Tuesday 30 December 2008

The Cottingley Fairies...real or fake?

In 1917 two young girls took some photographs that would go on to captivate the world. Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, who lived in Cottingley, produced the most famous fairy pictures in Britain. But were the pictures real or fake?
Frances and Elsie lived in an area called Bingley where there was a strong belief in fairies-existing from local folklore passed down through the generations. Harry Speight author of 'Chronicles and Stories of Bingley and District', 1904, wrote that the fairies "looked like tiny white garments hung out on the trees". Frances and Elsie believed they had seen these fairies that Speight had described and so headed off with Elsie's father's quarter plate camera to capture stills of the fairies and prove they were real.
Frances and Elsie headed off with the camera and an hour later returned triumphant. Mr. Wright developed the plates and upon seeing the images declared the pictures of the fairies to be fakes and put them away in a drawer. Mrs. Wright, however, was adamant that the pictures were genuine. The girls were banned by Mr. Wright from using the camera again.

The pictures of the fairies were all but forgotten until 3 years later in 1920 when Mrs. Wright went to a folklore lecture in Bradford. Fairies were mentioned in the lecture and after Mrs. Wright had a conversation with a friend about fairies, mentioning the pictures. This exchange was overheard by a friend of Edward Gardner, a leading theosophist-Edward was informed of the pictures and he asked to see them.
Gardner got a leading photographer to examine the pictures for authenticity-the photographer, Harold Snelling, studied the pictures and declared them to be "entirely genuine unfaked photographs". Gardner asked Snelling to make lantern slides of the fairy pictures-these slides were shown at a lecture where they caught the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Gardner and Conan Doyle joined forces on pursuing the intrigue and mystery behind the pictures and set up a meeting with Kodak in order for them to give a second opinion on the pictures authenticity. Once Gardner and Conan Doyle had Kodak authenticate the pictures they would take the story to the press.
Kodak examined the pictures and they declared that the pictures had not been tampered with but that it was impossible for fairies to exist and therefore fake-so an authenticity certificate was not issued. Despite this minor set back and after personally interviewing Mr. and Mrs. Wright and Elsie Wright, Gardner and Conan Doyle took the pictures to The Strand magazine in 1920. The article was entitled 'An Epoch Making Event-Fairies Photographed' and the publication was sold out within a matter of days. It was the start of a phenomenon that would last for over sixty years.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes books, was utterly convinced by the photographs-he even published a book called 'The Coming of the fairies' that detailed the whole fairy picture affair.
Many people were certainly taken in by the pictures, especially the fifth picture of the fairies (below) that does seem to have an air of realistic charm about it. But Fairies? Could they possibly be real?

It seems not. In 1981 when being interviewed yet again about the fairies, Frances and Elsie declared the pictures to be fakes. They both said that they had held up cut-out fairies with hatpins to capture the pictures that would go on to fool the world. Despite this eventual revelation Frances Griffiths continued to maintain that they had seen the fairies and that the fifth picture was the one picture that was in fact real. Since Frances and Elsie have been dead many experts have looked into the Cottingley Fairy mystery and most have declared it to have been a hoax by the girls.
I am quite a big fan of fairies and would love to think that fairies were real-but alas I have never seen one! Perhaps if I go to Yorkshire myself, to the place where Frances and Elsie 'saw' their fairies I might see one?

Sunday 21 December 2008

First World War animations

When Swanwick Hall's students come back to school in the new year Year 9 will be studying the First World War. The BBC have got a great website dedicated to all things history and I have just discovered a great set of interactive animations about Britain and the 'Great War'. The animations look at many of the things the Year 9 students will be studying over the 6 week course-take a look and let me know what you think.

Victorian Child Labour...

In Victorian Britain if you came from a poor family, when you reached a certain age you wouldn't go to school instead you would start work in order to help support the family. Poor children would start hard physical work from as early as aged 5! Many of the jobs children did at this time were unpleasant and often were rather dangerous.
Some children worked in coal mines pushing heavy trucks of coal to the surface. They did all of their work in the dark with only the light of a candle to help them see. Some children were employed by mine owners to hold shaft doors open to let air in and to clear the way for children coming with trucks of coal.

