National Personifications

This article is the eighteenth 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.

It is probably true that if you, as a history educator or an adult interested in the past, were asked to say how your country was represented in imagery you would be able to answer. There are certain
very well-known images that are internationally known too; think of ‘Uncle Sam’ for the USA, or the Russian bear, or the German eagle. Students in schools are young and often they do not have this cultural image vocabulary. They do not understand this symbolism. We need to help them identify common representations of nations and people so that they can understand image sources from the past. For example, many history school exams expect students to be able to work with political cartoons or propaganda posters from the 20 th century. These are often full of caricatures, images and personifications. Students are not going to be able to even start to work out what a cartoon or poster means if they cannot identify the people, places and events being represented. Therefore, we need to explicitly teach students about such images. This is particularly true for students who, due to their background, may not be able to learn about images and symbolism from their home background. If teachers do not teach this topic, then some students will remain excluded from the imagery familiar to the dominant culture of the place where they live. This blogpost is focused on one particular group of images – the personification of nations. That is, nations being represented as imaginary people. The contextual information provided with each of the images in the source collection provides specific information about images from a range of countries.

Athens
Source: Bust of Athena Pallas from Villa Albani, Rome; Unknown author,
1832, Aikaterini Laskaridis Foundation via Europeana, 44164.

Ideas to consider when exploring national personifications
This might be a topic that you have not thought about very explicitly before. To help you think about teaching using national personifications, there are some ideas to consider:

  • The tradition of national personification goes back to the far past and became very popular from the 18 th century onward, especially with the rise of mass production of images.
  • This idea of representing a whole group of people, often a nation, as a person is controversial. Societies are always diverse and representation a whole society with just one image of a person is an over-simplification. It deliberately ignores diversity.
  • One national group may have competing images across time and/or within one period of time. An example of this would be in later 19 th century Ireland, where nationalists used a female image needing the support of young Irish men to free her from British control, while unionists at the same time used a female image of Ireland needing the protection of her older sister, representing the UK government.
  • Personifications might link the national group to the ancient world. For example, Britannia for the UK and Germania for Germany. These personifications are often dressed in classical costume and presented with classical images.
  • National Personifications might also be deliberately presented to represent the ‘common man’. That is, to be a figure lots of people can identify with as similar to them. An example of this would be Uncle Sam from the USA.
  • An advantage for the student of history is that the most common and historically effective personifications tend to have identifiable features that we can teach students to spot. When they are studying political satire or propaganda. Again, think about Uncle Sam with his top hat and his stars and stripes costume.

    We can teach students not only to identify these substantive national personifications, but also to understand this cultural phenomenon as something chosen and constructed. We can use them a source material for evidence of the perceptions of the people who created them, for evidence of their values and for evidence of how they thought about their nation and how others should think about their nation. As such they are an introduction to the cultural history or a place, or people, or period
Uncle Sam from the USA
Source: Thank you Uncle Sam, Joke Broekema, 1944, Museon via
Europeana, 71618.

Teaching about national personification using the e-learning activity
The e-learning activity is designed to introduce students to the concept of national personification, to identify some commonly used personifications and to use some of the them as sources of evidence about the past. After a short introductory text about what they are and the purpose of thinking about them, they are then asked to sort a selection of images into male and female. This is a way to get students to look at a range of national personifications. Students then follow a link to a short piece about why so many personifications are of women and to a link to a short piece explaining the ‘Uncle Sam’ figure, as one example of a well-known personification. They then focus on two images and identify similarities and differences between them. These two personifications, one of Denmark and one of Finland, give an overall impression. Students are reminded that these are stereotypes and that, of course, it is important to remember that each country is in reality much more complex and that the millions of people who live in them are not all the same; they do not have the same thoughts, hopes and dreams.

At the same time, students learn that these personifications can give us insights into how people in power, or supporters of a country, or a country’s critics, thought of themselves at the time the image was produced. They also learn that these images can also give us clues about qualities that some people value. The images are therefore useful as sources of evidence for the past. They are small windows into the past that give us a glimpse of what it might have been like. We can then use them to build our ideas and opinions about the past. To extend the learning students are asked to read the contexts to each source in the collection and challenged to find out more about the personifications that are used by their community. Hopefully, after completely this activity, students will understand the concept of national personification, be able to identify them and understand how they can be used by historians to learn about the past.

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.



Great Men and Inventions: Providing Students Opportunities to Evaluate Bias and to Re-assess and Re-define Historical Terminology

This article is the seventeenth 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 eLearning activity allows students not only the ability to grapple with a significant part of the early Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, but also to assess how to speak about historical actors in history. The thought-provoking material on Historiana, Industrial Inventions provides students with the opportunities to place the development of new inventions in their historical context, evaluate their relative importance, as well as to assess the ways in which historians place certain peoples’ contributions in the forefront instead as collaborative work that required the work of others. Too often it is assumed that we only need to assess the work of certain men (rarely women) and not the social context in which they lived. This activity asks students to use one example and consider both a particular man’s role and the social context in which he lived. As historians, we assess and evaluate; as most educators emphasize, it is important for students to learn these skills as they navigate the world around them.

