In what ways did Roman inventions affect later developments in European life? Prioritizing the Legacies from Ancient Rome

This article is the twenty-second of an ongoing series from EuroClio providing teachers with ideas and practical resources for teaching a range of topics in their classrooms. You can find a wealth of additional resources including units, source collections and eLearning activities on the Historiana website and you can read the other articles in the series here.

This activity uses the material of the source collection on Historiana to provide students with ways as to not only arrange those relationships by looking at the case of Roman legacies in 21 st century Europe, but also a method to analyze the effect that the past has on the present more generally. The source collection illustrates 14 ways in which ideas and inventions that began in Ancient Rome are still a part of contemporary societies.
In this activity students use categories that have resonance in most peoples’ lives in different historical periods and are therefore easily transferable into other situations past and present: administrative, cultural, daily life, economic, environmental, intellectual, political, social, and/or technological.

Since it is critically important to assist students to prioritize these various points, they are connected to lessons of history and ideas to understand the deep ways the past continues to influence the present and the future.

The accompanying eLearning Activity, which can be easily adapted to your class needs, gives students the opportunity to develop skills in evaluating historical evidence and to do the work of historians. It utilizes the sorting, prioritizing, and analyzing tools that are part of the e-learning building models. It asks students to use both their historical and contemporary knowledge to assess the relationship between past events and current affairs by investigating the role of
inventions and ideas developed in Ancient Rome to their use in today’s European civilizations.

Consider the 14 legacies that are listed in Historiana’s Source Collection

– Using Arches for Construction, Aqueducts, Newspapers, Laws, Books, the Julian Calendar, the Postal System, a Sewage System, Heating, the Use of Concrete, Surgical Tools, the Separation of Powers, the Spread of Latin, and the Spread of Christianity.

1) Group the legacies into no more than four defensible categories out of
the nine categories listed above and

2) Prioritize each of them according to their importance for the 21 st century European civilizations.

Once they have done this work, they can answer the overarching question: In what ways did Roman inventions affect later developments in European life?

While this activity gives instructions for individual students, it can be wonderfully adapted for group work (as I would have done in my classroom!), particularly in the form of a jigsaw (see:
https://www.teachhub.com/jigsaw-method-teaching-strategy) in which students do the first part in the first group and then move into a new group to share the work of the first group and to answer the overarching question.
This activity can also be easily edited and adapted to suit your classroom context or even applied to a different historical period by building your own online task in Historiana’s eLearning Activity Builder. Another extension activity would be to ask students questions about the kind of society that supported these inventions and/or made such a society possible in the past and compare and contrast that with the present.

Such work allows students to think and work like historians, as is emphasized in the History Thinking Project:
Why are such themes important? At the same time such material from the past can overwhelm students unless they are taught ways to make sense of such influences. Historical empathy, comparison and contrast, and significance are the most useful skills to meet these objectives. To assist this process of organizing material, categories are one method of making sense of so much information. In so doing students work on a variety of historical skills and gain a greater appreciation of the ability of people in Ancient Rome to have organized their lives in ways that
appeared to have met their needs and interestingly still influence us today.
Yet when students look at the material from Ancient Rome more closely and critically they can also appreciate many of these inventions required an unequal social and hierarchical organization. In consequence it becomes equally important to consider the ways in which 21 st century Europeans may learn from the past without simply accepting it as it were as a guideline for the present and future.

Acknowledgements

Historiana would not be possible without the efforts and generous contributions of historians and educators from Europe and beyondand the support of the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union.

The precursors to the Reformation

This article is the twenty-second of an ongoing series from EuroClio providing teachers with ideas and practical resources for teaching a range of topics in their classrooms. You can find a wealth of additional resources including units, source collections and eLearning activities on the Historiana website and you can read the other articles in the series here.

Five centuries of reformist dissent within the Roman Catholic Church

Although Western European countries seem to experience a increasing secularisation, globally religion is still a significant part of human societies and culture. Western Europe itself experienced devastating religious wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. To understand why religion was deemed important enough to wage war for, what was at stake for contemporary actors, one could study the dissent and the reforms with the Late Medieval Church. This might help students also to understand (though not condone!) religious violence in our own times.