Other children worked in factories where they were employed to piece cotton together and fix machinery-as they were small enough to get in between the moving parts. Many children fell ill as a result of working in cotton mills or had bad accidents, which left them with injuries.
Most factory owners and mine owners did not think anything was wrong with giving nasty jobs to children as there were no laws against it. Children were forced to work long hours with very little pay.
Children in the country also worked; they did jobs like picking up stones before the crops were sown or scaring birds away from the crops. Jobs in the country were just as hard as jobs in towns and cities but also involved working in cold and wet conditions.
Children were employed as cheap labour and could not complain, as there were no laws protecting them, and if they did the consequences could be severe: they could be beaten by the Overseers or even lose their job!
Some orphans and homeless children were sold to employers. A lot of small and thin boys were used as chimney sweeps-as they could fit up the narrow chimney shafts. These boys would clean the chimneys in rich people's homes-probably wondering why he was squeezing through a dirty chimney while rich children could go to school and had nice toys. Being a chimney sweep was quite a dangerous job-it was often done with no shoes on so the boys feet would be sore and bleeding. Chimney sweeps were fed very little as they had to stay lithe to be able to fit up the chimney stack-this meant they were hungry most of the time and therefore rather weak. If the chimney sweeper's master thought the sweep was taking too long he would thrust a long stick up the chimney in order to hurry the sweep up, or even worse he would light the fire at the bottom so that the sweep had no choice but to hurry up the flue.

In 1833 the first Factory Act was passed thanks to the successful campaigning of Lord Shaftesbury, who had gathered evidence from working children to condemn the condition they worked in. The act made it illegal to employ children as workers under the age of 9, children between 9 and 13 could work no more than 9 hours a day, children from 13 to 18 could work no more than 12 hours a day and all employed children had to have at least 2 hours of schooling a day. Conditions didn't change for working children overnight and many factory and mine owners ignored the legislation, but at least it was the start of change for children, albeit the start of a slow change.
So, next time your parents ask for a cuppa-don't moan, just think of how lucky you actually are!

Tuesday 16 December 2008

If only Galen could see this!

The infamous and yet engrossing exhibition designed by German anatomist Gunther Von Hagens, has come back to the UK. The exhibition sees the return of examples of Hagen's work, which includes specimens of human organs and human bodies that have been through the process of Plastination. The human bodies on display, which were once living and breathing people, have been preserved using the special technique in order for curious folk to see how the human anatomy works. The 'articles' on display are incredibly real looking with muscles and facial features still intact-you can even see veins and arteries!
Swanwick Hall's GCSE History students will be well aware of the famous anatomist Claudius Galen, who's ideas about the human body were followed almost religiously for around 1500 years. The only problem with that was Galen had been wrong about most of his findings-mainly because he dissected animals as dissecting humans was prohibited by the Church in the 2nd century. If only Galen could see Hagen's exhibit!

Sunday 14 December 2008

Have A Victorian Christmas!

Ever wondered where we get our Christmas traditions from? Well, we have those glorious Victorians to thank for some of our most beloved festive past times! Before Victoria was crowned Queen in 1837 nobody in Britain had heard of Santa Claus or Christmas crackers. No Christmas cards were sent and most folk did not have time off work.
Here are a few noteworthy Yuletide customs that date from the Victorian era:

The Holidays: The wealth generated by the new factories and industries of the Victorian age allowed Middle Class families to take time off work and celebrate over two days; Christmas Day and Boxing Day. December 26th was given the nickname 'Boxing Day' because on the 26th servants and workers would open the boxes in which they had collected gifts of money and food from the rich.

The Gifts: At the start of Queen Victoria's reign, children's toys tended to be handmade and therefore costly, which meant they were unaffordable for most people. With factories, however, came mass production, which brought with it games, dolls, books and clockwork toys at more affordable prices. Even these more affordable gifts were only affordable by the Middle Class. Poor children made do with only a stocking in which only an apple, orange and a few nuts could be found (something that my Nan reminds me about yearly).

