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British history textbooks? - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
British history textbooks?
I just had a patron in who's a retired history teacher here, and he was looking for a book equivalent to the textbooks we tend to use here--what British history students use to study British history (he's specifically interested in English history, if that's done in a separate year) for teenage students. I couldn't find anything generally, so I wondered if anyone who's actually used such a textbook could give me a title or two!

For comparison, two of the textbooks we might use would be things like The American Nation or The Americans.
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From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 10th, 2006 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the English and Scottish education systems are quite different... I was at school in Scotland, and much of the time we didn't actually use a text-book.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 07:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
I can think of a few people who would appreciate not having textbooks to lug around... ;)
From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 11th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Snag was, we ended up lugging large binders full of notes and exercise books about, which was not necessarily that much of an improvement!
From: wychwood Date: November 10th, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm pretty sure that there's no real distinction made between "British" and "English" history - if you're in England, they call it British history, but it's mostly heavily Anglocentric.

Something like this or this might be what he wants? These are GCSE (that's age 14-16) books. When I did A-Level (16-18), we didn't have a textbook, per se, just a stack of books on particular elements of whatever we were doing, but I know they've changed the A-Level system a lot in the last five years, so it may be different now.

From what I remember, though, the GCSE textbook was for the whole course, so it wasn't English-only, it covered all the stuff we did for the exam, which included a lot of European and some world history (esp. 20th century Germany and Russia, the World Wars, the Cold War, I remember doing all of those at GCSE).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Those look like the sort of thing he has in mind, but he's definitely interested in how English kids are taught English history in particular, as opposed to the world history stuff. (He had a handful of books on Roman Britain, which I'd thought was his focus at first, but apparently, he's just looking to see how the individual country's history is approached. I have a feeling it's a response to someone he mentioned as having a "shaky grip" on her own country's history. ;))
From: greenwoodside Date: November 10th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Most of the textbooks we used went by period - a medieval/renaissance one for the first to third years (eleven to fourteen year olds) then for GCSE a modern one that covered the two world wars as well as the Cold War. We never had one that covered the whole thing. The modern one was something like this:


But the medieval/Renaissance book dealt mostly with Britain, unfortunately I can't remember what is was called and there's no sign of it online.

I spent a large part of my GCSE history and A-Level course studying Weimar and Nazi Germany, as well as Russia from 1850 to 1950. I think that's quite a typical experience.

The Access to History series was quite popular with one of my A-level history teachers: http://www.accesstohistory.co.uk/

Sorry I can't be of more help.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting... both you and wychwood have mentioned world history books as opposed to English history books. Is that typical? Is British (let alone particularly English) history in particular not a common subject to study?
From: wychwood Date: November 10th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Up to age 14, it was mostly British history (the Romans, the Vikings, the Tudors, the Industrial Revolution, Victorian times, definitely; I also remember doing something on the formation of the UK, wars with Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but not in much detail, and I seem to remember doing something about the Civil War (ours, not yours *g*)), but post-14, it definitely tends to become more general. There's also a very heavy emphasis on 20th century history, post-14, particularly the World Wars.

My A-Level course did cover British history explicitly - we had two modules, one on British History 1714-1763 (IIRC), and the other on European History 1870-1924 (or something similar). But even then, the British module included European affairs, foreign policy, the American Revolution and various other things, as well as the Jacobite rebellions, parliamentary reform, the Land Tax and other internal affairs. On the other hand, that varies a lot from exam board to exam board - I did history in the boys' school next to mine, and my friends who were doing history in our girls' school did the Tudors; I don't know how that was broken down.

This is all when I was at school - I finished school in 2000, so things may have changed since then.
From: wychwood Date: November 10th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, and - there was always a strong emphasis on broader approaches. We tended not to look at the UK in isolation, because the point was that it wasn't isolated, if you see what I mean. If you look at the Romans, you have to consider Italy and the rest of the empire, as well as the UK; early modern British history can't really be separated from what was going on in France and Germany. We didn't look very much outside Europe, but I think it's definitely fair to say that most of the time we looked at Britain in a European context.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 08:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
We tend to get that as well, though it takes a different shape--the books will say "The Americans" or "The American Pageant" or whatnot, but chapters will be there on the different immigrant groups, history of things like the Irish Potato Famine, the Iroquois Confederacy, and a lot of other things of that sort. Most also include a chapter or two on the slave trade in Africa.
From: greenwoodside Date: November 10th, 2006 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
The various exams boards (mine was AQA) generally offer a variety of periods to study. There are questions set on English and British History, but these tend to be quite dry - Chartism, land reform etc. So a lot of teachers tend to pick subjects relating to the world wars, Vietnam and so on, hoping their students will find them more interesting.

