Tag Archives: Germany

Dual Alliance

The formation of the Dual Alliance by Germany and Austria-Hungary – introductory video

A series of three wars in less than a decade had seen the creation of a unified Germany directed by the Realpolitik of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Keen to consolidate the newly-united country, he turned to diplomacy in an attempt to ensure the status quo in Europe.

Despite forming the Dreikaiserbund with Austria-Hungary and Russia in 1873, a power struggle over territory in the Balkans from 1875-78 led to Bismarck playing the role of ‘the honest broker’ at the Congress of Berlin to resolve tensions between his allies. The congress was a diplomatic defeat for Russia and left the Dreikaiserbund in tatters, leading Bismarck to negotiate the new Dual Alliance with Austria-Hungary.

Although specific details of the Dual Alliance were kept secret until 1888, it was a defensive alliance in which both countries agreed to assist each other if they were attacked by Russia. Bismarck and Austria-Hungary’s Secretary of State, Count Julius Andrássy, also agreed to remain neutral in the case of an attack from another country in what is known as benevolent neutrality.

The announcement of the alliance surprised some observers, who noted the threat that the burgeoning German nationalism posed to the Habsburg Empire. The Austro-Prussian War had only been fought between the two countries thirteen years earlier, but the relatively generous peace terms that had been agreed in its wake left the door open to future cooperation. This, combined with Germany and Austria’s shared linguistic and cultural connections, ensured the Dual Alliance lasted until the end of the First World War.

Franco-Prussian war monument in Berlin scarred by subsequent conflict. Good starter

Franco-Prussian War monument marked with bullet holes. Good starter.

This image of the Franco-Prussian war monument, marked by bullet holes, was taken by photographer Lewis Bush (www.lewisbush.com) in Berlin during 2012 for The Memory of History.

Nazi society 'speed dating'

Support for Nazi policies – ‘Speed Dating’ activity

Students always show a keen interest in comparing and contrasting different social experiences within Nazi Germany. With this in mind I’ve created a series of character cards based on the experiences of workers, farmers, the middle class and ‘big business’. These can be used in many ways to gather and record information. ‘Speed dating’ is often a lively and successful activity.

Each student is given a character and then ‘dates’ each of the others, filling in a chart to record how the person has benefited or lost out under Nazi rule. They need to find their closest match, and should also identify the people who are most and least happy.

This leads to a lively plenary discussion about the range of experiences, and can be linked to work on Nazi systems of control.

You can download the Nazi Society character cards as well as a simple chart for recording findings here.

If you go with the speed dating idea, it’s quite fun to set the scene by having some relaxing/romantic music playing in the background.

You might follow this lesson up with some independent consolidation based on the life in Nazi Germany podcast, or show the excellent video clip about Nazi domestic policies 1933-36.

Weimar-era cartoon predicts ‘wireless home phone & TV’

Weimar cartoon predicts 'wireless home phone & TV'. Great starter from bit.ly[f-slash]1rzL8U3

Weimar cartoon predicts ‘wireless home phone & TV’. Great starter from http://bit.ly/1rzL8U3

The Supermarket and the Christmas Truce – lesson plan and resources

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.

The context

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?’

First impressions

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.

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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.

Who Made It?

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 https://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.

Sainsbury's Continuum

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.

Example CIE AS History Paper 1: Liberalism & Nationalism in Italy and Germany

Due to CIE changing their AS and A Level courses from the old specification (9697) to the shiny new 9389, there is a lack of past papers for students to use as part of their revision.  While it is relatively easy to transfer essay questions to the new mark scheme, the source paper focus (AS Level Component 1) has changed from the Causes of World War One to Liberalism and Nationalism in Italy and Germany, 1848–1871.

I have created an example CIE AS Paper 1 for this topic, which you can download using the link below.

Example CIE AS Paper 1 (European topic)

The paper can be marked using the generic CIE markscheme available for the Specimen Paper 1 from the CIE website here.

The French Revolution: The Directory

This A Level and IB History revision podcast charts the rise and fall of the Directory from 1794 to 1799.  Beginning with the execution of Robespierre, the Thermidorean Reaction and the onset of the White Terror, it goes on to explore the terms of the Constitution of Year III.  The challenges to the Directory are described, and the government’s various failures and successes are explained.   The episode finishes with Napoleon and the Coup of Brumaire.

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Treaty of Vienna

The signing of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna

The ‘Final Act’ of the Congress of Vienna was signed on the 9th June 1815, nine days before Napoleon’s final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. The purpose of the Congress was to review and reorganise Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, in an attempt to achieve a lasting peace.

Having first met after the defeat and surrender of Napleonic France in 1814, the Congress continued in spite of the renewal of hostilities following the period known as the Hundred Days in which Napoleon returned from exile and took back control of France. Chaired by Metternich, the Austrian principal minister, the Congress was led by the so-called Four Great Powers of Austria, Russia, Britain, and Prussia alongside France.  In total over 200 states were represented in some way at the Congress, making it the largest diplomatic event of its time.  However, the key terms were discussed and decided by the Great Powers in informal meetings.

The Final Act of the Congress set in place a map of Europe that remained largely unchanged for the next forty years, and – some may argue – set the scene for the First World War. Indeed the delegates were often criticised in the later nineteenth century for focusing more on achieving a balance of power than on maintaining peace. Nationalism, for example, was largely ignored in the final settlement. Although this was a key factor in the disputes and conflicts that emerged later, it’s important to remember that the Congress did succeed in its primary aim of securing wider European peace for the best part of a century.

The 14 Points

Woodrow Wilson’s announcement of the 14 Points in 1918

On the 8th January 1918, United States President Woodrow Wilson made a speech to Congress in which he outlined his principles for world peace, known as the Fourteen Points. Keen to distance the United States from nationalistic disputes that fuelled European rivalries, he sought a lasting peace by securing terms that avoided selfish ambitions of the victors.

Three days earlier, on the 5th January, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George had outlined British war aims at the Caxton Hall conference of the Trades Union Congress. It was the first time any of the Allies had shared their post-war intentions and, as a result Woodrow Wilson considered abandoning his own speech since many of the points were similar. However, he was persuaded to deliver the speech anyway.

The Fourteen Points were greeted with some reluctance from France in particular. Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, is said to have remarked that, “The good Lord only had ten!” as a comparison to the Ten Commandments. However, the Fourteen Points speech became an instrument of propaganda that was widely circulated within Germany. Consequently it later served as a basis for the German armistice that was signed later that year.

However, France’s vastly different intentions meant that, when the time the Paris Peace Conference began on the 18th January 1919, there was significant tension between the negotiators. The fact that Wilson himself was physically ill meant that he was less able to argue for peace terms that reflected the Fourteen Points against Clemenceau – the Tiger – and his demands to cripple Germany. Consequently many Germans felt incredible anger over the final terms of the Treaty.

The Big Three at the Paris Peace Conference

This revision podcast is aimed at GCSE and IGCSE History students, although AS and IB History students may find it helpful.  The episode focuses on the background to the Paris Peace Conference. You may also wish to look through the Paris Peace Conference PowerPoint.

The revision podcast outlines the ‘Big Three’ (David Lloyd George, George Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson) and the different aims that they each had. Their aims are explained with reference to the attitude of people at home, the effect of the war, and the arguments for and against treating Germany harshly. Specific details are given of the 14 Points, along with disagreements between the three leaders.