Historiana has recently developed a new source collection entitled ‘The precursors to the Reformation: Five centuries of reformist dissent within the Roman Catholic Church’. This collection discusses the major reforms as well as a number of dissenters in the Medieval church. The collection begins with an examination of the background of these reforms and the reforms themselves. It then continues with describing the aforementioned reformists, both people usually considered to be precursors to the Reformation and people who are still regarded as ‘Catholic’, like Francis of Assisi for example. The collection explores their ideas and their relationship with the medieval ecclesiastic authorities.

Francis of Assisi
Source: St Francis blesses the birds, one of 25 scenes painted by
Giotto in a fresco at the Upper Church of St Francis in Assisi.
University of Bologna via Europeana, #64486.

Ideas for Teaching Historical Thinking with this Source Collection

There are several ways in which this source collection might be used to promote students’ historical thinking:

  • Continuity and Change: Examine the ideas of all the reformists in the source collection and describe which criticisms to the medieval church developed towards of the Middle Ages (and how they changed) and which points of critique were repeated by several reformists.
  • Cause and Consequence: Investigate the social en political developments from 1100 CE onward and how they might have created different religious needs, thereby causing a need for church reform.
  • Perspective-taking: Investigate the perspectives of various reformist on the true Christian life and church and why a significant number of medieval people took great interests in this subject.
  • Significance: Draw conclusions about the relative significance of
    reformists and their ideas.
John Hus
Illustration in Gerardus Outhof, Philosophy of Life, Netherlands 1731. VU University
Amsterdam Library via Europeana.

The precursors to the Reformation: Who was the first true Medieval Reformator?

The example eLearning Activity provided on Historiana entitled: ‘The precursors to the Reformation: Who was the first true Medieval Reformator?’ presents a lesson idea which uses an online mode of teaching and learning. The lesson aims to develop students’ skills in drawing justified conclusions about historical change and continuity as well as significance.

After a brief introduction, students are provided with a number of factsheets on several reformers, combining historical images with
background knowledge. First, they are asked to study the factsheets
and place the reformists in the correct chronological order on a time line. Then they are instructed to compare the ideas in order to describe which points of criticism did they have in common and on which issues do their ideas seem to differ. They could move the reformist up and down vertically relative to the horizontal time line, to indicate their relative significance. The ideas of which reformist are understood to be the most significant development. Finally they are asked to review their analysis to ascertain which of these reformers had the greatest impact on the Reformation.

Of course, the results of this elearning activity could be used as a starting point for a real-life discussion, either in groups or with the entire class. Relevant points of discussion might be: ‘What criteria did students use to decide the relative significance of every reformist?’,
‘Why did the reformist deemed most significant best meet these criteria?’ and ‘Why do you think lay people in Late Medieval times were engaged in these reforms?’

As with all Historiana eLearning Activities, this activity can be saved to ‘My Historiana’ and then edited and adapted for use in your specific classroom context.

Acknowledgements

Historiana would not be possible without the efforts and generous contributions of historians and educators from Europe and beyondand the support of the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union.

In what ways did Greek inventions affect later development in European life?

This article is the twentifirst of an ongoing series from EuroClio providing teachers with ideas and practical resources for teaching a range of topics in their classrooms. You can find a wealth of additional resources including units, source collections and eLearning activities on the Historiana website and you can read the other articles in the series here.

What have the Greeks ever done for us?
Classical Greece is often regarded as the cradle of European culture and civilisation. Its architecture and art has been emulated throughout European history. Greek philosophy is considered to be the basis not only of critical thought and empirical research, but in a different way also of a lot of Christian thinking, the lens through which a Jewish belief became Europeanised.

At the same time, one of classical Greece’s most enduring inventions
– or rather: the invention of classical Athens –, democracy, is being fiercely debated all over Europe. Although most Europeans would consider themselves at least moderately democratic, they differ on how that democracy should be organised. How free should freedom of speech, a core principle of the Athenian Assembly, be? Can the government of a strong man, even if he is elected through fair elections, be considered truly democratic? Are demagogues and populist true democrats or a threat to the survival of the democratic principles.

These questions plagued ancient Greeks as much as modern Europeans. Studying the organisation of the ancient Athenian democracy and its ancient critics, may help students to develop a more informed and positive critical view on democracy. It may also stimulate him or her to think about the future of European democracies and the ways in which they might contribute to that future. Historiana has recently developed a new source collection entitled ‘In what ways did Greek inventions affect later development in European life?’. This collection discusses the contribution of classical Greek culture on later European culture, not only democracy, but subjects like theatre and inventions as well. The collection begins with an examination of the background of these reforms and the reforms themselves. These contributions are illustrated by using images from different European collections.

