How We Teach History

How We Teach History

Miss G. C. Allen was a House of Education student who presumably graduated in 1898.[1] Many years later, at the 17th annual PNEU conference held in May of 1913, she delivered her talk “How We Teach History” as part of the “How We Teach” series, along with other House of Education graduates who spoke on Citizenship, Bible, Geography, Literature, and Picture Study.

The “How We Teach” lectures were published in the Conference Report in the July 1913 issue of the Parent’s Review. However, “Miss Allen’s paper was unfortunately given from notes only,”[2] so the text of her lecture was not printed. Thankfully, the student specimen answers that correspond to her lecture were published, and we are honoured to share them here with you.

This talk “from notes only” was evidently well-received, since Miss Allen and Miss Laura Faunce (who gave the talk on citizenship at that same 1913 PNEU conference) [3] went on to give a joint presentation entitled “The Teaching of Citizenship and History in the Parents’ Union School” at a meeting later that year in October. While we can only imagine what Miss Allen covered in her talk, we nevertheless hope you enjoy reading these vintage narrations on a range of historical figures and events from English history, French history, and General history, as provided to us from children ranging from 7 to 15 years old.


By Miss G.C. Allen
The Parents’
Review, 1913, pp. 547-550

English History.

Class Ib. (Aged 7.) [Dictated.]

(1) Tell the story of King Robert the Bruce and Bohun.

King Robert the Bruce got on a little pony and cheered all his soldiers on. And Bohun, an English knight thought if he killed Robert the Bruce, they would have won the battle. So he got on his warhorse and rode up to Robert the Bruce, and Robert the Bruce had got his battle-axe, and he hit Bohun on the helmet with it. He turned round and galloped away back to the English. This happened before the battle of Bannockburn, outside the town of Stirling in Scotland. The Scottish won it.

(2) Tell all you know about the Battle of Crécy.

King Edward III. got up very early in the morning, and arranged his army in three parts. One part he gave to the Black Prince, his son, another part he had himself, and he gave the third to someone else. And the King and his army went up to a windmill close by, and looked out of a window at the rest of the army. And the French came and began fighting. But the English did n’t till the Black Prince told them to. The English were fighting with bows and arrows, and the French had Italian bowmen; and the fight was going very fiercely, and the Italian bowmen fled. It was thundering and raining and the English had some little wooden cannons, and they frightened the French. And when they had finished the battle, King Edward came down from the windmill and said to the Black Prince: “You’ve won the battle,” and gave him a pair of golden spurs.

(3) Tell four short stories about the Duke of Wellington.

Once he was in his garden and he heard someone crying, and he looked over the hedge and he saw a boy crying. He asked why he was, and he said because he was going to school the next day, and he had a toad which he was very fond of and nobody would look after it. So the Duke of Wellington said he would look after it. And when he had been at School for one day, he had a letter saying that the toad was all right.

(2) Once, when he was at breakfast, he had a lot of letters, and he had his grandchildren staying with him, and they said they wished that they had letters like him. And so, the next day, when they came down to breakfast, they all had letters on their plates, and the Duke had written them and posted them. And he did this for a lot of mornings.

(3) Once when he was coming out of school when he was a little boy, he fought another boy for some marbles. And then the boy that he was fighting had a little sister, and she was coming out of school, saw them both fighting, and so she ran down to help her brother. And so she began fighting with Arthur Wellington, and when he found that he was fighting with a little girl, he gave back the marbles and ran away crying because he had been fighting with a little girl.

(4) Once when they were at a fancy-dress ball, they heard that the enemy was near, and so the officers slipped out one by one till at last they had all gone. About an hour afterwards they were all fighting, some in their evening clothes. They were fighting Napoleon, at Waterloo.

English History.

Class II. (Age 9 ¾.)

(1) What do you know of Mary Stuart before she came to Scotland? Describe her voyage.

Before Mary Stuart went to Scotland she married Henry, King of France. Henry was a very weak kind of a king, and he used to love amusements. Not long after she had married him, he died. When his brother came to the throne she had few friends and many enemies. The Queen-Mother, Catharine, hated Mary, till Mary wanted to be asked by her subjects to come back to Scotland. Soon after Henry’s death her subjects did ask her to come to Scotland. She accepted willingly, if not gladly.

At last Mary sailed away from France, and as the shores of France grew dim in the distance, tears rose to the Queen’s eyes. But English ships were watching for Queen Mary, for she was an enemy to England and to the Queen of England—but fortunately for her, there was a fog, and so she was not seen and arrived safely in Scotland.

(2) Tell the story of the coming of the Great Armada.

Philip determined to give one big blow against England, which should crush her power. He gathered a huge army in Holland, and he prepared many ships to sail to the Netherlands and carry the army across to England.

At last the great fleet started, but it was driven back by the wind. In England also a great army was gathered together, the Roman Catholics in England did not listen to the Pope, who had said that Queen Elizabeth was not the queen, they flocked together, not minding if they did fight with Roman Catholics. The English were not nearly as well off in many things as the Spaniards—the army was not nearly as great, and what there was of an army was not much good, for there were few real soldiers; the only soldiers were a small body-guard of Queen Elizabeth’s and few had ever fought, and they were not used to acting together.

For ships they were fairly well off, merchants readily supplied ships, with crew and gun-powder and guns, all ready supplied.

Once Queen Elizabeth went and made a speech to the soldiers, in it she said “I am but a woman, but I have the heart of a King, and a King of England too; and think it foul scorn that Palma, or any other nation should come against my realm. But I trust we shall win the victory this day. And I myself will fight with you.”

