Tag Archives: war
On the 18th May 1291, the Crusader-controlled city of Acre was seized by the Muslim forces of the Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil. The Siege of Acre, sometimes known as the Fall of Acre, marked the last attempt to exert Crusader influence in the Holy Land.
Acre had been under Christian control since it was besieged in 1191 during the Third Crusade, and had quickly become the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. With the rise of the Mamluk Sultanate in nearby Egypt in 1250, Crusader holdings became targets for conquest.
The spark for the attack on Acre was the suspected killing of a Muslim for an affair with the wife of a Christian. This coincided with the arrival of over 1,600 poorly disciplined Italian reinforcements for the city, who allegedly pillaged nearby towns for supplies and killed a number of Muslims in the process.
These killings were cited by the Mamluks as reason to cancel a ten-year truce they had signed with the Crusaders. Having amassed an army of many thousands, Sultan Khalil therefore began the siege on 5th April and within less than a month his forces had reached the city walls and begun to mine out the base of the walls and defensive towers. These began to collapse on the 8th May, and a few days later the full infantry attack on the city began. By nightfall on 18th May the Christians had been defeated, their leaders having either fled by boat or been killed in the fighting.
On the 26th August 1346, one of the most decisive battles in the Hundred Years War was won by the army of the English king Edward III. The Battle of Crécy was fought against the French army of King Philip VI and eventually led to the port of Calais becoming an English enclave for over two centuries.
Determined to unseat Philip from the French throne and claim it for himself, Edward had already been involved in a series of conflicts across the Channel. However, the invasion force he brought in 1346 was notable for its large number of longbow archers who made up between half and two-thirds of the approximately 15,000 men who made up the army.
The key advantage of the longbow was its ability to be fired over long distances. Although research has shown that longbow arrows could only pierce the plate armour worn by knights at a distance of 20 metres, they were highly effective against their horses and the lighter armour worn on limbs. Being able to bring down knights before the onset of hand-to-hand combat was incredibly important. Furthermore, the psychological effect of thousands of arrows raining down is known to have affected the fighting spirit of the enemy.
After forcing over 4,000 Genoese crossbowmen in the service of the French King to retreat, the French cavalry were similarly overwhelmed by the archers. Philip abandoned the battle around midnight, with his remaining knight and men-at-arms fleeing the field soon afterwards. French losses mounted into the thousands, while the English lost barely a hundred.
On the 22nd August 1485, King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth and the forces of Henry Tudor brought the Plantagenet dynasty to an end. Henry secured his reign soon afterwards by later marrying Elizabeth of York, the niece of Richard III and daughter of Edward IV, and united the two warring houses through the symbolism of the Tudor rose.
Wishing to capitalise on Richard’s diminishing support following the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower and the death of his wife, Henry Tudor prepared to invade England from his base in Brittany and fight Richard for the throne. Funded by Charles VIII of France, and supported by three times as many French mercenary soldiers as his own troops, Henry set sail on the 1st August with 2,000 men. Landing at the Welsh port of Milford Haven, Henry secured the support of the influential Welsh landowner Rhys ap Thomas, on his march to England.
Richard’s army gathered in Leicester from the 16th August and, on the night of the 21st, camped on Ambion Hill near the town of Market Bosworth with 10,000 men. The next morning, facing Henry and his force of around 5,000 soldiers, the Yorkists were defeated when the Stanley family switched sides and surrounded and killed Richard after the king chose to break ranks and target Henry himself. Henry was crowned under an oak tree near the site.
Richard’s body was taken to Leicester by the Lancastrians where it was buried in an unmarked grave in Greyfriars church. The body was only found again in 2012.
This 1861 photograph of Confederate artillery in the American Civil War is a great starter for discussions about continuity and change in warfare. Compare it to images of WW1 field artillery for some interesting student observations. Click to download a full-size version.
This fabulous map comes from the Harvard University Map Collection.
This revision podcast is relevant to both GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB students may find it a helpful introduction to events in the Gulf in the later 20th Century.
The podcast looks at three key factors:
- The different causes of the war, including Iran’s threat to Saddam’s regime, the opportunity for Iraq to gain territory and oil, and timing
- The nature of how the war was fought, including the impact of foreign powers
- The consequences of the war for each nation
The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these factors, and explain how students might approach a question on them in the exam.