Athenian ostraka
Source: Όστρακα 8ου και 7ου π.Χ. αι. από την τομή Γ’, 4 quarter of
the 20th century, Άγνωστος δημιουργός, Εν Αθήναις Αρχαιολογική
Εταιρεία via European

Ideas for Teaching Historical Thinking with this Source Collection

There are several ways in which this source collection might be used to promote students’ historical thinking:

  • Significance: Examine the different contributions to decide how significant they are to modern European culture.
  • Continuity and Change: Examine the contributions to ascertain how these have been adapted throughout the centuries. What did Europeans conserve and what did they alter?
  • Perspective-taking: Investigate the difference and similarities in values behind democratic ideas and institutions of ancient Greeks on the one hand and modern Europeans on the other.

What can we learn from the Ancient Greeks for democracy today?
The example eLearning Activity provided on Historiana entitled: ‘What
can we learn from the Ancient Greeks for democracy today?
’ presents
a lesson idea which uses an online mode of teaching and learning.
The lesson aims to develop students’ skills in drawing justified conclusions about the development of democracy from ancient times until the present.

After a brief introduction, students are provided with a number of
sources on characteristics of ancient Athenian democracy. They are
asked to sort them according to the level of similarity with the
democracy in which they live. This activity helps students not only to
think about change and continuity, but also gives meaning to the
subject, by connecting the ancient democracy to the world in which
they themselves live.

After this activity they are presented with a number of ancient
philosophers and their critique on the Athenian democracy. Using a
highlighting tool they are asked to mark those passages that in their
opinion provide lessons for today. They are also asked to explain
those lessons. When this task is completed, the students are presented with a final question: ‘How far did democracy progress since the Ancient Greeks?’

Using their early analyses and their answers students need to
formulate their own opinion in writing. This last task makes them
apply the knowledge to their own situation and therefore supports
the development of a critical but engaged democratic citizenship.
Of course, the results of this eLearning activity could be used as a
starting point for a real-life discussion, either in groups or with the
entire class. Relevant points of discussion might be: ‘Which elements
of ancient democracy are less relevant for today and why?’, ‘Which
elements might be reintroduced?’ and ‘What is the chance that modern democracy might disappear as the ancient one did? Should
we prevent that, and if so: how?’

As with all Historiana eLearning Activities, this activity can be saved to
‘My Historiana’ and then edited and adapted for use in your specific
classroom context.

Acknowledgements

Historiana would not be possible without the efforts and generous contributions of historians and educators from Europe and beyondand the support of the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union.



Life in the 1950s

This article is the twentieth of an ongoing series from EuroClio providing teachers with ideas and practical resources for teaching a range of topics in their classrooms. You can find a wealth of additional resources including units, source collections and eLearning activities on the Historiana website and you can read the other articles in the series here.

Life in the 1950s is not so often taught in school curricula. Yet, how can we understand our modern world without understanding this decade? In Europe it is the decade when economic growth returned and the social changes were felt by many people. It is the decade when western and eastern Europe were much influenced by culture from the two Cold War superpowers, USA and USSR. It is an era by which many of our students’ grandparents were directly impacted. We teach events from the 1950s, from the 1956 Hungarian Uprising to the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and from the death of Stalin in 1953 to the election of de Gaulle in 1959. By teaching our students about life in the 1950s we can help them to a sense of the period in which these key events took place. We can also ensure that our teaching of the post-war period is not always about leaders and high politics.

There were millions of different people making their lives in the 1950s and they are as important a part of the past as Khrushchev, Churchill, Adenauer and Eisenhower. It was also a time when many European countries experienced large-scale migration from former colonies as people came to make their homes in Europe, often in response to requests for workers to power the booming European economies. There were many perspectives and European society was perhaps less nationalistic and more open than before. Cultural influences spread across borders and, with full employment and a sense of future possibility, it was perhaps one of the best times to be young in the whole 20 th century in some parts of the continent. At the same time, Europe was divided, Spain and Portugal remained under authoritarian rule and a controlling conservative society was also part of European citizens’ everyday life. This source collection aims to give an idea of what life in Europe in the Fifties was like, highlighting both promising and worrying developments that influenced people’s daily lives.

