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'Picturesque and dramatic' or 'dull recitals of threadbare fare': good practice in history teaching in elementary schools in England, 1872-1905

Smith, John T.


John T. Smith


This article draws on late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century teaching manuals, reports of Her Majesty's Inspectors, history textbooks ('readers'), other administrators' and teachers' accounts, policy documents and pupils' reminiscences to refute common and generalised assessments of the period (often by those who have not looked closely at these specific sources) that the teaching of history was a negative and boring experience, limited mainly and simply to reading comprehension of lengthy pages devoid of timelines and visual materials. The article concentrates on the experience of English elementary schools and draws comparisons between past and present teaching approaches. The findings show that there is extant evidence that there did exist in the late Victorian period clear conceptions of how to make history accessible to children, many of which reflect current best practice in the subject. They also show that many leading educationalists, and probably the teachers who read them, were aware of the need to make the subject accessible to children. The pupils themselves have left very little evidence of their experience, but some pupils were enabled to develop picturesque understandings of the past of benefit to their lives beyond the classroom. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.


Smith, J. T. (2014). 'Picturesque and dramatic' or 'dull recitals of threadbare fare': good practice in history teaching in elementary schools in England, 1872-1905. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 46(1), 93-107.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 1, 2013
Online Publication Date Jan 6, 2014
Publication Date Jan 13, 2014
Deposit Date Jun 3, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jun 3, 2016
Journal Journal of educational administration and history
Print ISSN 0022-0620
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 46
Issue 1
Pages 93-107
Keywords English elementary schools
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Africa Review on 06/01/2014, available online:
Contract Date Jun 3, 2016


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