Visions of the past

19th March 2004 at 00:00
Mary McCarney looks at additions to series for key stages 1 and 2

History Starts Here:

The Ancient Romans by Anita Ganeri

The Ancient Greeks by John Malam

Hodder Wayland pound;5.99 each

Britain Through the Ages:

Celts by Hazel Mary Martell

Roman Britain by Felicity Hebditch

Anglo-Saxons by Margaret Sharman

Tudors by Felicity Hebditch

Victorians by Margaret Sharman

Britain Since 1930

by Stewart Ross

Evans pound;4.99 each

The History Detective Investigates:

Tudor Medicine by Richard Tames

Hodder Wayland pound;5.99 each

The History Starts Here series, now available in paperback, provides a gentle, but visually stimulating introduction to history topics at key stage 1 and lower KS2. The text is clear, the language simple and the large vibrant pictures make these books wonderfully bright and colourful.

Also recently published in paperback is the Britain Through the Ages series for older primary pupils. Each book begins with a useful timeline and ends by recommending places to visit. A nice feature is the way snippets of additional information are dotted throughout: word boxes explore how our language has been influenced by history ("boycott", for example, originated during the Irish famine, when Captain Boycott evicted tenants from their homes), while fact boxes contain quirky anecdotes and legends.

Britain Since 1930 reveals how footballers once demanded extortionate wages of pound;7 a week, and the average semi cost pound;500!

The History Detective Investigates series encourages KS2 readers to assist canine detective Sherlock Bones in solving historical puzzles and mysteries. The pages are packed with primary sources, there are facts to fascinate, questions to stimulate (yes, the answers are at the back) and suggestions for pupils' own research.

Tudor Medicine explores the world of quacks, plague pits and female healers accused of witchcraft. The precarious position of royal physicians is also revealed when Queen Mary believed she was pregnant. Her symptoms were in fact signs of the cancer which later killed her. Readers are asked to consider why the queen's doctor chose to keep the bad news to himself.

(Foretelling a monarch's death was a treasonable offence.) There are, of course, plenty of gory bits, which always go down so well with young pupils. Before anaesthetics, operations had to be speedy and top Tudor doctors could amputate a leg in under a minute. (You can almost hear the gasps of admiration and horror in class.) Teachers will also enjoy the 16th-century poem about ways in which a wife could prevent sickness in her husband. Tudor medicine was strongly influenced by Galen, an ancient Greek who believed good health could be restored through sweating, vomiting and urinating. Have you noticed how the class hypochondriac feels so much better after several quick trips to the loo during a maths test? Perhaps there was some truth in that old theory after all.

Mary McCarney teaches in Luton and is a freelance writer

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