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


♦ Kahoot: Introduction to the Middle Ages – Class Mode | Preview Mode

♦ 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

A Voyage to the Middle Ages

Dear 8Z,
It is a pleasure to see your familiar faces and to welcome you back to school. If you are anything like my daughter, or indeed like me, you will be considering the school year with a certain rueful regret that those long summer holidays have passed so swiftly. Perhaps you will be looking ahead with some apprehension. In my daughter’s case, since she is in Year 12, her apprehensions are utterly understandable. In your case, however, you can relax and enjoy the journey into the past that this semester in History offers.

We begin with the fall of the Roman Empire and plunge immediately into the question of when it fell. The standard conception is that Western Rome fell in AD476, after a long period of decline. The view presented by John Green in the video below is an alternative vision of the past, in which he argues that you have to take into account the Eastern Empire, which flourished and prevailed for almost another 1000 years, only falling in 1453.

It seems only right that we should begin our studies of History this semester with a question about when the Fall of Rome actually happened, rather than with a straightforward date or fact. After all, History is always open to reinterpretation. That’s what makes it intriguing – like a crime novel or any mystery.

Kindest regards from Ms Green

Quick Quiz based on John Green’s Analysis (see video below)

Kahoot: Preview Version | Class Version

The Fall of Western Rome


Dear S2Y,

As you may recall from our last few classes, teasing out the interwoven causes, variables and factors that contributed to an important historical event is a tricky business. There is rarely a single cause that leads inexorably to a single effect. The fall of the western part of the ancient Roman Empire is a case in point. Many factors contributed to the Roman Empire’s gradual decline and final collapse; indeed, the event was so complex that Edward Gibbon, the famous historian, wrote six long volumes on the topic.  Rome’s collapse, furthermore, was to have a profound impact on the development of medieval Europe.

I do not expect anything as exhaustive as Gibbon’s masterpiece from you, but a detailed page of notes on the possible factors involved in Rome’s decline and the effects of its fall would be more than acceptable to me.

Use the links below to create a concept map of the factors that contributed to this crucial event and its effects on the world of medieval Europe. You may choose to employ my graphic as a starting point or instead use your own note-taking style.

Kind regards,

Ms Green

fall of rome

Questions to ask yourselves as you read:

a Gibbon thought we should ask why the Roman Empire lasted as long as it did, rather than why it fell. This is a whole new way of considering the issue. What do you think?

b What were the possible benefits of Rome’s fall? Is it accurate to assert that its fall ushered in the so-called “Dark Ages”?

c To what extent did the splitting of the Empire into western and eastern parts weaken the west and contribute to its gradual decline?

“The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness…” – Edward Gibbon, writer of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Links on the Fall of Rome

Words for describing cause and effect in history:

Cause and effect in History