Rock and Roll: music’s big revolution for the youth
Source: Scener, övriga, Swedish Open Cultural Heritage,
Kulturmagasinet, Helsingborgs museer via Europeana, 1957,
6037-2013:6

Ideas to consider when exploring life in the 1950s
It is, of course, impossible to portray the lives of millions of people using a few picture sources. The source collection presented on Historiana here is designed to suggest themes and to raise more questions than it answers. When teaching life in the 1950s there are big substantive themes, including:

  • The development of the Cold War, including the impact of the death of Stalin, uprisings in Poland and Hungary, fear of nuclear war and the start of the space race.
  • Increasing prosperity leading to greater levels of disposable income for more people and consumer goods we now regard as essential becoming more widely available, from refrigerators to washing machines.
  • The formation of the EEC via the Treaty of Rome in 1957 between the original six member states.
  • The continuation of inequality (accepted by most European people) for women and groups who were in the minority among Europe’s people, including people of colour. On the one hand increased prosperity brought freedoms for some, while most were expected to remain in servile roles and abuse was often regarded as acceptable.
  • A process of rebuilding Europe after the ravages of war was still ongoing. That included building housing, as well as changing cityscapes.
  • Europe was divided between a USSR dominated east and a USA dominated west, with few neutral countries and the dividing line right down Germany. Spain and Portugal were still under the control of fascist dictators.
  • Changing demographics as people migrated to and from Europe, largely driven by economic opportunities.
  • Continued divisions between rich and poor, but with many governments focused on providing more state aid than ever before, for example in health and social care to all citizens.

Students could be asked to think about how much change and continuity their seems to be in this period and that balance of these in different aspects of the period. They could also consider the historical significance of the period for our own times. Students could be given a historian’s interpretation of the period and asked how far it can be supported by using the sources in the collection as evidence. You could use this source collection in conjunction with the series of life stories from across Europe for the period 1945-50 that are available in the Historiana Changing Europe Unit. Students could be asked to hypothesise about the perspectives the different characters could have taken on the 1950s, using the evidence available.

The perfect housewife as the role model for women in the 1950s
Source: Fika i trädgården. Trafikaktiebolaget Grängesberg-
Oxelösund Järnvägar, Swedish Open Cultural Heritage,
Järnvägsmuseet via Europeana, 1955,

Teaching about Life in the 1950s using the e-learning activity

The e-learning activity uses the Historiana source collection to introduce students to the period of the 1950s. As such, it could be set as preparation work before starting to learn about some of the key events of the 1950s. The activity acknowledges that ‘Life in Europe in the 1950s’ is a very large topic indeed. Millions of people of different ages and experiences had been born and lived in Europe. Many more people from across the world were moving to Europe to build their futures.

Europe was a place with a big past and a sense of a big future. Europe was divided – between east and west, between rich and poor, between men and women. The activity is designed to provoke more questions than it answers. Students watch a 15-minute film clip about West Germany made by a US travel company. They are then asked to think about how the origins and purposes of the film shaped the selection of the images and narration of the film. Students next study the source collection images and sort them into two groups; images that agree with the film’s interpretation and images that give a different interpretation of the 1950s. They are asked to reflect on how the images extend their knowledge further and what questions they raise for them about the period.

Students move on to consider one image in more depth, by reading a text that accompanies it. From the text they gain contextual knowledge and this exercise demonstrates to students now contextual knowledge improves our understanding of an image. Students next use two sources and two short texts to compare similarities and differences in experiences of women in the 1950s. Finally, students are asked to think what else they would like to know about the 1950s and how they might go about gaining that knowledge, including talking to older family members about their recollections. In summary, this is therefore an introductory e-activity designed to give a flavour of the 1950s and to make explicit some of the ways that historians approach sources as evidence to draw provisional conclusions.

Acknowledgements

Historiana would not be possible without the efforts and generous contributions of historians and educators from Europe and beyondand the support of the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union.



Teaching about national personifications and their use as propaganda

This article is the nineteenth of an ongoing series from EuroClio providing teachers with ideas and practical resources for teaching a range of topics in their classrooms. You can find a wealth of additional resources including units, source collections and eLearning activities on the Historiana website and you can read the other articles in the series here.