Santa: The stories of St. Nicholas (Sinter Klaas in Holland) came via Dutch settlers to America in the 17th century. From the 1870s Sinter Klaas became known in Britain as Santa Claus and with him came his story of delivering gifts using reindeer and a sleigh.

Christmas Cards: The 'Penny Post' was first introduced in Britain in 1840 by Rowland Hill. In 1843, Sir Henry Cole (who had been part of introducing the Penny Post and is often credited with designing the worlds first postage stamp; the Penny Black) printed a thousand cards for sale in his art shop in London at 1 shilling each. These became the first lot of Christmas cards sent in Britain. The popularity of sending cards was helped in 1870 when a half penny postage was introduced as a result of the efficient railways.

The Tree: Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, made the Christmas tree a hit in Britain. Christmas trees were popular in Prince Albert's native country Germany, and so Albert introduced what is arguably the epitome of Christmas; the decorated Christmas tree (pictured above), in the 1840s.

The Cracker: An idea from sweetmake Tom Smith in 1846-Tom Smith had the idea to wrap his sweets in fancy coloured paper. This idea later developed further when Tom Smith's twisted paper surprise had other things added to it: a motto, a paper hat, a small toy and a bang!

Thank goodness for the Victorians-we may not have such a lovely Christmas if it hadn't have been for them!

Friday 12 December 2008

Revision is key to exam success!

Most of my GCSE History students will know that the key to exam success is revision! For those of you that are in year 11, I am sure that revision will be on your mind. so I have looked out some great revision guides for you. Revision guides are definitely worth investing in as they cover all the things you need to know, offer sound advice and can be sold on to year 10's when you no longer need them! A totally win/win situation!

Do make sure that any revision guide you buy for GCSE History is for the Edexcel course!

Thursday 11 December 2008


In Year 10 History we have been studying 19th century surgery this week, paying particular attention to Simpson and chloroform. I have just discovered an interesting article about the dark side of anaesthesia-take a read and let me know your thoughts! Keep on going histatic!

p.s.-after the Christmas hols we'll be looking at Lister and carbolic spray!

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Girl Power-Elizabeth Garrett (1836-1917)

If you are doing GCSE History at Swanwick Hall, you will be studying Medicine Through Time. There is a chance that you'll get a question on the role of women in medicine, so here is an article that is going to be a good revision tool for you!

In the Middle Ages the Church only allowed men to train as doctors. In the 1600s the Church also took over the licensing of all healers. It did not give licenses to wise women or village healers because they were often suspected of being witches. By the 1700s surgeons also had to have a university degree, and, as women could not go to university they were effectively barred from becoming surgeons. In the 1700s male doctors became fashionable, and began to take over the traditional role of midwives among wealthy families because they were the only ones trained to use forceps. Finally, in 1852, the government introduced the Medical Registration Act which required all doctors to belong to one of the Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons or Apothecaries. All of these were closed to women.

Ever since early medicine women had taken a prime role in caring for their families-mixing herbal remedies and delivering babies-but for hundreds of years women were prevented from becoming professional physicians. In the 1850s women began to fight back. However, the problems for ambitious women began long before they reached the age when they might want to study medicine. Schools for girls were a rarity before the 1860s-certainly ones that taught anything other than reading, writing, cooking and dressmaking. Science? That was a subject for boys! Even those girls lucky enough to be educated at a good school found that their days of learning were over when they reached their mid-teens because women were not allowed to attend universities. Most men could not see any sense in educating women when their most important roles were as obedient wives, dutiful mothers and efficient housekeepers.

Despite these obstacles a handful of women fought for the right to become doctors. Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to qualify as a doctor in the United States in 1849. She visited England 10 years later, inspiring Elizabeth Garrett to follow in her footsteps. Elizabeth Garrett was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a doctor but she had to overcome immense difficulties, first to get training, and then to be allowed to practise as a doctor.

