West Indies Calling

February 12, 2010

A 1943 film that would form a useful point of discussion for seminars next week


UK War Cabinet on Twitter

February 12, 2010

Probably the best use I’ve seen of twitter for historical purposes – and a fantastic source of free primary documents from the early war

(hat tip to Airminded)

Essay plans

February 12, 2010

Some good questions were asked in seminars about these.

Quite deliberately, there is no set structure for you to follow, and my expectation is that students will submit different plans according to what suits them best. But please bear in mind the criteria I laid down in the coursepack for what I want to see from these – that you have thought about the topic and how to structure your argument, that you are engaging with the historical literature, and that you give room for us to provide advice. In order to do this, my expectation is that most of you will want to employ a mix of full sentences and notes. I expect you to come close to the word limit. So just submitting a list of very sparse bullet points on the basis that this is how you always plan your essays is not enough (and indeed, if that is how you always plan your essays, you should have a think about whether that is sufficient more generally…) I will not hold you to the plan you lay out in your final piece of work – plans will change over time of course – but it is important for you to see the planning of an argument as a stage in your research as well as your writing process. It is okay for you to admit areas on which you are unclear or where you need further clarification – indeed, this would be a good thing for helping our responses – but writing ‘the entire area is unclear because I have yet to do any reading or thinking about the topic’ will not get you high marks. Hope this is helpful.

Website reviews

February 12, 2010

Large numbers of these coming in now – please bear with me as I grapple with the spam filters – which of course perceive many of your submissions as spam, so I have to go through manually and pick them out. Can I emphasise a couple of things? First, I’m really hoping that you will use these websites as sources of primary material for your long essays – but for those who haven’t yet picked, this does mean that you should try to find sites with primary sources (which could include images and film and sound) – and think about selection by the website’s creators (ie, for those who’ve picked newspapers online archive sites – what and why have they made selections?). Second, I would like these pieces submitted under separate headings for each site – ie not one single piece of writing, although it would be great if you wanted to draw links and comparisons between the sites you review (and others, if you want).

Week 15-16 round up

February 12, 2010

In these weeks I covered the experiential side of service in the armed forces and moved onto a new section of the course, on Britain’s place in a world war, with a lecture on Britain and America.

It was the first time I’ve given the armed forces experience lecture, and whilst it was very far from perfect and not helped by some av problems, I would definitely keep it and refine it for the future. I tried to cover several aspects – the large number of Britons in the armed forces by the war’s end, the multiple different sorts of service in which they might be engaged, including large numbers not in front line combat roles, and the experience of serving, both in terms of how people reacted to incorporation in the armed forces and the experience of combat. I was very pleased that several students said that it made sense of the primary documents in a new way, and I really enjoyed the seminars that followed, even though the level of student preparation was relatively low, thanks in part perhaps to the primary documents being too long to encourage students to read all of them. In future, I would set up this seminar more didactically by emphasising questions about how historians can write the history of war and combat.

For the Americans lecture I abandoned all attempts at flashy av and went back to a tactic I’ve employed previously, of giving students a break in the middle for discussion. I felt this went well. Although inevitably in terms of content I had to pick and choose, I was satisfied that I managed to cover both the shift in US-UK power and the experience of the ‘American occupation’ on the home front – and this raised some useful points for seminar discussion. I perhaps missed out or underplayed the degree to which the manner of US entry into the war shaped the direction of subsequent relations. I was pleased to make use of some primary source quotations in the lecture – in future years I would put these into a separate handout for the seminar.