Educational publisher Hodder and Stoughton has commissioned a series of books to support Higher Still history at Intermediate levels 1 and 2. Two of the titles are The Road to War and Free at Last?
The books follow a common design. A brief background sets the events in context and then the reader is taken step by step through the key dramas and crises of the periods concerned.
Each chapter explains the learning outcomes for the reader, with key words highlighted and explained in a glossary at the back of the book. Useful maps and helpful timelines are also provided. Prompts such as "What do you think?" illustrate well that history is about debate, discussion and opinion, not just facts.
At the end of the texts, there is sound advice on tests and examinations and learning outcomes and performance criteria are spelled out in plain English for pupils. Suggestions on how to tackle an extended response are also given, with a worked example, and possible essay topics. Each chapter concludes with practice questions and hints on how to provide a full answer.
The Road to War covers the rise of the Nazis and the years of preparation, 1933-35, followed by Hitler's first big gamble over the Rhineland. Chapters 3 and 4 take the reader via the Anschluss to Munich, which is dealt with in a methodical and chronological way, to the final settlement.
One of the strongest features is thatthe author has provided arguments both for and against the Munich Agreement, before asking readers to draw their own conclusions. Good preparation for the Higher. This is complemented by a chapter on appeasement. The book concludes with a debate about the responsibility for the Second World War.
Free at Last? traces the development of the civil rights movement in the 20th century, looking at the experience not only of African-Americans but also of immigrants into the USA. The Ku Klux Klan is explored in a chapter which leads into the migration of blacks to the North and their experiences during the Second World War, what Arthur Schlessinger Jnr has referred to as "a defining moment in US history".
Attention is paid to the whole range of protests, bus boycotts, freedom riders etc and the support of the American government, from Kennedy onwards. The schism between the supporters of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, with all its variants, is explored and culminates in an assessment of the importance of Martin Luther King.
Both texts are lavishly illustrated, though the size of photos seems totally random. Critically, the books hit the right language level, though some of the underlying concepts would need to be explained for those operating at Intermediate 1.
Both titles convey the complexities of their respective periods in an engaging manner. Definitely worth buying .
Jim McGonigle is principal teacher of history at Hermitage Academy, Helensburgh and president of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History