Modern World History

Modern World History in the Primary School

Modern world history is difficult territory for the primary school teacher. Not only do the issues underlying many of its conflicts seem incomprehensible to young minds but there is also the cruelty: the Vikings may have been fierce but the damage they caused was merely local - nothing to compare with the clinical massacre of six million Jews by the Nazis or the equally methodical massacres carried out by Stalin in his attempt to modernise Russia.

Should we not then leave the troubled history of the 20th Century to the secondary school teacher? In some respects the answer has to be 'yes'. The history National Curriculum is broadly chronological in its approach with only the Tudors being specified for more than one key stage. However, 'Britain in the 1930's' is available as an option at Key Stage 2 and there are an increasing number of museums and historic sites that include artefacts belonging to more recent times. There is also the need to explain what the children see in the news. It is therefore important that the primary school teacher knows at least the outline of what happened during the last hundred years, if only so that he or she can take advantage of any special events, for example the recent celebration of the anniversary of VE and VJ Days.

This booklet attempts to bring some order and simplicity to what is a hugely complex story. It draws heavily on the work of historians such as Niall Ferguson, Richard Overy and Richard Evans whose works are listed in a separate reading list. The aim is to allow the reader to fit particular events into an overall pattern and to identify contemporary issues that may help children to see the study of history as worthwhile.