In the earlier years history is not taught formally though often the stories that are told bring pictures of people in many other lands and times, of peasants and kings, holy people and knights.
In Class 5, at age 10, history proper begins with ancient mythology and a vast spectrum of early civilisations. Starting with Ancient India, the children are taken through Ancient Persia, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Greek history is taken from Homer’s time and touches on Oriental culture through the conquests of Alexander the Great. Wonderful tales from the mythologies are told and Greek lessons are introduced during this year.
By the age of 12 the children are ready to be taught causality in history. Now they have Latin lessons which helps them to grasp the influence Roman culture has on our present civilisation: the law, the idea of the citizen, the engineering skills, and so on. Many years are covered from the founding of Rome, with the story of Romulus and Remus, to the rise of the Roman Empire. Stories characterising the Caesars and other outstanding personalities are told. Later comes the spread of Christianity, the gradual decline of Rome and the barbarian invasions.
Class 6 will also study the rise of Islam and the teacher will attempt to reach about 800 AD, the early Middle Ages and Charlemagne’s founding of the Holy Roman Empire. From now onwards in the Lower School, the curriculum will stretch from the Middle Ages to modern day history. There will be the Norman Conquest and its implications for our country, the age of chivalry, the monastic culture and the Crusades, the battle of Agincourt, Joan of Arc. Technological innovations come in at this stage, cathedral building, guilds and city culture. Important changes are brought about by printing and modernising steps in banking. In astronomy, great discoveries are made by Galileo, Kepler and Copernicus at this time and all have fascinating biographies. The explorers moving around the world and opening up new vistas are an appropriate and fascinating subject for this age group (12-13 years).
Much history can be taught by colourful accounts of personalities whose lives have shaped their times and their stories arouse pupils’ interest. The glories of the Renaissance in Italy and the Elizabethan Age (including Shakespeare) appeal to children of this age. They may well do a Shakespeare play in Class 8. The
story of Martin Luther and the English Reformation is studied as well as the Thirty Years War. The English Civil War, with its divisions and contrasts of character, gives a strong picture of human characteristics. The journey of the Pilgrim Fathers and its enormous repercussions is also discussed.
For Class 8, with the children in their teens, there is a Main Lesson on Revolutions. Right up to the present time history shows how human lives have been changed by the Industrial Revolution and this will be studied in depth. Projects, for instance on the great inventors, will be written and illustrated. The French, American and Russian Revolutions come in at appropriate times.
Later subjects such as the First World War and life in the trenches, Third World issues, and the biography of Nelson Mandela are introduced. By the time students have reached the Upper School, history lessons have depicted the progress of humanity from mythical and pre-historical cultural times through to the development of a material civilisation, with consequences of a social, political and ecological nature. History is now taken at a deeper level. Rather than giving the students finished images, they are encouraged to understand ideals and the moving forces in history. The Evolution of Human Consciousness is one of the most important history Main Lessons at this time.