My Five Decades Plus Seven

Dear Year 8 Students,

One advantage of being a relatively old History teacher is that I have encountered a number of historical events personally. I can’t recall most of the ones in my first decade, but I do remember the moon landing, which I watched on black and white television in my primary school teacher’s lounge room. 

In the first ten years of my existence, here are just a few events that took place:

  • 1963: John F Kennedy was assassinated.
  • 1964: The Beatles came to Melbourne and “Beatle-mania” took hold.
  • 1966: “Changeover-Day”: We switched from pounds and pence to dollars and cents.
  • 1967: A referendum was passed to include indigenous people as citizens of our nation.
  • 1967: Harold Holt, our then Prime Minister, drowned.
  • 1968: Martin Luther King was assassinated.
  • 1969: The first moon landing took place.

I could go on about the history that I’ve lived through — for example, the sacking of Gough Whitlam (when I was 13), the fall of the Berlin Wall (I was 27 by then) and the 9/11 attacks (I was 39).

But actually, it’s far more interesting for me to contemplate your promising future than my dusty past. After our first class or two, you will know all about the legacies of the ancient Romans and I shall ask you to write a comment about which legacies you would like to leave when you grow to be even older than I am now. Unimaginable, huh?

After all, in History, we are not constrained to think of our lives and our world in a linear way. We are like Time Lords who can imagine our lives at their close, who can picture ourselves as medieval peasants and who can contemplate the question of why ancient Roman tyrants behaved as they did.

Most of all, we can use our knowledge of the past to ponder on how to fashion a better future for humankind. Now there’s an idealistic hope. Aren’t they the best type?

All the very best from your History teacher,

Ms Green

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Welcome to Year 8 History!

My name is Ms Green. History was my first love – then came Psychology, blogging, German, French… What are you passionate about? 

Dear Year 8 Students,

Welcome to my class and my blog. I hope that you will enjoy the stories, adventures and mysteries of history this year.

This blog is a simple navigation aid that will help you to find the next station.

I started writing this blog way back in 2008. It is called “Emit Repoons on a Mission” (see why here) and it is rather like an online railway station with lots of platforms to direct you towards all the reading and research options that you will need to study this subject. There are also lots of activities such as quizzes and crosswords. You can find many topics that we shall be covering this semester under the menu above: “The Middle Ages”.

Sometimes, given my age, I feel like someone from the Middle Ages myself, but of course that is an exaggeration. Compared to you, I am indeed rather advanced in age. I was already 7 years old when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. When the Berlin Wall fell, I was 27 years old; at that time, I believed naively that the world was about to become a safer, better and more tolerant place. In the year when the first iPhone came onto the market, I was 45. I did not realise then that this type of gadget would make it possible to carry around 20 dictionaries, 100 books, several movies and a thousand songs in my pocket. Although I have resisted many of the temptations of the social media age (such as Facebook), I am certainly a disciple of book downloading on a whim – and of blogging.

Can you figure out from all these hints how old I am?

The first humans land on the moon, 1969

The Berlin Wall falls, 1989

The first i-Phone, 2007

Life was unrecognisably different in the Middle Ages: technological changes developed far more slowly; most people couldn’t read; the concept of voting for your leaders was generally unheard of; and people were far less mobile, both physically and socially. And yet some aspects of life then still seem familiar to us now: there were frightening and unexplained diseases; wars and conflict were common and widespread; there was a huge gulf between the wealthy and the poor; and the common people often faced injustice, oppression and tyranny.

Vikings attack other lands in the 8th and 9th centuries

King John signs the Magna Carta, 1215

Black Death strikes Europe, 1348

I hope that you will enjoy learning about this period of human history in the next five months. Our course includes units based in both Europe and Japan, with a quick visit to the Mongolian Empire thrown in for good measure. We shall get around!

Kind regards from Ms Green

Write a Comment

After our first few classes about the legacies of the Romans and the fall of Western Rome, I would like you to write a short comment in answer to one or more of these questions:

  • What is a legacy that you would like to leave?
  • What is an event in your life that has left an impression on you or influenced you?

Essential Words

  • medieval: A Latin word meaning “Middle Ages”
  • Middle Ages: The time between the ancient period (ending in AD 476) and the modern period (starting roughly in 1500)
  • BC is equivalent to BCE: Before Christ is equivalent to Before the Common Era
  • AD is equivalent to CE: Anno Domini (time since the birth of Christ) is equivalent to the Common Era

Essential Links

My interactive timeline of the Middle Ages

♦ Blog Page: The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

Presentation on the Fall of Western Rome

 

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Renaissance, Rebirth, Rinascimento

Florence • Commonly considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance

Here I am as the Mona Lisa. Sigh. I don’t think the mysterious smile and the intriguing eyes have quite worked in my version…

Dear Year 8 students,

The Mona Lisa • Leonardo da Vinci • Wikipedia

Right now, you are working your way through adolescence, a period when children turn into adults, become increasingly independent in thought and action, and begin to question all that they have ever been told. In a way, the Renaissance was rather like that. The word Renaissance means “rebirth”.

