Teaching Gypsy, Roma and Traveller history

On this post you will find the resources from the HA conference sesssion in Bristol, May 2022. Richard Kerridge and Helen Snelson have worked with the historian Professor Becky Taylor to produce a range of teaching resources for teaching the history of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. There are made freely available here and they are adaptable.

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people are the largest minority ethnic group in some communities (and therefore in some schools) in the UK. Yet the past of Gyspy, Roma, Traveller people may rarely be part of history lessons. The result is that pupils of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller heritage may not encounter their past in history classrooms and myths and stereotypes may take root in the minds of others. 

The HA is keen to help teachers with this problem. An HA page to support teachers is here.

Update: Here is a PPT display to support Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History month in June:

The workshop resources:

A four lesson sequence that focuses on the history of Gypsies and Travellers from the start of the first industrial revolution period to the eve of the First World War. This was a time of great social and economic change in Britain. By completing this sequence pupils will not only learn about a period of British Gypsy and Traveller history, they will also learn about some of the social and economic changes in Britain in the period. They will consider how much changed in society and how much changed for Gypsy and Traveller people. 

By completing this sequence of lessons pupils will learn:

  • How life changed for Gypsy and Traveller people in Britain in the 150 years up to the First World War
  • An outline history of Gypsies and Travellers in Britain before 1750
  • Some of the social and economic changes that occurred in Britain 1750-1914
  • Hinterland knowledge that will help develop their sense of period and place for further study of the years 1750-1914
  • To evaluate the ‘extent’ of change and to learn that changes are not experienced in the same way  
  • To collect notes from a variety of sources and interpretations, to organise them and to frame them as an answer to a historical question. 

Jack Cunningham VC source material

Jack Cunningham was born in 1897 into a Traveller family. He volunteered for the Hull Pals in 1914. In 1916 he won the VC at the very end of the Battle of the Somme. He served to the end of the war and was permanently disabled as a result. He struggled to return to civilian life. 

The various materials here present a complex, human story of World War One. They can be used as a short activity with students. They could be printed off, laminated and given to small groups of students:

  • At the start of learning about World War One to stimulate student engagement and hypothesising. Students could piece together Jack’s story and then ask questions about the First World War and its impact. The teacher could then teach the topic, providing answers to students’ questions and referring back to the story to ask ‘how typical was Jack’s war?’
  • While studying the Battle of the Somme to introduce a human story to the big narrative and to take away from the focus on the first day. The story can provide a bridge from 1916 to the later part of the war on the Western Front. 
  • Following a study of the course of World War One, Jack Cunningham’s story could form part of an enquiry into the impact of the war on the survivors. The problem of veterans settling back into civilian life and the consequences for people around them is still a current issue in the 21st century. 
  • As part of a battlefields tour when visiting the Serre Road, Beaumont-Hamel and Thiepval. Jack Cunningham won his VC for action just north of the village of Serre. 

What does the story of fairs reveal about life in Britain over time? 

Fairs are a useful device to study in a particular time or over time. Their economic function was very important in the pre-industrial age. Over time the fair has lost its importance as a hub of economic activity, but it has kept other functions. Fairs continue to exist in many parts of the country and are part of local culture, from the Nottingham Goose Fair to the Appleby Horse Fair, and from St Giles’ Fair to Hull Fair. Gypsy and Traveller people have long been associated with fairs.

The text, task and images are fully adaptable to your setting. You can transfer them into other formats. You might:

  • Use the information in separate sections as you teach the different time periods, either directly with students or just to inform your teacher talk. 
  • Set the work in one lesson, or as a homework, as a mini thematic context to help students link periods of learning together. 
  • Use the information in your curriculum to ensure that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people do not just appear as victims of oppression in history. 
  • Use the information as context to learning about a local fair and the local economy in your area.

The TH article to accompany these resources is here:

English Civil War resources

We are very grateful to Gillian Waters for allowing us to share these Civil War resource packs for schools: English Civil War part one  English Civil War part 2

Gillian wrote these quite a few years ago now and they were for a previous iteration of the Royal Armouries and an earlier version of the National Curriculum. However, as all good resources, there are rich pickings for teachers.

In part 1 there is material on the Battle fo Leeds in 1643, on Fort Nelson, the Tower of London and Littlecote near Hungerford. In part 2 you will find portraits of Charles I and accompanying notes, comparisons with Tudor monarchs, material on Civil War leaders, information on the Great Chain of Being, inventory source material, decision making cards relating to reasons for joining the war according to status and lots of detail and source material (including partish registers) for the course and impact of the war(s), particularly in Yorkshire.

Definitely worth a good rootle through for resources, teacher knowledge, inspiration!