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 bias to do the work of historians. In it, they are asked to analyze the relative importance of each of these inventions and/or the environment of which it was a part before they answer several questions.

In so doing students work on a variety of historical skills:
1) evaluating the work of the others
2) assessing bias
3) developing newer models of historical analysis that could be used in other situations.

This activity can 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. Indeed it makes sense to consider this work as homework and in class students share their opinions with a partner, Then they can share their opinions with the entire class to evaluate the merits of their ideas and work collaboratively to defend the name or names that they chose.

Such work allows students to think and work like historians, as is emphasized in the History Thinking Project.

Why are such themes important? Students are inundated with information about the past and the present in the guise of objectivity and yet when one looks more closely it is apparent that that is less the case and that frequent ways of thinking are influenced by bias which is often implicit – as is the case with accepting the actors behind these inventions – rather than bringing them to an explicit discussion – as this activity does. There is nothing wrong with determining that Watt’s contribution was so instrumental in developing the steam engine that it should in fact be named after him, but then that discussion could help in thinking through the role in naming other inventions after certain individuals, won’t it?

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.

How did the First Industrial Revolution Change Work Conditions in Producing Textile Goods? Providing Students Opportunities to Make Thoughtful Comparisons By Evaluating Images

This article is the sixteenth 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 allows students not only the ability to grapple with a significant part of the early Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom in the 18th century, but also to assess how to look at the role of technology in societal changes. While the Industrial Revolution that originated in Great Britain directly affected life in Manchester, England, where more and more textile goods were produced in the newly constructed factories, it also dramatically affected other aspects of work in the production of cotton, whether in the fields in plantations in the Americas or in countless homes in Great Britain where cotton goods had traditionally been made. In so doing it led to vast changes economically, socially, demographically, and environmentally. In this eLearning Activity students can analyze what it meant for participants. Key Questions are “In what ways did industrialization change how most people worked? Were these changes more positive than negative? Explain.”

Given the significance of the use of technology and the related decisions made by the new group of entrepreneurs who wanted to make as much money as possible in all aspects of cotton production, the source collection focuses on helping students understand these changes from participants’ perspectives and look at positive, negative, and neutral consequences of these significant changes.

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 issues of change over time to do the work of historians. This activity asks students to look closely at some of the materials on Historiana’s source collection about People At Work: Changes Due to the Industrial Revolution.

This activity can 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 . Indeed it makes sense to consider this work as homework and in class students share their opinions with a partner, Then they can share their opinions with the entire class to evaluate the merits of their ideas and work collaboratively to defend their responses.

Such work allows students to think and work like historians, as is emphasized in the History Thinking Project:
http://historicalthinking.ca/historical-thinking-concept-templates

Why are such themes important? Students are inundated with information about the past and the present in the guise of objectivity and yet when one looks more closely it is apparent that that is less the case and that frequent ways of thinking are influenced by the false assumption that newer is better than older and that technological adaptations bring progress. But progress needs to be evaluated in the more nuanced and historically balanced ways. What is intrinsically better with factory work that led to speed-ups and efficiency than working at one’s own pace? Why should machines guide how quickly one works? And where one works? Any of these questions could
lead to a productive Socratic Seminar discussion or a class debate. Given the current discussions about “Home Office” these questions are clearly quite current ones.

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.

Mathematical Wonders: Renaissance Thinkers & Their Impacts

This article is the fifteenth 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.

Mathematics and Magic: Progress and limitations of mathematics and related sciences during the Renaissance
As part of our growing number of collections on the Renaissance period, Historiana has recently developed a new source collection entitled Mathematics and Magic. The collection examines continuity and change in ideas about mathematics with a focus on some of the most influential thinkers of the time. The collection begins with an examination of some of the Ancient Greeks from whom Renaissance mathematicians drew much of their knowledge and then proceeds to consider a number of mathematical innovations and innovators from the Renaissance. Importantly, the collection also explores some of the limitations of these innovative ideas, whether this was as a result of resistance to new ideas at the time or of the pervasiveness of occult beliefs (such as numerology) in mathematical thinking in this period.

Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Learning
Many schools are increasingly seeking opportunities for students to engage in interdisciplinary learning. Students’ ability to constructively assimilate knowledge, understanding and methods from multiple areas of study is viewed as an essential 21st century skill. This source collection provides an excellent opportunity for teachers from mathematics, science and history departments to work together to develop students’ understanding. The collection refers to several important innovations in mathematical understanding from the Ancient Greek and Renaissance periods. Students would be able to deepen their appreciation of these ideas and their significance with support from expert teachers in the relevant field(s). Team teaching, a coordinated sequence of lessons or even the sharing of mini video lessons could all facilitate such an interdisciplinary learning experience.

