to say?”

In 2004, Christine, Michael and Jamie reported on interpretations in the history classroom and Christine now updates these:


Get students curious ban out the construction process. She highlights the differences between witness testimony and an account of an event constructed by someone who wasn’t there, suggesting that it is the second one we need to be more focused on in the history classroom. Christine shares an account of Nero by Anthony Kamm, and then some primary sources from which this interpretation might have been constructed.

We have a bit of body carrying, inspired by Wedgwood’s 1964 description of the execution of Charles I. She described the body being carried reverently and we consider what this might look like; we replace it with bodies being carried weirdly, incompetently, reluctantly…
Then we look at her subordinate clauses and think about how we might replace them: Christine gets the students to write two replacements in huge style of Wedgwood, and one very much NOT in her style.

When it comes to contextual knowledge, Christine suggests that the best time to cover interpretations is when studying to subsequent period, eg Elizabeth I as interpreted by the Victorians, as this recaps prior learning and applies current learning.

There were lots of other excellent points in this session. I was engrossed; it is always a pleasure to listen to Christine on this topic. Consequently this post is very short!

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