Guns for boys, gender for girls in the First World War classroom

One thing I’m intrigued to watch during the First World War and Anzac centenaries is how the war is taught in schools. Especially in the context of new curricula in England and Australia, will the 2014-2018 centenary invigorate or enervate (or distort?) learning about the conflict? In May, Ann-Marie Einhaus and Catriona Pennell released their excellent report The First World War in the Classroom, which considers this and other questions in the context of England. As a researcher keen on public engagement, I was particularly interested in Einhaus and Pennell’s observation that while many resources incorporating the latest academic research are now freely available, a challenge for time-pressed teachers is to find their way amongst them: “Participants in our focus groups voiced concerns about the sheer range and wealth of sources as overwhelming”.[1] I was therefore eager to read the latest addition to The Guardian’s “How to teach…” series, How to teach… the first world war by Alex Ogg.

Ogg’s piece is a handy roundup of both traditional and newer literary and historical resources, mostly British, for teaching the First World War. But it also contains something of a gendered sting.

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Pension for Mum, medals for Dad

During the last few months I’ve been spending a lot of time with the records of C.E.W. Bean, the Australian official correspondent and official historian of the First World War. Like his official history, Bean’s diaries, folders and notebooks (digitised and made freely available by the Australian War Memorial) teem with references to individual servicemen. A reference to two soldiers of the 10th Battalion, Private Clarence Tidswell and Private Hartley Oborn, took me on quite the adventure in the archives, which I’ll share with you in this post. The fate of Tidswell and Oborn is a fascinating story in its own right, and it also raised some interesting questions for me about the ways in which different family members remembered – and were allowed by the state to remember – the war dead.

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