Most British history probably tends to be studied during Key Stage 3(that is when children are 11-14 years old) before they start working on their GCSEs. Though I think that study of the Holocaust is now also compulsory at Key Stage 3.

The lack of compulsory British history on the syllabus is a bit of a Tory bandwagon - every time a study is published claiming to show that 50% of children think Gandalf fought at the Battle of Hastings, a Conservative peer or backbench MP can generally be found grumbling about Trafalgar and Waterloo: "What do they teach them in these schools?" etc. The German ambassador complained last year too, I think.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! It's weirdly comforting to know that we're not the only country where studies delight in showing how stupid the populace is.

Do you know what sorts of books are used for the 11-14 range? I don't think he so much cares what age the kids are as what's in the books they use. (My guess is that he's confused about why someone didn't know something.)
From: greenwoodside Date: November 10th, 2006 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hard to name any, I'm afraid. A lot of our supplementary textbooks were ancient, battered old things that have probably been out of print for years.

From Heinemann, this stuff looks possible:


There's also this (http://schoolscatalogue.pearson.com/Course.asp?Callingpage=Catalogue&CourseID=GI) from Longman.
From: rosathome Date: November 11th, 2006 02:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
If he's confused about why someone didn't know something, that's easy. The national curriculum for history in the UK doesn't really suggest that children need to know anything. Mostly it's about being able to do things like use resources and empathise with people in different situations from our own. So you might 'study' the Civil War, for example, and write about how it felt to see the king executed, without ever knowing when it happened or what events led up to it or followed from it.

And history is certainly not studied in any kind of comprehensive or consecutive way, which doesn't help. So one year you might do 'the Tudors', the next 'the Victorians', the next 'the Romans' without any sense of when they come or how we got from one to the other.

Something else which we spent quite a lot of time doing when I was at school was the history of the empire - I seem to remember the Indian Mutiny in detail!
From: tree_and_leaf Date: November 11th, 2006 11:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I dunno - what they teach them in these schools seems to be mainly 'World War II was our finest hour' and 'Nazis are bad' (which unfortunately seems to arrive in a lot of child brains as 'the Germans are bad')

I'm not sure that the current approach does make things more interesting, though - the Treaty of Versailles, for instance, is pretty dry, and by the time you've done the rise of Hitler for the third or fourth time, it stops being interesting. Which in a way possibly makes a point about the banality of evil, but doesn't really help.

I suspect one reason why people shy away from doing, say, Chartism or the Civil War in an interesting way is that it's difficult to avoid bringing politics, of the modern sort, into it. I seem to remember Scottish Tories complaining that there was too much emphasis on the crofters' prespective in the way the Clearances were taught.
From: greenwoodside Date: November 11th, 2006 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd have loved to have studied the Civil War of Chartism in formal terms. Alas, 'twas not to be.

However, I was taught two modules based on English politics at A-level - one was on the nineteen twenties, particularly the General Strike, the other was on appeasement. And though I found them fascinating, my classmates preferred the famines, revolutions and massacres in the Russian history part of the course, as well as the Nazi Germany bit. I was never quite sure why.

I think Nazism is also popular because it's possible to do a run of the same subject through GCSE and A-level, and it complements other things like appeasement and so on. Less new material has to be covered, and pass rates go up.
norwegianblue47 From: norwegianblue47 Date: November 10th, 2006 06:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not sure if this is exactly what you are looking for, but I'm taking an English History course, and one of the textbooks we use heavily reminds me of the World/American text books I used in high school. Here it is, as far as amount of time it spends on a subject and the way things are organized. I swear it ways more than 1.68 pounds. My backpacks feels a lot lighter when I take it out.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 10th, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I ended up giving him something along that line (an Oxford Illustrated history), but my impression is that he's more interested in what's actually used there--information about the books--than in getting the information in the books.
norwegianblue47 From: norwegianblue47 Date: November 10th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's what I figured.
tdu000 From: tdu000 Date: November 10th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
My schooldays are so long ago as to be irrelevant here but my History lessons pretty much followed the format of "1066 and All That", at least for the first three years at secondary school, when History was compulsory.

For those who don't know the book, it's written as a series of essays by schoolboys who don't quite get their facts right!
nomadicwriter From: nomadicwriter Date: November 10th, 2006 10:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't know that, at least at the GCSE level, English schools really teach 'English history' as a discrete thing. When I was at senior school (94-99) it was basically a piecemeal approach: we would cover different topics/eras, a mix of British, European and world history, and have a separate textbook for each topic. (These would be things like 'The Egyptians', 'The Roman Empire', 'The Black Death', 'The Tudors', 'The French Revolution', 'The American Indians', 'The World Wars', et cetera.) The main textbooks we used were usually Heinemann study units or similar.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 11th, 2006 08:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't want to be rude, but it has always surprised me how people of the U.S. call their country "America" and themselves "the americans". From my European point of view there are more countries and people in the continent. Where do those expressions come from?