This revision podcast is aimed at GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB students may find it a helpful introduction to events in the Gulf in the later 20th Century. This episode focuses on the origins of the Gulf War, with a focus on the causes and consequences of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
The podcast begins with an overview of the background factors to the invasion of Kuwait, and then outlines the events of the invasion itself. The podcast concludes with a description of the effect that the invasion had on the international community, and how foreign nations responded.
The revision guide aims to give clear examples for each of these issues, and provide an explanation of how the events contributed to international action against Iraq that was to become known as the First Gulf War.
Sainsbury’s decision to use the story of the Christmas Truce to drive their 2014 seasonal advertising campaign provoked debate about the ethical and moral issues regarding advertising and war, but also served to bring the story of the Truce to the front of many peoples’ minds. Shortly after the advert was first shown in the UK, a cancelled Geography fieldtrip led to Year 9 students returning to their ‘normal’ lessons without their usual classroom equipment or books. I therefore chose to seize upon their interest in the Sainsbury’s advert and the story it tells to teach an impromptu lesson in which the students were asked to evaluate the advert as an historical source. This post attempts to give an overview of the lesson I taught, and the responses from my students.
A hundred years on, the Christmas Truce has become mythologised to such an extent that the stories peddled by some are dangerously misleading. Although I’m a big fan of Horrible Histories, for example, their sketch based on the Christmas Truce focuses almost exclusively on the legend of the football match. They do make some good references to the wider context of the war but, for a TV show that (usually) presents well-researched and accurate history, the clip below is a concern due to its emphasis on football at the expense of everything else.
Such popular histories can mean that when people think of ‘the Christmas Truce’ they imagine the entire Western Front downing arms and having a huge kick about in the middle of No Man’s Land. This isn’t true of everyone, but UEFA’s recent series of Remembrance events has further reinforced the stereotype. My students’ subconscious ‘knowledge’ of this was awakened by the new Sainsbury’s advert, and I was keen to think of a way to address the reality of this interpretation with my classes.
Setting It Up
I began by simply showing the advert in its entirety, and asked the students to share their initial thoughts.
Some students immediately commented on the ethical/moral debate surrounding the advert. Whether this is because they were repeating lines that have been featured heavily in the media in recent days is unclear. I duly noted down their responses on a huge sheet of paper, but then physically ‘put them to one side’. I explained that we were not going to debate the pros and cons of the advert itself. Instead we were going to analyse the advert as an historical source in order to arrive at a response to the question, ‘How much can we learn from the Sainsbury’s advert about the First World War?’
Students were divided into groups and asked to discuss and note down their answers to four key questions to help them answer the lesson enquiry question. I’m fortunate in having a classroom equipped with desks that are designed to be written on, and so by giving each group a couple of board markers they were able to record their responses to these questions:
- Who made the advert?
- Why was it made?
- What does it tell us about the First World War?
- What does it not tell us about the First World War?
The first two questions were designed to get students thinking about the provenance of the source, which I hoped would feed in to their answers to the next two questions about the content. The most obvious thing they picked up on was the football match shown in the advert. However, they also commented that the advert can be used to tell us what the soldiers wore and how they passed their time in the trenches, One student also pointed out that the portrayal of the trenches matched with what they’d already learned about trench construction in a previous lesson. In terms of the counter argument a student highlighted that, although the advert focuses on a truce, it doesn’t really tell us how common it was for troops to lay down their arms. This point was developed by another who commented that the explosion that sends the two sides back to their trenches shows that the fighting continued elsewhere, even though the section of the line in the advert held a truce. They were beginning to grasp that idea that one specific event does not prove the presence of a wider trend.
Filling in the background
I then showed the students the ‘making of’ video, and the ‘story behind the advert’ video, both of which provided them with more contextual information. Many noted that the ‘story behind the advert’ video clearly states that the events are fictional, but that the makers say they tried to be as accurate as possible.
After viewing these videos, students were given a few minutes to return to their group discussions, in which they began adding details about the origin and purpose of the film related to the ‘who’ and ‘why’ questions they had originally been set. In particular, they found it important to note the involvement of the British Legion, and the presence of an historical consultant to ensure accuracy.