A History of York in Maps

New for helping students to learn about the history of York: A History of York in Maps. In this G-drive folder you will find a history of York in several parts using the maps of the British Historic Towns Atlas Vol 5 on York. This brilliant interpretation with maps and a gazetteer was finally completed in 2015 and is part of the European historic towns atlas project that began shortly after the Second World War.

This History of York in maps is for students and teachers and it uses the maps to explain the development or York over time, from the arrival of the Romans in 71CE to modern times. Several themes are developed: political power, military power, religion, education, trade and industry.

The History is divided into parts:

  • Part 1: 71-1066
  • Part 2: 1065-1200
  • Part 3: 1200-1500
  • Part 4: 1500-1688
  •  … More soon!!


(The format is .mov, and can be converted to mp4 using free online software if needed.)


Turning the world upside down: teaching the 17th century so that all voices are heard

This is where we will post the first person 17th Century Stories over the next couple of months.

Mary Belasye, Countess Falconberg

Isaac Newton

More coming soon!!!

If you are interested in other sets of first person resources, there are some from 1945-49 available here: historiana.eu

Talking enquiries and sharing resources

At our recent YorkClio network meeting we spent our time talking about enquiries. Colleagues brought enquiries they wanted to improve and enquiries they felt were working. It was both useful and invigorating to put the YorkClio hive mind to work. We couldn’t record the discussions, but we are sharing a couple of the resources here.

The Crusades was a key topic. What do we want students to learn at Key Stage 3 in a few lessons about the Crusades? How does this learning ‘fit’ into the overall history curriculum? There was a consensus that the consequences of the Crusades are important to teach. Here is a resource from Ben Longworth that can be used as a basis to make cards on this: Crusade Consequences. Colleagues with lots of experience of teaching this topic stressed to us all the importance of doing much work with students to ensure security with the geography, the chronology and the key players.

Another key concern is how to bridge the gaps to build coherent narrative. This is the topic of an article by Natalie Kesterton in September 2019’s Teaching History. She shared with us how she uses bridging narratives in lessons between topics and one is given here: What should we remember 1348-1509 DIFF

Investigating the culture of a period

Inspired by a session at the Historical Association conference, staff at York College have encouraged their students to engage with the cultural milieu of the periods they study at A Level. This is to help them gain the sense of period and place they need in order to make sense of their new specific topic knowledge. The results of two of them are here. There is a document on culture in Germany in the 20th century and one on 15th and 16th century English and European culture. Nice for other A level students, useful also for students doing GCSE units on all or part of these topics, and definitely nerd-y knowledge – thanks for sharing!

20th century German culture

15th and 16thC English culture

Narratives to build chronological understanding and fill in the gaps

Natalie Kesterton, Head of History at Ryedale School and Chartered History Teacher, has developed several approaches to building chronological coherence in the KS3 curriculum by filling the gaps in the story – the bits we don’t have time to teach. She came to the University of York History PGCE mentors’ meeting and shared her ideas so far. This work is being written up for Teaching History and will be featuring in the SHP and HA conferences, so we were lucky to get a preview. Her work supports the development of students’ chronological understanding and helps them to join up the different depth studies by identifying the big themes.  Natalie has kindly shared her resources so far:

final 1660-1750 narrative DIFFERENTIATED X2 

final 1660-1750 narrative DIFFERENTIATED

final 1660-1750 narrative DRAFT THREE

Narrative 1216-1348 DRAFT THREE DIFF needs work

Narrative 1216-1348 DRAFT THREE



Which King 1087-1199 DRAFT THREE

Bumping into sources!

Here is a PPT and some thoughts about using sources as evidence at KS3 and KS4 to do well at GCSE and NOT use endless exam questions because: 1) there is more to education, 2) it’s not the way to build secure knowledge for strong results.

Bumping into sources

Accompanying notes

The story of the Pilgrimage of Grace   PoG notes sheet   PoG fact sheet

A taxonomy of substantive knowledge    Brixton burning the riots remembered

YHF Resources: Thomas Becket session

The teaching materials that were presented in November 2018 at Yorkshire History Forum are here for your use. York PGCE medieval religion lessons-FINAL

They are:

  1. An activity about religion in medieval life with plan, resources and subject knowledge for teachers.
  2. Two lessons about Becket, with resources and subject knowledge for teachers.
  3. A fully resourced lesson on the rivalry between York and Canterbury that was fueled by the Becket affair with an impact on the historic environment still evident today.
  4. A lesson on medieval pilgrimage with teacher plan, resources and subject knowledge update.

These materials were developed by the University of York PGCE historians 2017-18. To do this they worked with Jeremy Muldowney from York Minster and with Dr John Jenkins, University of York and other members of the Centre for Christianity and Culture. The materials were edited by Helen Snelson.