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'The Secret of England's Greatness'


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#1 Stephen Drew

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Posted 17 July 2003 - 08:32 PM

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I am writing a picture analysis lesson using the allegorical 1863 portrait by Thomas Jones Barker of Queen Victoria handing a bible to a fictitious African ruler.

I have read loads about the picture, and probably know almost everything I need to know to teach it to the class, but I would like to know if anyone has any thoughts on the picture and its imagery.

My intention with the lesson is get students to work on the idea of empire in propaganda in Britain in the 19th century and the philosophy of spreading Christian and British "virtues" to native populations in Britain's colonies.

I am interested in any knowledge anyone has about the picture or any thoughts on its significance and meaning. I may already have thought of anything people say, but I would be really intererested to have other History teachers thoughts on how they would interpret it with their classes. This will enable me to give as wide and full a lesson on it as I can.
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#2 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 18 July 2003 - 01:11 AM

At which point in KS3 are you planning to use this picture Stephen? I assume Y9 .. so given the work you do on 'portraits' unpacking this picture should be a doddle for your pupils :)

I know little about the picture other than that I have gleaned from a brief search on the www, but a number of points about the message it was intendedto convey spring immediately to mind:

White people standing = superior
Black king kneeling = inferior (but he's a king!)
Victoria giving present of Bible = a gift to be willingly accepted
Other white men standing but in background = not as important as Victoria

To me all this is pretty obvious so if I were using this in class I'd just give copies to small groups and get them to do one of those 'table top' exercises we've talked about on the Forum before. Or it might lend itself well to the creation of a 'tableau'/picture comic mentioned recently by Jo Norton. Even before you have done anything at all about the subject of Empire you could get your pupils to reenact the scene with each actor saying what they think might have been said by each person in the picture - or they could fill in speech bubbles on their group's copy (that could be also be done individually in ICT or collectively with interactive whiteboard).

The interesting thing that I have always found when dealing with propaganda is that for many youngsters (even quite old ones) propaganda is something used by the 'enemy' and not by 'us' so it will be good for them to analyse a picture which clearly has the intention of showing 'what good intentions we Brits had when we subjugated independent peoples' - for propaganda purposes. 'Cos this is a matter of convincing the British people that what we were doing was right - not the subjugated peoples.

All this could lead very nicely into work on the extent to which 'civilising heathen peoples' was the best explanation for British expansion -after an examination of other motives. When I have dealt with the Scramble for Africa (and in a Catholic school too) I have found most kids very cynical about the idea that Britain was primarily concerned to spread Christianity - but perhaps that's because the school has a highly international student body.

#3 Richard Drew

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Posted 18 July 2003 - 07:14 PM

they could fill in speech bubbles on their group's copy (that could be also be done individually in ICT or collectively with interactive whiteboard).

this is a technique i really like to use with my classes. i have speech AND thought bubbles in a number of contexts from a simple homework to an assessment:

~ Elizabeth I in her armada portrait
~ The picture of the 4 witches hanging (witches and crowd have speech bubbles)
~ Feudal System pyramid
~ Pals' Battallion marching through the streets

are just a few examples.

sometimes this is used to create an environment in which pupils can explain the characters thoughts/opinions (e.g. the different reasons the soldiers signed up for war), sometimes to explain why events/belief systems were created (e.g. the witches thinking about the REAL reasons witches were executed).

i find this method to allow for differentiation - less able pupils have a structure and an engaging activity, more able pupils are able to stretch themselves through more extended writing and the use of examples

it is an activity my pupils enjoy very much, and usually produces excellent resaults, does anyone else have any good activities in which they use this method?
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#4 Andrew Field

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Posted 18 July 2003 - 10:16 PM

I guess what you could also do is introduce the image as something totally different to encourage students to challenge an interpretation.

Perhaps you could suggest that the black King is giving Queen Victoria the bible or perhaps even that he is proposing to the Queen...


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#5 JohnDClare

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 01:06 PM

You beat me to it, Andrew.
One thing I often do is 'in the style of...' or 'if you were...' interpretations - they require the student to have assimilatied the original concept to be able to remould it.
In this case, perhaps tell the pupils to re-do the drawing (or commission it in words if they cannot draw) how they would want it oif they were:
the African king,
Cecil Rhodes,
a modern black historian who hated the British Empire,
a modern Muslim,
etc.

#6 Richard Drew

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 04:26 PM

You beat me to it, Andrew.
One thing I often do is 'in the style of...' or 'if you were...' interpretations - they require the student to have assimilatied the original concept to be able to remould it.
In this case, perhaps tell the pupils to re-do the drawing (or commission it in words if they cannot draw) how they would want it oif they were:
the African king,
Cecil Rhodes,
a modern black historian who hated the British Empire,
a modern Muslim,
etc.

what a great idea John :teacher: . this concept will be finding it's way into our new interpretations of the industrial revolution enquiry i am sure!!!

perhaps anice exercise like: what would you have on the front cover of a textbook about the industrial revolution if you were ............................
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#7 JohnDClare

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 04:51 PM

... a pupil!

#8 Richard Drew

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 04:58 PM

... a pupil!

indeed!!

or

a political historian
an economic historian
a social historian
an industrial worker in the C19
an agricultural worker in the C19
a C19 politician

or even a history teacher!!!!!!!!
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#9 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 05:50 PM

perhaps a nice exercise like: what would you have on the front cover of a textbook about the industrial revolution if you were ............................

.... a 'fat cat' :whistle:

#10 Shamrock

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 07:59 PM

perhaps a nice exercise like: what would you have on the front cover of a textbook about the industrial revolution if you were ............................

.... a 'fat cat' :whistle:

Meow!

The version I heard in the staff room runs:...
Poor Victoria being a repressed female, she needs the protection of a faithful male e'g. Prince Albert or an equerry.
The bible is really a box, when Q Victoria opens it there is a mouse inside, does she a. run/scream
b. show the stiff upper lip, a truly "British" trait. or
c. laugh
There is a hidden movie camera ( still to be invented) hidden behind the curtain,
What would they be filming?
A Soft Porn movie
b. A propagandar film. etc
c A tourist version "How great thou Art"

sorry dyslexia's playing up tonight! :crazy:




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