Elizabeth received a good education as a girl because her father had become a successful businessman. Elizabeth decided, after being inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, that she wanted to be a doctor. Elizabeth enrolled as a nursing student at Middlesex University and attended classes that were for male doctors. After a number of complaints from the male students, Elizabeth was barred from going into the lecture hall. Elizabeth discovered that the Society of Apothecaries did not specify that females were banned for taking their examinations. In 1865 Elizabeth sat and passed the Apothecaries examination. As soon as Elizabeth was granted the certificate that enabled her to become a doctor, the Society of Apothecaries changed their regulations to stop other women from entering the profession in this way. With support and financial backing from her father, Elizabeth opened up her own medical practice in London. As all doctors now had to belong to a College to be recognised as a professional, the Colleges of Surgeons, Physicians or Apothecaries had to decide whether to accept Elizabeth as a qualified doctor. They refused-so Elizabeth took the College of Apothecaries to court to force them to accept her. In 1876 a new law was passed opening all medical qualifications to women.

Women were now allowed to train and qualify as doctors, however, progress was slow. The first real increase in the number of women doctors came when there was a sudden demand for more doctors during the First World War.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl has been someone who I have admired for quite a while-ever since I saw the amazing 2003 Marc Rothemund film about her. The film is great and I highly recommend it to everybody! My year 9 students will watch elements of the film when we study the Second World War.
Sophie Scholl was only a young girl when Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933. Over the years Sophie witnessed the Nazi atrocities that were taking place in Germany and, after joining the BDM (which opened Sophie's eyes to what Nazism was) and becoming influenced by her father's dissenting views, she became a firm objector to Nazism.
In 1942 Sophie enrolled at Munich University to study biology and philosophy. Sophie's brother, Hans, also studied at the university and introduced Sophie to his friends. Sophie, Hans and their friends were keen lovers of art, music, literature, philosophy and theology-interests that led them to question the authority of the Nazi regime and the suppressing nature Nazi policies. The group of friends secretly discussed politics together and formed the anti-Nazi youth organisation called the 'White Rose'.
In 1942 the White Rose started to publish leaflets anonymously that called for Germans to passively resist the Nazi regime. Sophie did not take part in writing the leaflets but, after discovering what her brother and his friends were doing, insisted on helping distribute the leaflets. This was handy for the White Rose because with Sophie being female it meant she was less likely to be stopped and searched by the SS.

On 18th February 1943, Sophie took part in the distribution of the sixth leaflet that the White Rose produced. The plan was simple; Sophie and Hans would go into Munich University while morning lectures were still on to distribute the leaflets. Sophie would carry the suitcase containing the leaflets and, if asked about why she had the case, would say that she had it because she was taking laundry to her Mother in Ulm. As for the reason Sophie was at the university before leaving for Ulm, she would say that she had a lunch date with a friend before her train to Ulm was due. Sophie and Hans would put out all the leaflets and would be undiscovered. The resulting influx of students from the lecture halls into the corridors where Sophie and Hans would leave the leaflets would mean that all the leaflets would be picked up. This plan almost worked for Sophie and Hans-just before they were about to leave, after believing they had distributed all the leaflets they had in the case, Sophie noticed that there were more. Not wanting to waste them, as paper was expensive during wartime, Sophie and Hans would continue putting out the leaflets. As the bell went to signal the end of morning lectures, Sophie, without thinking, pushed a stack of leaflets off a balcony. This one careless act was witnessed by a custodian who was, or at least pretended to be, a Nazi through and through. The custodian reported Sophie and Hans to the university and both were quickly arrested.
The clip below from the film 'Sophie Scholl' shows Sophie and Hans distributing the sixth leaflet.

During Sophie's trial she was very outspoken about her actions and her abhorrence of the Nazi regime right to the end, even when the judge, the dreaded Roland Freisler, sentenced Sophie to death for treason. Sophie's bravery has earned her a lot of respect and admiration-she has become a key figure in German history because of her actions.
Instead of receiving the usual 100 days in prison, given to prisoners who had been sentenced to death before the sentence was carried out-Sophie, Hans and Christoph Probst-another member of the White Rose, were killed the very same day of their sentencing. At 17:00 Sophie was led away to the guillotine that would cut her life short-it has been recorded that her last words before her execution were: "How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go. But what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?".
Sophie was a brave, intelligent, awe-inspiring young woman who was willing, along with her White Rose counterparts, to stand up for what was right and to speak out against a regime of hate. For this, Sophie has been honoured in many ways by Germany-and rightly so.