Philips Galle, Portrait of Niccolò Tartaglia, Antwerpen, 1572, Rijksmuseum via Europeana

Ideas for Teaching Historical Thinking with this Source Collection
In addition to the opportunities this collection presents for interdisciplinary learning, there are several ways in which it might be used to promote students’ historical thinking:

Continuity and Change: Examine the ideas that changes and those that persisted in the field of mathematics in the Renaissance period.
Perspective-taking: Investigate the perspectives of various groups in this period on particular mathematical ideas. For example: Perspectives of the mathematicians, the Catholic Church, European rulers, occult groups, and so on.
Significance: Draw conclusions about the relative significance of different mathematical ideas or the thinkers themselves.

Mathematician John Dee performing an experiment before Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Gillard Glindoni, Wellcome Collection via Europeana, L0083955 b1465819, ICV No 51391, Iconographic Collection, 47369i, j9xszjzn.

Mathematical Minds: A Combined Online/Offline Lesson on Significant Thinkers
The example eLearning Activity provided on Historiana entitled Mathematical Minds presents a lesson idea which combines online and offline modes of teaching and learning. The lesson aims to develop students’ skills in drawing justified conclusions about historical significance.

Students begin the lesson online. After a brief introduction, students begin by reading about five influential thinkers of the Renaissance period: Tartaglia, Descartes, Copernicus, Dee and Wilkins. As they read, students are asked to highlight parts of the text that refer to new ideas, the use of old ideas and the impacts of innovations in mathematical thinking. This task aims to familiarise the students with these key thinkers and draw their attention to the information that will be most relevant for the next part of the task.

Students are then divided into groups to prepare for a real-life (offline) balloon debate. Balloon debates require students to imagine the key individuals are in a hot air balloon that is sinking quickly. Students must vote to decide which individuals to evict from the balloon to lighten the load one at a time until only one person remains. Representatives of the individuals take turns to convince the audience of the reasons for which they deserve to stay in the balloon. In this task, students representing the mathematicians must convince their peers of the significance of that mathematician to keep their place in the balloon. The balloon debate activity can be adapted to include individuals, events or factors and different criteria (most important, best/worst, etc.) for all kinds of different topics.

After the balloon debate, students return for one last online component. They make their own final assessment of the relative significance of the thinkers which they then justify in a brief paragraph sent to their teacher.

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.

Coffee’s Consequences

This article is the fourteenth 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.

Coffee has become a ubiquitous commodity worldwide. While students might not yet be coffee drinkers themselves, the bitter drink is still likely to be present in their daily experience through advertising, film and television, ever-present Starbucks stores or their tired teachers downing cups as they hurry through the hallways. Coffee thus provides a great opportunity to take something very familiar and look at it in a whole new light by putting it under the historical microscope.

Historiana’s recent source collection How did coffee become a global commodity? aims to do just that. The source collection explores the spread of coffee from Sufi orders in Yemen in the 15th century, to the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, across Europe in the years that followed and as part of increasingly complex global networks up to the present day. The collection invites students to consider the impacts of historical developments such as colonialism, industrialisation and globalisation on the spread of coffee and the consequences this had, in turn, for various societies around the world.

In this print a woman pours coffee in a wide plate; it is an old practice to have the coffee
cool down faster. Source: Young woman drinking coffee, Bonnet, Louis Marin, 1774, France, Rijksmuseum via Europeana.

Ideas for teaching with this source collection
The source collection offers a broad overview of coffee’s journey as a global commodity throughout space and time. As it is a far-reaching collection, there are a number of ways it might be used in the classroom, depending on your needs. Some examples include using the collection as:

 A case study for units related to globalisation
 A springboard for deeper study of issues such as colonisation, the Enlightenment, industrialisation, slavery, trade and so forth
 A way of investigating continuity and change by considering the evolution of coffee as a commodity over several centuries
 A way of developing students’ understanding of causation by examining the impacts of global developments such as conflict, exploration, and colonisation on the spread of coffee
 A way of developing students’ understanding of consequence by examining the impacts coffee had on various societies throughout time

Indian workers harvesting the crop on a coffee plantation. Coloured lithograph by Deroi, c.1850, after Johann Moritz Rugendas. Wellcome Collection via Europeana

Example online activity: Coffee’s Consequences
The eLearning Activity, Coffee’s Consequences, on Historiana provides an example of the way this collection might be used to examine the historical concept of consequence. The activity makes use of the newly launched Highlight tool which enables students to highlight and annotate text.

The activity begins by providing some background information before posing the key inquiry question: “Has the impact of the global spread of coffee been positive for societies past and present?” The question is designed to be debatable and to invite students to use evidence from the sources to develop a historical argument. It is recommended that the activity be preceded by a discussion about how one might draw conclusions about what is “positive” or “negative” and the complexity of applying present-day morality to historical times. In this way, students can also engage with what Peter Seixas terms the “ethical dimension”, one of the key historical thinking concepts.

Students then see a number of sources with information about key moments in the development and spread of coffee as a commodity over time. For each source, students are asked to highlight passages in the text which suggest an impact on a given society and provide an annotation explaining the consequence they believe this indicates. The first source is already done for them as an example which they are able to use as a model for their own responses. Once students have completed this close reading of a range of sources, they are asked to use their findings to present a final, justified response to the inquiry question.

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.