During the Renaissance, people began to rethink and reconsider all the ideas that had been accepted and assumed for centuries. There were new ideas in art, science, literature and other fields of human endeavour. Of course, in those days, ideas and movements did not spread with lightning speed as they do now in our intensely connected world. The ideas and the achievements of the Renaissance developed over centuries, beginning in Italy and spreading from there all over Europe.

Albrecht Dürer - Hare, 1502 - Google Art Project
Albrecht Dürer – Hare, 1502 – Google Art Project • An example of the growing interest in the natural world that developed during the Renaissance
Over a period of more than two centuries, artists gradually became more and more intrigued by the nature of human beings, human and natural beauty, anatomy and the natural world. They created art with several themes that artists would not have considered earlier: portraits of wealthy people (often clutching books to show their intelligence and education); detailed prints and paintings of plants, animals and landscapes; scenes and  buildings in which careful attention to the rules of perspective is evident. Later, artists began to paint ordinary people involved in everyday pursuits, such as children playing games or peasants at a wedding. There were still many religious paintings, but other central ideas became evident.

Many fields were affected by these new trends. Sculpture and architecture changed and developed dramatically as well. Writers began to employ their mother tongue and tell stories that revealed the lives of ordinary people. Scientists and astronomers started to question the long-accepted ideas of the Church and to base new theories on experimentation rather than on “deduction from fundamental principles”. The scientific method as we now know it was born.

The Birth of Venus by Botticelli • Wikipedia

This was certainly a time when creativity flourished, yet there was also a reaction against new ideas. Alongside those who embrace change in any historical period, there are also others who fear the effects of change on their belief systems and way of life. The leaders of the Catholic Church, for example, were deeply suspicious of many Renaissance ideas, did not allow dissection and accused scientists of heresy. For fear of scorn or punishment, Copernicus did not publish his theory about a sun-centred universe until late in his life. Galileo was accused of heresy after supporting this view of the universe and placed under house arrest for the last few years of his life. Botticelli, the artist who gave us “The Birth of Venus”, even burned some of his paintings because of his fear that they were sinful and wrong. Even within a single human being, there was sometimes a conflict between the desire for change and the fears that change brought.

All in all, this period was an absorbing and ground-breaking time.  Some people pushed forward into the future; others yearned for the old ways. 

As you grow older, your thinking will become more independent and questioning, like that of many people during the Renaissance. There may also be a small part of you that yearns for the security of childhood. During the time of upheaval and change of human history that we now call the “Renaissance”, there were also those who cast a lingering look back at the past.

All the best for next year!

Ms Green

Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance 

Handouts and Activities

Handout – Jigsaw Activity: Medieval versus Renaissance Sculpture  

This handout provides two jigsaws of a medieval sculpture, Crusader and His Wife, and the Renaissance sculpture Pietà by Michelangelo. After completing the sculpture (in pairs if you like), select which adjectives relate to each:

stiff • rigid • flowing • expressive • rounded • angular • charming • childish • realistic • moving • eye-catching • life-like • religious focus • upright composition • triangular composition

Then write a short paragraph contrasting the two sculptures. These sentence starters might help:

  • While the “Crusader and his Wife” sculpture is…, Michelangelo’s “Pietà” is…
  • In contrast to the “Pietà”, the medieval sculpture titled “Crusader and his Wife” is…
  • Whereas the “Pietà” depicts…, the medieval sculpture shows…
  • The composition of the two sculptures is different in the following ways: …
  • The clothing of Mary and Jesus in the “Pietà” is …, while the clothing of the “Crusader and his Wife” is…

♦ Quick Quiz on Renaissance Flashcards (based on Online Activity 1 below)

Online Activities

1 Flippity Flashcards | Quick Bingo

2 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 1

3 Quick Introductory Quiz on the Renaissance – 2

4 Searching for Alternative Monas

A Pinterest board that might inspire you 

My former students’ Mona Lisas 

Live Science website on the Mona Lisa

5 Some Great Minds of the Renaissance:

6 Other Recommended Links

7 Recommended Films

♦ Film on the Medici family and the birth of the Renaissance in Florence

Please note: There is a rather gruesome opening to this. In my experience, most students are less sensitive to blood and gore than I am, but avoid the first minute if you become faint at the sight of violence, blood or unbridled ambition.

♦ Khan Academy: The Birth of Venus by Botticelli

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