Let me know what you make of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose.

Tuesday 2 December 2008

A Pushy Mother? Part 4

As a child Winston Churchill longed for attention and affection from his mother; even when Winston was away at boarding school he would write to his mother pleading for her to visit him. But Jennie Jerome was far too busy trying to further her husband's political career to be particularly moved my Winston's pleas. It wasn't until Jennie's husband, Lord Randolph, died that Jennie began to show any real interest in her son and his career.
In 1895 Winston passed out as a Lieutenant from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and directly began his military career. Winston was a very ambitious young man who wanted desperately to impress his mother. Whilst on duty, Winston would often write to his mother about his achievements and his bravery on the front. Winston didn't shy away from his duties in the cavalry; he would purposefully get into dangerous situations whilst in battle so that he could write to his mother about his fearless attitude. Winston saw action in Cuba (where he first came under fire-much to his delight and started his 'love affair' with Cuban cigars), India, Malakand (now in Pakistan), Sudan, South Africa (where he escaped from a prison camp after being caught by the Boers), and on the front during the First World War (after having to leave the war cabinet after the disastrous Gallipoli campaign).

Throughout Winston's military and political career up until her death in 1921, Jennie took a primary role in her son's professional life. Winston was a keen writer and when he wanted to publish his accounts of life in battle, his mother used her contacts to make it happen. When Winston had a desire to join the British campaign in North Africa to further his career, Jennie travelled to Cairo to see a lover who was in a position to 'make things happen' for Winston. Thanks to Jennie's influential contacts and her determination to make her son a success, Winston's career went from strength to strength. But what Jennie really wanted for her son was to pick up where her late husband had left off; to be successful in politics. Winston had tried and failed to get into politics in 1899 when he stood for a seat in Oldham. With Jennie's help and persuasion, Winston stood again in 1900 with success and was elected the MP for Oldham.
Like his father, Winston quickly rose up the ranks in politics, getting his first minister position when he was 34 and becoming the Home Secretary at 36. Jennie always maintained and told her son regularly that he was destined for great things. Winston realised that being successful meant that he would have all the attention and praise that he had craved from his mother as a child. However, Winston's rise didn't come without a minor set back: the Battle of Gallipoli.
In 1914, Britain declared war on Germany for violating Belgium's neutrality. In 1911 Winston had been promoted to First Lord of the Admiralty, which put him in charge of the Royal Navy. In 1915 Winston was one of the organisers of the disastrous Dardanelles campaign and, when the campaign was deemed a complete failure, took the blame for the fiasco. As a result, Winston was forced to take a demotion and in November 1915 resigned from government altogether, although he still remained an MP. To Jennie it seemed like history was repeating itself and she was angry with Winston for resigning. However, Jennie still carried on telling Winston that he was destined for great things. Jennie's support and encouragement never ceased and was rewarded when Winston decided to make a return to government in 1917.
Jennie was able to see Winston become active and successful in politics once more but she was never to see her son become Prime Minister, something that deeply saddened Winston. Jennie always knew that Winston was destined for great things but, unfortunately, never saw Winston become PM in 1940. Jennie died in 1921 from a hemorrhage after having to have a leg amputated because of a fall.
There is no doubt that Jennie was desperate for success and influence, but I am not sure that she was a 'pushy' mother. Jennie certainly wanted Winston to do well in life but often Jennie only acted to help her son when he requested her to do so. I believe Winston was just as ambitious as his mother and didn't need much 'pushing' to follow the path that he did. It seems that Winston's ambition stemmed from the fact that he had a rather loveless childhood and a mother whom he adored and desperately wanted to please.

What do you think?

I love History Too!

I have just come across a great website for lower school students aptly called 'I Love History' (many of my students will hear me say that a lot!). The website has lots of great information and links to games, podcasts and other great websites that relate to the curriculum at Swanwick Hall! Unfortunately the revision podcasts for GCSE are no use to our students as they do not cover the topics we study.

Take a look at the website and look out for new content that relates to your lessons!