Analysing the interpretation
It was at this point in the lesson that students began to realise that the advert was therefore an interpretation of the Truce, based on the different aims of those involved in its production. To help them further explore this idea, I distributed two more sources of information. Half the groups received a series of extracts from the Twitter feed of Taff Gillingham (https://twitter.com/Taff_Gillingham), the historical consultant on the advert. The other groups were given the joint press release by the British Legion and Sainsbury’s.
With Mr Gillingham’s permission I have copied his tweets and formatted them into prose paragraphs to make them easier to read – you can download the PDF file from http://www.mrallsophistory.com/revision/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Taff-Gillingham-Twitter-combined.pdf
You can download the press release from the British Legion’s website at http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/about-us/news/remembrance/sainsburys-and-the-legion-partner-to-bring-ww1-christmas-truce-story-to-life
The students were asked to read and annotate these additional sources. Those with the Twitter feed were able to learn about Gillingham’s own background, and noted that he is a respected commentator on the Christmas Truce. One group highlighted the section where he tells of how he and the director didn’t want football to dominate the advert, but that “the client” (i.e. Sainsbury’s) wanted to ‘push the football hard’. They also found it helpful to read the section where he outlines his own process of historical research to find corroborating evidence of a football match taking place. Meanwhile the groups with the press release highlighted that the advert is referred to as ‘a creative interpretation’ although they ‘sought to make the portrayal of the truce as accurate as possible’. Many also highlighted the charitable element of the advert.
Depending on time you may also wish to include additional sources. The Football Remembers source pack includes some good materials. I’ve had most success with Source 9 (which is actually one of the sources used by Taff Gillingham used when advising Sainsbury’s), Source 32, and Source 48.
Since first teaching this lesson, a previously unpublished letter has come to light which could be a great additional source. Most sources are from lower ranking soldiers, but this is from General Walter Congreve who was awarded the Victoria Cross. It’s particularly interesting because the majority of accounts of the Truce say that senior officers were opposed to the Truce, whereas Gen Congreve’s letter seems quite supportive of it – if only for tactical reasons. The Daily Telegraph published a full transcript of the letter on their website, though the headline ‘The real story behind the 1914 Christmas Truce’ is to be taken wit ha pinch of salt!
It can also be interesting to contrast the portrayal of the war in the Sainsbury’s advert with that in Private Peaceful, which is taught in many Y7 English classrooms. Although Private Peaceful does not address the Truce, it offers an almost-entirely opposing interpretation of the war in general and can provide a good stimulus for a discussion of audience.
Reaching a conclusion
Students with different sources then paired off to share their new-found insights with each other. This led to some interesting debate, with one pair commenting that the purpose of the historical account – i.e. Sainsbury’s desire to advertise their product – meant that some of the nuanced history from Gillingham’s research was lost. This final piece of paired work also enabled students to discuss the overall lesson question to reach a conclusion about how much the advert can teach us about the First World War. Using a technique shared by Patrick O’Shaughnessy on Twitter (https://twitter.com/historychappy), students then recorded their opinions on Post-It notes which they stuck to the board to form a continuum. These views were discussed as a plenary activity.
Since first teaching this lesson five days ago, it is clear that many of the students have watched the advert again. They have found yet more historical references in the advert, some of which I’m sure they will have been looking for after reading Gillingham’s tweets. Although I recognise that there is an important debate to be had about Sainsbury’s decision to produce this advert, I believe that we have the opportunity to use it as a springboard to address the real history of the Christmas Truce and correct the myths and legends that overshadow the reality of life on the Western Front at the end of 1914.
This revision podcast follows events from the first meeting of the Legislative Assembly in October 1791 to the execution of the King in January 1793. Growing tension between the revolutionaries and the King are explained through Louis’s decision to continue vetoing laws, the issuing of the Brunswick manifesto, and the King’s imprisonment in the Temple. As well as struggling to fight a war against Austria and Prussia, the revolutionary government was faced with internal struggles. The divisions between the deputies in the newly-elected National Convention are discussed against the backdrop of the September Massacres of 1792. The episode ends with an overview of the trial of Louis and his eventual execution by guillotine on January 21st 1793.
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