Report – Teaching American History: Secondary School Teachers Panel at the 2019 BrANCH Annual Conference

We are delighted to share a report from the association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH), who received some funding from History UK to run an event at their conference this autumn:

Building relationships with secondary schools has long been an aspiration of the association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH). Thanks to History UK, we have now made an important first step towards realising that goal.  This October, funding from History UK enabled teachers from local secondary schools to attend the 2019 Annual BrANCH Conference at the University of Edinburgh to participate in the association’s first Teaching American History Panel.

Katie Hunter from St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School Edinburgh opened the session with an overview of American history curriculum currently on offer at Scottish schools, complete with reading lists and exam questions. The following panellists included academics who each proposed ways to translate the latest developments in the field of U.S. history into the classroom. Professor Robert Cook summarised the last half century of Civil War historiography before highlighting several “active debates” to engage students’ interest, including ongoing disputes over the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces in the United States. Dr Elizabeth Clapp then suggested ways to incorporate women into Civil War history lesson plans, from the activities of female abolitionists to concepts of gender in wartime propaganda.

Professor Tim Lockley (Warwick) introduced several databases, including Documenting the American South, which hold oral and written testimonies by former slaves in the American South. Dr David Silkenet (Edinburgh) finished with an overview of websites, including Essential Civil War Curriculum, which provide lesson plans created by historians that breakdown key topics in U.S. history into digestible segments to be utilised in classrooms.

The room then engaged in a lively plenary discussion regarding structural barriers which inhibit communication and collaboration between historians and teachers in the UK. Among these was a lack of institutional support – both financial and in terms of workload allocation –to enable teachers to participate in academic events. Another was the difficulty of encouraging exam boards to ensure that their questions reflect recent methodological and historiographical developments in the field of American history.

These are formidable challenges. Thanks to suggestions made by speakers and audience members during this panel, however, BrANCH has devised several initiatives to address them. For example, our members are currently creating teaching packs, including reading lists and source materials, which will be made available on the association’s website for the use of teachers at all levels of the education system. This December, moreover, the BrANCH committee will attend a follow-up workshop to discuss long-term collaborations with staff at the St Thomas Aquinas Secondary School. Finally, a Teachers’ Panel will be a regular fixture at BrANCH’s future conferences with a view to enabling the association to develop a network of relationships with secondary schools across the country.

Undoubtedly there is a vast gulf between how American history is studied within the academy, and how it is taught in secondary schools. This panel, however, revealed just how much enthusiasm there is among teachers and historians alike to close this gap. With the help of History UK, BrANCH has laid the foundation of what we anticipate will grow into a dynamic, mutually-beneficent relationship between our members and American history teachers throughout the UK.

 

Conference funding for panel on inequality, underrepresentation, and discrimination in the field of U.S. History with secondary school teachers (with BrANCH)

The Association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians (BrANCH) is the leading organisation for scholars of nineteenth-century U.S. history in the UK. In recent years, the association has sought to involve itself in initiatives to address issues surrounding inequality, underrepresentation, and discrimination in the field of U.S. History and is particularly keen to encourage greater racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity among students studying U.S. History at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

History UK is providing £500 to help strengthen BrANCH’s relationships with institutions and individuals working in secondary education. Four teachers from local secondary schools will be invited to participate in a panel on 12th October at the 2019 Annual BrANCH Conference at the University of Edinburgh.

This panel, which will consist of both secondary school and university teachers of U.S. history, has three main aims.

  1. To share teaching practices, specifically regarding new digital archives and online resources that can be utilised in the classroom. Participants will focus on resources that allow access to non-traditional sources that can be used to develop new curriculum which moves beyond uncritically white- and male-centred histories of the United States.
  2. To discuss issues of diversity and equality among staff and students in the field of U.S. History in the UK. Panellists will share views from their vantage points in different areas of the education system and reflect on why certain racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups are underrepresented in the field of U.S. History beyond GCSE/A-Level.
  3. To explore future steps BrANCH and its individual members can take to address these issues, focussing on long-term collaborative initiatives between secondary school and higher education teachers.

