The study of history aims to develop understanding of and skills in historical enquiry, as a basis for understanding ourselves, our identity, our society and our world in order to inform how we might act to shape our society in the future. Given the unique historical experience of Northern Ireland, it is important that young people have opportunities to
- recognise that the study of historical events can have meaning and relevance for their lives today.
- explore the different images, representations and interpretations of significant historical events, as expressed through commemoration.
- investigate how different ideas and messages can be presented and constructed as well as changed over time
- think about how interpretations have been constructed and the intention behind the powerful messages conveyed.
This website has been developed to help address a number of the statements of minimum requirement of the Northern Ireland Curriculum for history by providing young people with opportunities to
- explore how history has affected their personal identity, culture and lifestyle.
- investigate ethical issues in history or historical figures who have behaved ethically or unethically in the past.
- investigate the impact of significant events and ideas of the 20th century on our way of life ,values and culture.
- investigate how history has been selectively interpreted to create stereotypical perceptions and to justify particular views and actions.
- investigate individuals who are considered to have taken a moral stand and examine their motivation and legacy.
Evaluating historical evidence and interpretations
Primary and secondary sources are the starting point for any enquiry. A skilled historian uses contextual knowledge, together with evidence from original sources and from the work of other historians, to create a substantiated, well-argued, objective account of an aspect of the past. Pupils need to be helped and supported to
- acquire a knowledge of the context and chronology of events
- ask probing questions about the past (for example about context, chronology, change and continuity; cause and consequence; and significance)
- break big questions down into a series of smaller questions
- reflect critically on the issues that arise
- devise and plan investigations / test hypotheses
- access relevant sources of information
- assess which sources are useful for answering a particular question and the utility of the evidence and interpretations selected
- examine different viewpoints, arguments and competing interpretations, perspectives and identities, based on the writers’ attitudes and values
- analyse and link together evidence
- draw out connections and make deductions and inferences
- create a convincing and reasoned account of the past that takes account of different perspectives
The criteria by which the utility and validity of evidence are judged may change over time, depending on the purpose and audience for whom the evidence or interpretation was created. The criteria for judging the utility and validity of an interpretation should take into consideration whether or not it
- seeks to offer a credible record or explanation of the past based upon evidence
- is a purposeful distortion of the historical record, for political purposes or propaganda
To be able to evaluate an interpretation, pupils must have sufficient information from which to draw meaningful conclusions and to make valid comments about it. This requires
- background knowledge of the period in which the interpretations were created
- understanding of the issues the interpretation is addressing
- the ability to ‘read’ a variety of sources, for example, texts, films, paintings using criteria such as:
- D – Date –when was it produced?
- A – Author – who produced it?
- A – Audience – where was it produced? who was the intended audience?
- M – Motive – was it to entertain/inform/persuade/mislead?
- I – Information – what sources of information were used to produce it?
- T – Tone – what were the views and standpoints of the producers of the interpretation?
History is constructed from interpretations of key events, actions, people and turning points. At the time or subsequently these have significance attributed to them. A statement about significance is also an interpretation, which is influenced by the value systems of the period in which it was produced. Criteria that may help to assess the significance of people or events include:
- Relevance to people living at the time.
- Resonance to people’s experiences beliefs or situations at the time.
- Relevance to an increased understanding of present-day.
- Remarked on by people at the time and since.
- Remembered within the collective memory of a group.
- Revealing of some other aspect of the past.
- Results that have consequences for the future.
- Durability – for how long people’s lives were affected.
- Quantity – how many lives were affected.
- Profundity – how deeply people’s lives were affected by it.