Statues and our changing view of the past
This lesson plan explores our changing views of the past. The people that different generations look up to depend on the times they live in. Todays hero or heroine could be tomorrows villain.
A statue is a free-standing sculpture usually of someone famous put up in a public space to celebrate the life or achievements of that person. It is seen as a great honour to have a statue commissioned of you. Positioning a sculpture in a town centre or high on a plinth means that many people will see the sculpture and that person will be remembered by future generations. What happens when the local community view of that person and their achievements change? Should we take down the sculpture or should we keep it as a reminder of how the world has moved on?
This lesson plan has three short films and a classroom activity to help you explore the idea of how we deal with elements of the past of which society now has a very different view.
Key Stage:KS3 History
Ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745 -1901. Non-statutory examples include: Britain's transatlantic slave trade: its effects and its eventual abolition.
Overview:A brief introduction to the topic of the slave trade and a provocation of a debate in the classroom about how we deal with aspects of the past which are now unacceptable. Learning activities involve three films about statues of famous people. This lesson can be used:
As part of a Year 7 introductory unit on the relevance of studying history.
To develop research and investigative skills.
To develop discussion skills.
To start a project on the transatlantic slave trade and the role of Liverpool, Bristol, Plymouth and London.
Gordon Banks Statue
This statue of Gordon Banks in Stoke on Trent was commissioned by the local council because he is considered by many to be England's greatest ever goalkeeper and he played for Stoke City for many years. The statue reminds people who see it of a football great and it became a focus for tributes when Gordon died in 2019.
Discuss whether the council were right to spend public money on a statue of Gordon Banks.
A Statue of Robert Milligan
Robert Milligan was the driving force behind the building of the West India Dock in London. Previous to the building of the dock, ships were unloaded at riverside wharves and theft of goods was common. This statue was put up in 1813 to commemorate his work and a local street was named after him. Watch the film and ask the students what they think of Robert Milligan. The statue was removed in June 2020 by the local authority to "recognise the wishes of the community". Was this the right decision?
Street names in Liverpool
During the eighteenth century Liverpool was the slave trading capital of Britain and large numbers of enslaved Africans crossed the Atlantic in Liverpool slave ships. This trade generated huge wealth for Liverpool and stimulated investment in the city. Many slave traders fought strongly against the movement to abolish slavery including James Penny.
Should we change the name of streets named after slave traders? Watch this film and vote on the motion.
Suggested Classroom Activity
In June 2020 a statue in Bristol was torn down by protestors. This event forced other towns and cities to think about the statues in their area and make decisions about how they should deal with them.
Our worksheet has a BBC news article from Plymouth to analyse and then facts and opinions to absorb before writing an 500 word opinion piece of your own.