This blogpost develops further ideas for teaching using personifications of nations. If you have not already read the previous blogpost, please do so. In it you will find an explanation of national personifications for history teachers and also some ideas to consider when teaching using them. In this blogpost the specific focus is upon national personifications and their use as propaganda.
Propaganda is itself a complex term for students to understand. It can be described as material to persuade to achieve a political purposes. Often students encounter propaganda in history classrooms as an entirely negative thing. It is not so. For example, campaigns by governments to persuade citizens to eat more healthily or to wear a face mask in a pandemic are propaganda, but are not regarded as sinister and negative by most citizens. Some examples are given in the Source collection on the topic.

Appealing to Nationalism to support the annexation of Trieste
Source: La lontananza dalla famiglia: Livia Morica via Europeana 1914-1918, 5556.
Ideas to consider when exploring national personifications and propaganda

The teaching needs to be carefully planned and broken down into stages to help students to work confidently and effectively with both national personifications and propaganda in the history classroom. There are a number of important issues to consider when planning.

Firstly, propaganda can be sensitive and controversial for some students. While some students may not experience an emotional connection to some propaganda, others may do so. The teacher needs to know their students and to be prepared to set up the tone of the classroom so that the focus is on using images as historical evidence of the past. At the same time, there may well be propaganda images that are not appropriate to use in school classrooms, or at least not without very careful consideration of contextualisation and teacher explanation. For example, where a national personification is used in racist propaganda. In general, as teachers, we should be questioning our use of any image that harms the dignity of a person or people.

Secondly, it is a good idea to introduce the concept of national personification before the concept of propaganda. For more on the former, please see the previous blogpost. The two concepts can be introduced on one lesson, just not at the same time. Depending on the experience of your students, you may also need to take time to introduce the concept of a political cartoon; a common form of propaganda.

Thirdly, a wide variety of methods of persuasion are deployed in propaganda. They are not all likely to be present on one form of propaganda, but any activity teaching students about propaganda
should introduce the methods and give students chance to work with a range of sources which deploy different methods. When selecting sources try to find ones which show use of the following:

  • Convincing people that the subject of the propaganda has authority to make a claim
  • Exploitation of existing beliefs of people who are to see or hear the propaganda
  • An appeal to patriotism
  • The creation or stoking of fear
  • Humour to entertain
  • A suggestion that everyone agrees with the point of view being supported
  • Disguising the propaganda as something else
  • The use of very blunt and clear messaging
  • Making false connections
  • Selective use of the truth
  • Establishing a leadership cult

Finally, while, in the history classroom our primary responsibility is to teach about how we interpret the past, propaganda is all around us today. There are many examples of useful activities available that focus on the wider issue of helping students not to unwittingly fall vulnerable to propaganda. The work of the Stamford University History Education Group and Professor Sam Wineburg is one such example.

Appealing to French patriotism to help the war effort
Source: Correspondance entre Emile MONFRAY et sa sœur., Emile
Monfray, 1916, Archives départementales de Seine-Maritime via
Europeana, 230012.

Teaching about national personification and propaganda using the e-learning activity

The e-learning activity is designed to introduce students to the concept of national personification, to familiarise them with some common personifications they may encounter and to introduce them to how personification has been used as propaganda. It starts by defining the phrase ‘personifying the nation’ and then introducing some commonly used personifications of nations; both the name and the way they are commonly portrayed. To check this learning is secure, students sort a series of images into national groups. They then focus on one political cartoon from the second decade of the 20th century. They have to identify the two countries represented in the cartoon, explain the clues they used and how they used them. The next task uses two versions of the Uncle Sam personification of the USA and students identify the similarities and differences between them. This helps cement the idea of common features in personifications as well as providing an opportunity to study sources carefully; a key skill for a historian. The students are then introduced to a definition of propaganda and to the different ways that propaganda can attempt to persuade people. They then work with two examples of propaganda, one a personification of Italy and the other a personification of France from the era of the First World War, to identify the methods of persuasion are used in the propaganda and to explain why they have arrived at their decision. Finally, students reflect on their learning.

Acknowledgements

Historiana would not be possible without the efforts and generous contributions of historians and educators from Europe and beyondand the support of the Connecting Europe Facility of the European Union.