Year 8 have been using Wilberforce House Museum to add texture and richness to their historical writing

Year 8 spent the day in the Hull museum now housed in the former home of William Wilberforce. In class we have been learning about the British transatlantic slave trade. After last term’s work to progress our ability to write analytically about historical interpretations, we are now focusing upon how to write historically accurate and detailed narratives. We spent the morning using the galleries of the museum for information and inspiration. Eleanor found it interesting to write in a museum and she had learnt a lot more about slavery. Grace had improved her writing about what happened to the people taken as slaves at each particular stage. Meanwhile, Muskan and Beth were shocked about how dark the story is of what happened to African people and their culture. Having the morning to spend in the museum writing really gave us time to think about how we use language and how we can try to portray the emotions, as well as the facts, in a way which is believable. It is one thing to understand that having people on iPhones would be anachronistic, and another to realise that an African would not necessarily say: ’And we arrived at a big ship’, if they had never encountered the concept of a ship before.
In the afternoon the girls worked in four groups to debate the abolition of the slave trade. Once again, the focus was on the evidence to be found in the museum. This time we used the galleries to gather evidence to make our arguments forceful. Evidence-based debate, rather than appeals to the emotions, were what carried the day. Phoebe had the challenge of arguing to keep slavery, despite her own personal views. Charlotte, Hasmik and Emma argued with her, using many examples that the costs to the British economy were just too high to consider abolishing the trade. Incensed at what they had just heard, Daisy, Abi, Sophie and Beth wielded the hard evidence of the inhumanity of the trade, with personal accounts, to persuade us that no amount of sugar could sweeten the human misery. However, Eleanor, Millie, Amy and Holly also focused upon some personal accounts to argue back on behalf of the plantation owners. They used accounts from the time particularly effectively to threaten the British with poverty if the trade was lost. The debate was rounded off by Sammi, Nadine, Muskan and Grace taking the part of ex-slaves. They deployed a wide range of eye-witness evidence. At the end of the debate, the judges decided that the anti-slavers and abolitionists had deployed the best range of evidence and had combined that with a persuasive manner to win the debate.
A really good day’s history was had by all!
Y8 WH 2014 a

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