An Empire Falls

Greetings from an old History teacher…

Dear Year 8,

Welcome to a new semester of History.

My plan is to plunge into the Middle Ages in Europe and later to indulge in a visit to Japan under the Shoguns. If we can only manage it, we might even get to the Renaissance.

In each of these periods and places, the behaviour of the human race reveals a familiar and fascinating mixture of power struggles, conquests, oppression, attempts at resistance by the common people, creativity, innovation and cultural achievements. That’s history for you.

I love the stories that one encounters in the study of our history. In particular, I am intrigued by how certain patterns of behaviour repeat themselves over time.

You will surely find that the medieval period provides all sorts of examples that will allow you to explore and appreciate the human adventure all over again.

Kind regards and best wishes for a happy semester from Ms Green


To go further:

♦ John Green of Crash Course History: The Fall of Rome (and how the Eastern Empire didn’t actually fall until 1453)

John Green’s video as an Edpuzzle (built-in questions) – see also below

♦ Another, more challenging quiz

♦ More Links on the Fall of Rome

Mr Giotto’s site: Barbarian Invasions

Ancient Rome for Kids

E-how: Causes and Effects of the Fall of Rome

BBC Website: The Fall of Rome (challenging but recommended for keen readers)

The Telegraph: The Fall of Rome

History Learning Site: The Decline and Fall of Rome

Ancienthistory.about: The Fall of Rome

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Three Ancient Philosophies




Dear 7A,

The people of ancient China were inventive both physically and mentally.

For instance, they invented paper, gunpowder, the compass and movable printing. They also began to spin silk around 6000 years ago.

Their ideas were also original and far-reaching. It is their ideas and philosophies that you will be exploring today.

Kind regards from Ms Green





1 First Task

Work through this handout, in which the ideas of Confucianism and Taoism are simply presented. Which set of ideas is closer to your own philosophy of life or world view?

2 Taoism Tiny Cards

Cycle through the 20 cards in this starter set of flashcards on Taoism. You may like to create an account with Duolingo – Tiny Cards. This site allows you to create your own flashcards for revision and learning.

Tiny Cards Set – Taoism


3 Choose two of the three philosophies below.

Each one has two recommended websites and some related questions. Read the sites carefully and answer the questions in a Word file or in your workbook.

If you are working on your laptop, you can find copyright free symbols and pictures at these three sites: | |


Philosophy for Kids
United Religions Initiative – Children 

  • What does the word “Tao” mean?
  • Who is thought to be the founder of this philosophy?
  • What do Taoists believe?
  • Draw or find a picture of Taoism’s famous symbol. What Taoist ideas does it express and represent?


 Kids’ World – Buddha

 OUP Blog – 10 Facts about Buddhism


a Summarise the story of Siddhartha Gautama and his path to enlightenment.

b Present the three universal truths that he identified during his deep meditation period. Use a symbol or picture to illustrate or represent each one.

c Present  the four noble truths that Siddhartha Gautama identified. Illustrate each one with a symbol or picture.



 Philosophy Slam

Ancient History Encyclopedia

a Select 2 quotations from Confucian teachings, write them down and then explain them in your own words.

b List and explain the main ideas in the moral code of Confucius. Choose a symbol or simple picture to represent each one.


4 Your own philosophy of life

Type out the most fundamental point of your own personal philosophy of life and put it into a comment for others in the class to read. For example, this is mine: 

Kindness towards others is a fundamental principle that my mother taught me. I believe that mercy is more important than justice and forgiveness more healing than retribution. I would prefer to be a victim of injustice than a person who acts unjustly.

Happy philosophising, 7A!

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Comparing and Contrasting European and Japanese Feudalism

Samurai with a sword. This picture is in the public domain.

♦ A comparison of medieval Europe and Japan – handout based on the account by Kallie Szczepanski and adapted from

Referring to a comparison:

  • In both cases,…
  • In this way, each society/group/practice is similar
  • Compared to
  • This is comparable to…
  • This practice resembles
  • In both societies, …
  • Another common element is… 
  • In comparison,…
  • also
  • similarly | like

Pointing out a contrast:

  • One distinction is…
  • Knights and samurai warriors differed in their attitudes to…
  • Another difference is…
  • While …, …
  • Whereas …, …
  • In contrast to this, …
  • Attitudes towards …. were different from
  • Despite
  • On the one hand,…; on the other hand…
  • Although… | …though… | however | nevertheless
  • A (key) distinguishing factor is…
  • instead | rather than | unlike
  • yet | but | …, nor

Note that a semicolon [;] is the ideal punctuation mark for pointing a contrast between two people, experiences, social practices or societies. In effect, the semicolon alerts your reader to your intention of revealing the other side of the issue. Here are two examples:

  • On the positive side, Ms Green is generally a helpful and considerate teacher; one criticism, however, is that she has a tendency to ramble on when students wish to concentrate on their work.
  • In medieval Europe, noble women were sometimes considered to be fragile damsels who required protection from heroic knights; according to Japanese custom, in contrast, women were expected to be courageous and to face death without fear.

Task 1: After reading and completing the handout, write a comment in which you refer to one comparison and one contrast between Japanese and European feudal societies. Try to use some of the phrasing provided above.

Task 2: Then read your text (pp.358-60) and the links below before writing brief notes on each of these concepts:




The photo in the background of the crossword below is from Flickr via Madmrmox.

Task 3: Complete the crossword below on the full screen here.

Khan Academy: Introduction to Japanese Feudalism
(includes references to similarities between Japanese and European Feudalism)

Task 4:

Quick Quiz

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