The principal aim is to raise awareness regarding issues of discrimination, underrepresentation, and inequality in our field. This will further facilitate the building of networks between these teachers and BrANCH members, most of whom teach in higher education.

Alys Beverton (Cardiff University and Marketing and Fundraising Officer for BrANCH) said:

“BrANCH has been wanting to strength ties between its members and colleagues working in secondary schools for a while now. With this support from History UK we’re going to be able to actually get some of us together in the same room to have face-to-face conversations about issues relating to equality and diversity in our field, as well as share ideas about new learning materials we can all use to bring the latest resources into our classrooms. We’re really hopeful that this will be the starting point for what will grow into longer-term relationships between BrANCH and secondary school teachers in Edinburgh and perhaps beyond.”

Lucinda Matthews-Jones (co-convenor of History UK) said:

“We’re really pleased, at History UK, to be able to support BrANCH in furthering subject conversations with local school teachers by providing financial support to bring 4 teachers to their conference both as delegates and speakers. As a sector we have a lot to learn from our secondary school counterparts on how history is taught to our students before they come to university. We welcome the opportunity to assist with this collaboration.”

Follow BrANCH on Twitter @Branch19th

For more on projects (and events) funded by History UK, on opportunities to apply for funding, go to our funding page.

Launch of New Funding Scheme for Black and Minority Ethnic History, supported by HUK, EHS and SHS

History UK, the Social History Society and the Economic History Society and are launching a new funding scheme to support Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) history. The scheme has been created in recognition of the under-representation, structural inequalities and racism afflicting UK Higher Education Institutions. We are committing £2,000 a year for three years in the first instance.

The BME Events and Activities Small Grants Scheme will provide grants of up to £750 to support activities and events run by BME historians or on subjects relating to BME history. It is open to applicants looking to run conferences, workshops and symposia, as well as other activities such as exhibitions, walking tours, performances of podcasts. The initial call for applications for funding opens today and will close on 1 September 2019. Further details are available here: http://socialhistory.org.uk/bme-events-and-activities/

Lucinda Matthews-Jones and Jamie Wood, co-convenors of History UK, said:

This funding scheme represents another strand to History UK’s support for diversification of the historical profession in higher education, including events around inclusivity in the classroom, new-to-teaching workshops, and our annual academic job boot camp. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with other subject organisations to address the issues raised in the RHS report last year and hope that this can lead to further initiatives.

A panel of experts, comprised of Professor Catherine Hall (University College London), Dr Meleisa Ono-George (University of Warwick) and Dr Jonathan Saha (University of Leeds), will assess all applications to the scheme.

This support is open to professional historians (working in universities or elsewhere), independent scholars, retired staff and students alike. The only stipulation is that applicants should be (or be willing to become) members of either the SHS or EHS. In the case of applicants who are permanently employed in Higher Education Institutions, their department should also be (or willing to become) a subscribing member of History UK.

History UK-sponsored panel at Heritage Dot conference, Lincoln, 3-4 June 2019

History UK is sponsoring a panel at the inaugural Heritage Dot conference, to be held at Lincoln on 3-4 June 2019.  The conference is hosted by the University of Lincoln, Imperial War Museums and the Heritage Lottery Fund. There is further information at the conference website, but here’s a brief extract:

Heritage Dot explores the exciting collision between the worlds of digital tools and technology and cultural heritage. This fusion is creating new relationships between past and future, tradition and innovation. It is enabling new audiences to reinterpret the past and technologies of the future to reimagine professional practice. At the same time, its continually evolving nature can be a confusing space, placing demands on people and organisations within a landscape of diminishing access to resources.

History UK will sponsor one panel (this includes paying fees, transport and accommodation for those taking part). So, if you’re a historian from a subscribing department who works on digital heritage and are interested in presenting at the conference (or have already decided to do so!), please do get in touch with us by emailing either or both of the co-conveners.

The call for papers is available here: http://heritagedot.org/call-for-participation/

Image taken from page 237 of 'The Half Hour Library of Travel, Nature and Science for young readers'

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