In January the Reluctant Internationalists hosted a residential course for the Historical Association’s 2017 The Cold War in the Classroom Teaching Fellowship. Ten secondary school teachers from across the country have been appointed as this year’s Fellows following an extremely competitive application process. The fellowship is being co-taught by leading textbook author, trainer and examiner, Ben Walsh and Birkbeck historians.
The two-day residential course marked the first stage of the fellowship. It was designed to provide an overview of some of the most up-to-date academic research in the field, and a forum to discuss key issues around teaching the Cold War in the classroom.
The course began with sessions from Ben Walsh on the challenges the Cold War presents for both teachers and students, and the different pedagogical approaches that
can be taken towards it. Jessica Reinisch then provided an overview of the period and discussed some of the key historiographical developments over recent decades. Despite the challenges of incorporating competing interpretations into tight teaching schedules, many of the Fellows felt that the Cold War provided the ideal opportunity to introduce students to complex historiographical concepts.
David Brydan followed this up with a session on Cold War geographies, using a series of maps to explore the different ways we can think about the geography of the Cold War, and discussing how historians have shifted perspective in recent years away from simple models of bi-polar conflict towards a more complex, global understanding of the Cold War. Johanna Conterio’s session explored the question in everyday life in the Cold War, using examples from housing, agriculture and environment in the Soviet Union to illustrate recent debates about consumption, welfare and living standards. Jessica Reinisch and Johanna Conterio then combined to lead a discussion on the legacies of the Cold War, a theme which offers a lot of potential to engage students with a topic already regarded by many as ancient history.
The course ended with two final sessions from Ben Walsh on the potential of technology in teaching the Cold War, particularly given the vast range of sources and materials available online, and on creating resources. As part of the assessment for the Fellowship, participants will be required to create classroom resources on the Cold War which can be used by other teachers. These resources will draw on both the content of the residential course, and on the online course which the Fellows are currently completing, which explores some of the key topics of Cold War history in more depth. Details about how the online course has developed and the lessons Fellows have drawn from it are available in the series of blog posts recently published on our website and on the Historical Association website.
The Cold War in the Classroom Teaching Fellowship forms part of a series of public engagement activities the Reluctant Internationalists project has been undertaking this year, and has been funded by our recent Wellcome Trust public engagement grant.