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How Bethany School archives aid History pupils in their research

Mr Davies, Head of History and Politics at Bethany School, gives an update from his department including how History pupils utilise Bethany’s own archives to aid their research.

The last time it was my turn for one of these blogs, I wrote about historical fiction, and one of our readers was kind enough to buy me a book, for which I am very grateful. This time, I’d like to write about guitars, specifically pink paisley Fender Telecasters.

Only joking!

One of the more complicated pieces of work we do with our Year 9 students is the research project on Old Bethanians who died in WWI. We give the students some basic information – really very little more than what is available on the war memorial in chapel – and then set them off with a couple of useful sites and the warning that they will very soon almost certainly feel the urge to defenestrate their laptops owing to the immense faff of cross-referencing multitudinous sites over and over again, seemingly making progress, before they hit a brick wall and can’t go any further, necessitating a fresh start. And a fresh laptop. And the aid of a glazier.

To do it well, the task requires a great deal of resilience, and so it is a great pleasure when the finished projects are of excellent quality. This year, our Year 9 students worked particularly hard and many came out with very good work. Toby Castle, Emily Fraser, Jack Liversedge, Helena McNamara, Kudzai Thomas and Lucy Wells all produced work which was of a very good GCSE pass standard. However, the jewel in the crown was the project of James Duncombe, which was absolutely top notch. Not only did he find out lots of personal information about his chosen Old Bethanian, Andrew Bentham, he also found lots of military information too, and then placed this in the wider context of the war; including the fact that this particular Old Bethanian was shot down by one of the most famous people in the Great War, the Red Baron.

We are lucky that we have some very interesting resources in the School archives, including letters to and from the families of Old Bethanians during both world wars, old School magazines and press clippings; these resources are also made available to students to use in the course of their research.

I’ve included James’ research piece on Andrew Bentham here, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Read James’ research here