Doing the causes of WW1 a bit differently

As it’s the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 I decided to do my lessons on the causes a bit differently. In essence rather than teach the events that led to the war I taught three different interpretations:

  • Max Hastings – it was Germany
  • Gerhard Hirschfeld – it was the alliance system
  • Richard J Evans – it was Serbia

Each interpretation was a separate lesson looking at the content to explain why these eminent historians reached their personal interpretations. I then wanted the students to do an extended piece of writing but decided that I was unbelievably bored of reading “What was the main cause of WW1?” essays so instead I decided that students would write a letter to the historian they disagreed with most to try to convince them to change their mind.

This proved quite an engaging activity and the students liked the purpose of the letter. A few, were very good. Here’s one in particular that I thought was ace [clicking on the picture will bring up a pdf that can be read]:



I promised the students that if there were any cracking bits of work that I would actually send a few off to the historians in question. The letter above was one of the pieces of work I chose and last week I posted it to Richard J Evans at Cambridge. I hoped we would get a response but didn’t hold any hope. BUT this morning in my pigeonhole was a really lovely long response from Professor Evans that I have been able to share with the students in question which is ace. [again – if you click on the image it will take you to a readable pdf version]




Sometimes I really do like my job!