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Why Living History?

A brief rationale by Dan Moorhouse, AST at Wyke Manor School:


Sense of period

Developed through engagement with artefacts, language and beliefs from different periods. This makes it much easier to develop an understanding of why people reacted to events in different ways.

Example: Students undertaking activities relating to the era of the English Civil Wars benefit greatly from the talks on beliefs at the time. When they return to issues such as Charles’ religious policies and the reaction to these, they recognise that beliefs were different and are able to explain how and why people at that time reacted to them as they did.


Its relevance is very obvious to pupils. They’re handling objects from the past; working on things that children in the past would have experienced on a daily basis and relate to this much more effectively than they can to a textbook etc.

Example: Year 7 pupils reflecting on the Life of a Medieval Peasant can describe features of a typical day with lots of clarity. Not only have they done the work in the classroom about the different jobs but they’ve actually held the artefacts and done the job themselves.


The amount of variety involved in living history days, combined with the ability to try things out that are quite different and the fact that the teachers end up looking silly means that pupils are engrossed throughout the day.

Historical understanding

Living History enthusiasts have a wealth of information at their disposal about all manner of aspects of the periods they specialise in. This allows them to introduce pupils to a wealth of information that teachers often wouldn’t be aware of – and they do it in a way in which pupils absorb the information without being subjected to content overload.

How does it fit in with the Curriculum?

The pupils will be working collaboratively on a range of issues. This promotes improved communications skills, has lots of links to Citizenship objectives and develops pupils self esteem. There are also lots of potential follow up activities that can be used and adaptations of Living History techniques can be utilised to great effect. For example: ICT can be used to record pupils ‘in role’ for use in follow up lessons; similarly, video footage of activities is a great way of recording learning and can be used alongside photographs as an interactive display of work.