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Historians, museum educators and digital learning experts have today joined together to launch a new web resource, The Age of Revolution, which aims to reinvigorate young people’s interest in a turbulent period of revolution with stunning parallels to the present day.
The project, titled The Age of Revolution, covers global developments between 1775 – 1848 with a UK focus, and at the centre of this is a website that brings a plethora of historical objects from museums across the country, and digital resources relating to the period, into schools.
The site reveals the era’s parallels with the modern age. Much like 2018, the wave of rebellion and challenges to power structures during the Age of Revolution were driven in part by rapid progress in technology and the ability to exchange ideas. In the early 19thcentury, this was in the form of the Industrial and Print Revolutions, while the internet, social media and citizen journalism currently drive the political turbulence seen in Europe and the US.
Though underrepresented in schools, the period covers political, social, economic, and intellectual upheavals like the French Revolution, abolitionism and the Peterloo Massacre. Artefacts from these key events have been sourced from museums, cultural and heritage collections across the UK and digitised so that people can see them first hand.
Dan Snow, historian and ambassador for Waterloo200, explains:
“The issues that arose during The Age of Revolution have many parallels in the modern day – from waves of rebellion and startling elections, to questions about Britain’s place in the world and fears about war, migration, and economic decline. Now is the perfect time to shed some light on a part of history that is too often overlooked in classrooms. We hope that seeing these objects collected online is just a starting point to inspire schools to get out there and tap into the learning opportunities at local museums too.”
The site includes everything from objects and paintings, to songs, and texts. The astonishing artefacts from the era include:
· Guillotine blade (1792) – The guillotine is best known as a method of executing those condemned to death during the French Revolution. Although it delivered a grisly end – by slicing off its victim’s head – death by guillotine was quick and somewhat humane. During the ‘Reign of Terror’ in France, as many as 40,000 people were executed by ‘Madame Guillotine’. This object is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.
· Banner from the “Peterloo Massacre” (1819) – The Peterloo Massacre was a bloody confrontation where fifteen died during mass protest driven in part by low wages and poor working conditions. Half a million people turned up to agitate for reform. A banner from the day, reading ‘Liberty and Fraternity’, forms part of the collection. This object is in the collection of Touchstones Rochdale.
· Chloroform Inhaler (1847) – Before the 1840s, major medical procedures took place without anaesthetic. In 1847, Dr James Simpson – who tested the theory on his himself and his friends after dinner – discovered that chloroform rendered people unconscious. Soon glass inhalers with sponges soaked in the chemical saw widespread use to aid operations, changing the face of medicine. This object is sourced from National Museums Scotland.
The objects and activities available on the website are linked directly to elements of curricula in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in History, Art & Design, Computing and SMSC (Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Development) in England.
New ideas for teaching this period are being explored in partnership with The Historical Association, through the sponsorship of 30 teacher fellows. Ranging from Key Stage 2 to A-level, they have been working with leading historians and experienced teacher educators to develop their subject knowledge and create resources to help deepen student understanding of the period.
An annual challenge for schools will also be launched as part of the Age of Revolution programme. Pupils will be tasked with using an object or historical theme and will encourage integration and use of tools and technologies such as animation, digital design, micro-computers and 3D printing. This will tap into The Maker Movement, which combines new technologies with traditional, physical making to solve problems and bring new ideas to life.
The Age of Revolution will build on the existing Waterloo200 website, set up with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate the bicentenary of the famous battle. The expanded site will serve as a valuable asset for teachers looking to cover a wide range of topics and themes within the period and tap into its relevance and timeliness. Starting off with 50 new key artefacts from the era, there is plenty on offer to engage young minds on the subject.
His Grace the 9th Duke of Wellington, OBE, DL, said:
“I very much welcome the relaunch of the Waterloo 200 website on the 203rd anniversary of the Battle. The Age of Revolution is an exciting free educational legacy programme for all ages that combines the nation's wide-ranging cultural and heritage collections with the latest digital technologies, historical research and expertise in teaching and learning. I hope that all visitors to this site will find it interesting and stimulating.”
The Age of Revolution programme was developed by Waterloo200 – a charity dedicated to advancing education on the timespan around the Battle of Waterloo – in partnership with the University of Kent, Culture24 and the Historical Association. A wide range of museums and galleries across the UK have given valuable access to artefacts as well as wider support and funding has been received from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Initial funding for Waterloo200 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Rebecca Sullivan at Historical Association, said:
“We’ve seen first-hand the interest that The Age of Revolution has generated among teachers in the pilot schemes that have taken place. Now, with the range of resources available, this fascinating era of history can be made more accessible to schools. Using the objects to deliver lessons can really capture students’ imaginations. We hope to hear a lot more on how the materials are being used in the classroom as the programme continues.”
Victoria Nielson, CEO for Waterloo200, added:
“This is not just a history project. It is a cross-curricular opportunity that is steeped in cultural connections with every element encouraged to work as hard as possible and be cohesive in its approach. That’s why we hope that educators from a range of schools across all kinds of subjects will find The Age of Revolution website useful for lesson planning and inspiration.”
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