How to use the big picture

28th April 2000 at 01:00
Ted's teaching tips.

This picture of life in 15th-century France shows the gap between the peasantry and the aristocracy at the time. It also shows us how things have changed or stayed the same over the last few hundred years, raising important issues about citizenship.


Who is "in charge" in this picture and how did they get their power (the aristocrats, inherited wealth and position)? What happened to the aristocrats in France in 1789 (the French Revolution, many were executed or fled abroad as the peasantry and other groups rebelled)? Think of other words that describe forms of governance, like democracy (people vote for someone to represent them), dictatorship (one ruler), monarchy (family passes on crown, most kings and queens less powerful nowadays).

Medieval life

The picture shows the difference between life in the Middle Ages and today: in transport (horses, carts, poor roads), agriculture, (hand operation when ploughing, digging, planting, no automation), power and energy (no electricity, so oil lamps, wood fires and candles needed)? Who are the powerful people in the picture and how do you identify them (clothes, on horseback, peasants often drawn smaller)?


Look at the chateau in the background. Think of castles' purpose (mainly defence, but also residence), location (often on hilltop for all-round visibility) and their features: walls (thick and strong, usually stone, with battlements and turrets, so ammunition can be fired and soldiers are rotected), windows (narrow for defensive purposes), entrance (huge gate, may be protected by moat). Have you visited any castles? What castles do you know about and what is their history?


Write a poem about the castle. Think of some rhymes (boat, moat; deep, keep, weep, heap; mound, round, pound; fill, skill, hill, kill; arrow, narrow, barrow, harrow). Write speech bubbles for people in the picture.

Ted's talking points

We would all like to be upper-class, or would we? Should we have an aristocracy headed by royalty in the 21stcentury, or is this an anachronism?


All societies have a hierarchy with a top-drawer group, whether it is an aristocracy or a body of ruling politicians - it is a natural state of affairs. The aristocracy has always set standards, sponsored the arts and made important decisions. It is something you have to be born into, so that you learn to be in charge from childhood. Monarchs are above politics, so they offer stability and objectivity, not political whim.


The idea of an aristocracy is outmoded in a democratic age. Why should some people be privileged or "in charge" because of birth rather than merit? In a modern society, those in positions of power and influence should be elected by their fellow citizens. The reform of the House of Lords was long overdue. Although some aristocrats sponsored the arts, many exploited people. Currently, monarchs have limited power and are primarily an expensive ceremonial relic.

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