Beacons had been made on all the high-places, so that when first the Armada should be seen, they might all be lit, and so get England ready to meet them.

At last the fleet had been sighted off Lizard Point, the beacons were at once lit and all the people got ready. The Spaniards had brought with them many priests, to turn the Protestants into Roman Catholics, when they had conquered England—a few surgeons, in case any one should get wounded—and in a great chest, they had brought some etc., etc.

French History.

Class III. (Aged 13.)

(1) The Coups d Etat was a conspiracy formed to make Louis Napoleons position as Emperor, secure. The chief of the police was in the secret. One night the comsperators barricaded the streets of Paris so that no one could exape, and killed a great many of the Republicans, and in the morning people saw notices posted up on the walls saying that Parliament had been dissolved and Louis Napoleon had himself proclaimed Emperor under the title of Napoleon III.

(2) The Russians wanted to take Constantinople from the Turks, and war broke out. The English saw that if Russia took Constantinople, she would probably interfere with the English trade with India, so they sent forces to help the Turks against the Russians. Seeing this, Louis Napoleon dicided to join the English, and so became friendly with a Great European power. So for the first time in history two Christian nations were seen fighting for the Turks the nation they had always joined together to fight against in former years. There was a successful battle at Sebastapol in which the Russians were completely defeated.

The war ended with the Peace of Paris.

(3) France is a republic, at the head of which is the President. The county is governed by two houses, resembling our Houses of Lords and Commons, called the Chamber of Deputies and another Chamber, the whole being called the National Assembly.

General History.

Class IV. (Age 15.)

Describe the Sacking of Rome under Alaric.

(3) Alaric was the head, or king, of the Visegoths. This barbarian race had, by force and plunder, settled themselves in Gaul. Many expeditions against other races had been successfully undertaken, and the Visegoths were the master-race, of the peoples who were un-romanised. They had conquered Rome’s enemies, they had conquered Rome’s friends; and now there remained but one step to be taken on the ladder of victory: that of conquering Rome herself. Across the Alps and down from that “push off” of advance, they came, steadily marching to the once-great city; now a disorganised, abandoned, home of traditions. For a little time the old Roman spirit resisted the attack, and then the great walls and old gates were broken through, and Alaric with his heathen hundreds was actually within the sacred city herself, the once-time “mistress of the world” (or a fair piece of it). And they sacked it; they took gold, silver, stones and beautiful things, but chiefly they wanted food. And this was just what Rome had not got; for she had been nearly starving lately herself; and it was chiefly because of this that she could not well defend herself. This plunder of Rome was not a terrible massacre, a bloodthirsty seizing and breaking down of old Rome and her traditions. Alaric, after a little fighting, walked in and helped himself to things that were necessary.

English History.

Part of Answer concerning the History of Parliament.

Then assembled the 5th or Long Parliament, which demanded a standing army. Charles refused, and the quarrel between him and his Parliament burst into Civil war. The Royalists fought bravely, but in the end were defeated by the Roundheads, and the King was taken prisoner by the Army, and the Parliament, who had lost every scrap of honour and loyalty, martyred their king. Out of the Parliamentarian Army had risen a separate party called the Independents, with Oliver Cromwell at their head. They got much power, and turned the members out of the Army. The Long Parliament had sat for 19 years, despite the fact that they themselves had passed an Act saying that Parliament should be re-assembled every 3 years. The army now has all the power, and the Army is ruled by one man, Oliver Cromwell, king in all but name. The House of Lords had been abolished, so Cromwell assembled what remained of the Long Parliament, 150 members only, and called it the Rump. Prides Purge now took place, and the country was literally governed by major-generals, one for each shire. There was now a short respite of peace. But Cromwell’s next two Parliaments, Barebone’s Parliament and the Cabal Parl. upset the peace. The Covenanters make trouble, but are subdued. At last a Freee Parliament meets, and calls back Charles II. to be King. He has a fairly peacable reign. The Parliament passes the Test Act, and the Act of Uniformity. The King is feared to be a Roman at heart, and his son James is openly so. He is a beleiver in divine right of kings, and gets the Parliament to formally return to Rome. He is a tyrannical, but weak-willed man, and imposes on the rights of the people and Parliament. To prevent this they pass the Habæs Corpus Act; and in the end call to William and Mary to be sovereigns of England, and depose James. William and Mary are Protestants, which pleases the country. Parliament has now been again divided into two Houses. It passes the Act of Union (Scotland) and the Act of Succession, which placed Anne on the throne. The Duke of Marlborough is the chief factor of this reign. There are two parties now risen in the Houses, the Whigs and the Tories; to which latter the Duke adheres. But the Duke is an unscrupulous rascal, and really rules the Queen. Anne prefers the Torie party, then in office, who are opposed to the Jacobite war being continued; the country is also opposed to it. But the Duke wishes to continue the war, and therefore joins the Whigs; who replace the Tories. The country is brought round to favour the war. During the Dutch proceedings, first the Whigs and then the Tories, are in office. They are continually changing.

Editor’s Note: The formatting of the above article was optimized for online viewing. To access a version which is formatted more similarly to the original, and which includes the original page numbers, please click here.

Endnotes for the Editor’s Note

[1] L’Umile Pianta January 1923, p. 1

[2] The Parents’ Review, vol. 24, no. 7, July 1913, p. 514

[3] The Parents’ Review, vol. 24, no. 12, December 1913, p. 959

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