Have you heard that saying, “history is written by the winners”? It means that, ultimately, the version of events that is recorded and passed on is created and sanction by those who have the power. We see this all the time in history – how often is it written by men, giving us a skewed understanding of the lives of women in the past.
A great example of this is King Richard the Lion Heart.
Before I became a history teacher and, now, a creator of teaching resources for other teachers, the extent of my knowledge of ‘Good King Richard’ was from a movie.
Not the most accurate representation! Great movie though. I loved it when I was a kid.
But back to history.
Our perception of Good King Richard – brother to Bad King John – is influenced by the historical records of him, which in turn were influenced by prevailing attitudes at the time and the whims of those in power. But historians can show us that writers changed writings to suit those in charge. Nowadays we know that King Richard was not as ‘good’ – nor King John as ‘bad’ – as we have been led to believe.
Our understanding of history is always influenced by the values of those who recorded it, and the our values as we investigate it. When we teach history, particularly as we get into secondary school, we have a wonderful opportunity to teach histography as well.