On Wednesday 9th November, 24 Year 11 GCSE History students travelled down to London to visit the National Archives. This is the official archive of the UK government for England and Wales; and “guardian of some of the nation’s most iconic documents, dating back more than 1,000 years.”
Once they arrived, the students were given a fantastic induction to the archives and even had to wash their hands during the process in order to help preserve the original documents that they would be handling.
The morning session explored the question of “What was Elizabeth I’s personality like?’ and used original documents from the reign of Elizabeth in order to help explore this. The ‘Tidal Letter’ which Queen Elizabeth wrote to delay her travel to the Tower of London (by writing very slowly so the tide would go out and they would be unable to transport her via the Thames) was a real highlight with many students touching the exact same paper as Elizabeth I had done!
Students then explored other aspects of the archive and many were interested in how they could use the archive to explore their family history and even planned another visit for the summer with their families.
Students then washed their hands again and went to explore the question of ‘how much did the British government know about the Holocaust?’. This raised a lot of debate in the group as they explored telegrams, radio intercepts and reports received by the Foreign Office between 1942 and 1944. Opinion was still divided at the end of the day and debate even continued on the coach home.
The trip gave a real insight to the work historians do and how such differing views and interpretations can be taken from the exact same piece of evidence. Such skills will be vital for the students to continue to develop as they head towards the final exams and beyond in constructing arguments and analysing primary source material. Overall, it was a fantastic trip and the students were a credit to the school.