Global history broadens horizons

Global history broadens horizons


Laura Aitken-Burt, co-author of Knowing History second edition, explains the importance of teaching global history to your students, and how you can integrate this into your KS3 curriculum.


Why is it crucial that all students learn about global history?

History should be about broadening horizons, widening perspectives and giving greater context to help us understand others and to better understand ourselves. For centuries, history has been taught from a national perspective, as focusing on the achievements of one country over another was seen to bind the citizens of new nation-states under a shared historical narrative. But learning history in this way leads to narrow understandings of the world. By focusing so much on Europe, huge parts of the global population have had the pasts of their ancestors, at least implicitly, deemed as secondary. We need students of the globalised 21st century to have a wider knowledge base about the history beyond the country they happen to live in.


Why is now the right time to start teaching global history?

It’s always been the right time to teach global history; no country has ever existed in a vacuum – there has always been interactions that transgress modern borders. Many history teachers faced a lack of age-appropriate resources and written materials, and weren’t taught this type of world history at school themselves. Where do you start when your knowledge is minimal and you’re pressed for time? Also, whilst some histories might be harder to research than others due to surviving source material, we must also explore, discuss and analyse the silences in the record.


I want to teach more global history but I’m not sure where to start

The flexibility of the KS3 curriculum makes it a good place to start teaching global history, compared to the current specification constraints of the exam year groups. We always need to bear in mind that there will be some students that won’t take GCSE history, so what are they going to understand about the world by the end of their KS3 journey? It shouldn’t just be focused on Britain or Europe but rather these should be one part of a much larger global story of a variety of cultures who have histories in their own right.


How does Knowing History support students to think critically and deeply about the past?

The new second editions of Knowing History bring a simple chronological narrative to a range of world history topics for the first time. Whilst it is of course impossible to condense the whole history of entire civilisations into the five double page spreads per unit, the topics chosen and the depth of the narrative will give students and teachers the foundations of world cultures they may not have formally studied before. From Medieval China, Islamic caliphates, African kingdoms, Mughal India, indigenous Americans, the Ottoman empire and Edo Japan, we hope the books will inspire an interest in new places and periods of history, acting as a springboard for further study.


How can I use Knowing History with my KS3 students?

Each unit has an enquiry question and five comprehension questions based on the text which is the focus of the double page spreads. The simple layout of the Knowing History textbooks gives students clarity and emphasises the importance of reading and literacy for the historian. The text can be read-aloud in class, given as homework to consolidate exposition done in the lesson, or as a revision tool. Each global unit have their own enquiries that do not need to be compared to the more familiar British units. This means that students can study different world cultures in their own right, rather than only as tangential to a European narrative.


How have your students responded to the new lessons from Knowing History?

They love the global units! With ten units per book, there are too many to cover in class but we are finding that students are reading other chapters out of curiosity, asking questions and wanting to do projects and further research on what they have seen. I’m really pleased that these books will give access to the richness of world history for students and spark new conversations in the classroom.


Laura Aitken-Burt is a Classics, History and Politics teacher in London as well as a practising archaeologist and historical consultant for broadcast and print media.


Find out more about Knowing History

The second edition of the Key Stage 3 Knowing History series from Collins provides all pupils access to a rich and ambitious knowledge-based curriculum that helps them think critically and deeply about the past – now with 5 new units of global history in each book.

  • A coherent chronological KS3 history curriculum with 50 knowledge-rich lessons on British and world history
  • Knowledge organisers on key vocabulary, people, places, and dates support long-term learning
  • Integrated world history timeline
  • Deliver excellent lessons and save time on your planning with the free supportive Teacher Guides