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2006 03:25 am (UTC) (Link)
Because it's not short for "North America." It's short of "United States of America." It is the proper name of our nationality. There is no other designation.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC) (Link)
What else are we supposed to call ourselves? The 'United-Statesians'? 'Citizens of the US'? Both are rather wordy, eh? Maybe 'Yanks.' Much more concise.

On a less sarcastic note, I tend to avoid calling the US 'America' because of people who don't like it and because occassionally it avoids a misunderstanding. However, when you hear the word 'American,' do you honestly think of Peruvians? The continents are 'North' America and 'South' America, not simply America. If you wish, you can shorten it to The Americas, but it's still not the same.

My sister just remarked that way back when the United States were still British colonies, we were called the Americans because we were on the American continent. I'm not sure they'd yet made the distinction that North and South America are separate continents - isn't that why they're called 'North' and 'South'?

If anyone can find a better name for us Yanks (though technically, I live in the West, so I'm not a Yank, am I?), I'd love to hear it. I'm serious, too.

-a United Statesian, who is referred to more often as an American by Europeans than by other 'Americans'
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 12th, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Maybe 'Yanks.'

Nah, the Southerners would go nuts being called something short for "Yankees." ;p

If you're talking about the continents, its "North Americans" or "South Americans," while people from individual countries are called by their official national designations--Canadians, Mexicans, Peruvians, etc. Heck, the long form of Mexico is the United Mexican States, so if you're going to get to exclusivity, even United Statesians doesn't work. "America" is the only part of our name that lends itself to adjectivization. "United States" is a description of our government, just as "Republic" is the government description of "Republic of Cuba" (citizens "Cubans"). That we are called "America" when other states in the continent aren't is an artifact of being the first to break away from Europe--remember, at the time, we weren't a unified country. We were Virginia and New York and Massachusetts and Georgia and so on. They were the colonies in America. When they united and declared independence, they became the United States of America. We're properly "Americans" as a nation. We're also still properly Massachusettsans, New Yorkers, etc. "American" is the overarching adjective. I mean, you could take issue with any country's name, I'm sure. Why still call England "England"? The Angles took over a long time ago, and doesn't it make the Celts feel bad?

And no, I'm not suggesting such a thing, just pointing out that it can get silly to get worked up about names that arise out of history.
cheddartrek From: cheddartrek Date: November 12th, 2006 07:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nah, the Southerners would go nuts being called something short for "Yankees." ;p

Haha, that's probably the truth! I'm from the South, Mississippi to be specific, but went to University in England for one year. I really enjoyed discussing some of these things with the British friends I made there. The term "Yanks" did come up once or twice, and I explained about the term "Yanks," how it might be taken the wrong way in the South by some, and all that. Also, they did refer to me as an "American" as opposed to anything else.

None of us got worked up over any of this stuff, we just enjoyed discussing it and learning about the different cultures. We also discussed various differences in the school systems. The experience as a whole was just amazing.

I cannot, however, offer any help with regards to History texts. I know History is very important, and interesting, but I jumped into Science at the first opportunity and haven't looked back.

From: (Anonymous) Date: November 12th, 2006 08:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
The reference to the official name has a lot of logics.

The description of a citizen of your nationality is, in Spanish from Spain (which sometimes is pretty different from other countries) "estadounidense", which fairly translates into "united statesian" (but in reverse because the order adjetive-noun is reversed). "Norteamericano" or "Northern-american" can be as well used, and anyone would understand a citizen from U.S., at first, but, scarcely I have seen it referred to a Canadian, although I have never heard that term referred to a Mexican. You can hear as well "americano" as referred to you, but depending on the context, because if we are talking about south americans we can use the term as well.

In our books of Geography, America is described as a sole continent, that can be divided into three sub-continents (North, Central and South), and we would say that Cristobal Colon arrived to America, nor "the Americas" (it is the way we use the language).

Anyway, thanks for the history lesson and please, I didn't want to offend any of you. It sounds a bit curious when you hear it translated and you are in a "non anglo-saxon mentality mode"

From: (Anonymous) Date: November 13th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Of course, the situation changes completely when you're using a different language! =) Think of Germany's variety of names in different languages: Germany (English), Deutschland (German), Allemagne (French), Saksa (Finnish), Niemcy (Polish), Vokietija (Lithanian). Which name was adopted simply depended on who that language came in contact with and when. Check out the Wiki page for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_for_Germany

-a United Statesian (though I guess that doesn't work anymore, does it? darn)
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