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research history ks2

  • Sources For History Understanding Evidence

Sources for history – Understanding how to use evidence

Illustration of items on a pinboard, representing sources for history

Do you know the difference between a source and evidence? Here’s how to use them both to bolster pupils’ historical understanding…

Stuart Tiffany

There has been a big shift in the teaching of history since 2019, and the role that sources for history play in the acquisition of knowledge and the wider discipline shouldn’t be understated.

Think about what you would define as a source for history teaching… is this the same thing as evidence?

They overlap but are not in fact the same! A simple definition to begin with:  

  • A source is anything that contains information about the past.  
  • Evidence is what we take from that source to utilise it for a specific purpose. 

The reason I use the phrase ‘anything’ is that the list of what we could use is potentially endless. In What is History? historian E. H. Carr wrote:

‘The facts are available to the historian in documents, inscriptions and so on, like fish on the fishmonger’s slab.

The historian collects them, takes them home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him.’

The implication is that facts are the backbone of the historian’s crafts. Sources of evidence are what allow historians to acquire those facts. But then the historians must do something with them.

This is important to consider because the breadth of what teachers could use is potentially daunting if they are unsure about which offers most value to the unit in question.  

So… what does this mean for teachers? 

Primary and secondary sources for history

Two terms that present immense amounts of confusion are primary and secondary sources.

Should we introduce them in KS1? You can, but personally, I wouldn’t because it is not mentioned in the curriculum and is so nuanced, we need to approach it deliberately and carefully.

By the end of Year 2, if children know what a source of evidence is, how to use them in history and that a range of them exists, that’s a great starting point!

In KS2, you can add to this understanding by distinguishing between primary and secondary.

Primary sources are a snapshot in time with a direct link to the matter in question.

Secondary sources have a layer of interpretation and are not directly connected to the matter.  

Using sources in history

When teaching, we need to embed sources of evidence throughout so children understand both what we currently think about the topic in question, and how that knowledge was acquired.

The national curriculum refers to this in both Key Stages 1 and 2 in two main parts:  

  • The different ways in which we find out about the past.  
  • The different ways in which the past has been depicted.  

Therefore, when teaching we must accomplish both parts to meet the NC specification but, more importantly, support children in gaining a more in-depth understanding of what it means to ‘do history’.

When planning and teaching, I would suggest the following approach in order to facilitate this. 

First, clearly define history units with enquiry questions. This allows you to emphasise which parts of the period are most important to their learning.

In addition, this narrows down which sources of evidence are most likely to offer the valuable knowledge needed to understand and then answer said question.

If this is not currently how history is approached at your school, I would suggest taking a look at the Historical Association’s enquiry toolkit, which can be accessed for free at  

Once this is in place, define the knowledge that is central to understand the enquiry question and then answer it.

This once again allows you to further narrow the field of study, considering which sources of evidence are the most pertinent.

Once this in place, the key is to find a range of sources to build as clear a picture as possible.  

Modes of delivery

The language of Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction is common parlance in many primary classrooms, even if they aren’t aware of the work that underpins it.

If we teach maths in small steps because it’s beneficial, why wouldn’t we do it in history too? I do, we do, you do… the same principle still works here!  

Start by thinking about what the children have studied so far, specifically around the range of source material and how it was utilised.

Do they have knowledge we can activate and build on? 

Then, model the relationship between the enquiry question and the source material so children know that what we learn from a source must add value to that question.

Without that, we may only get generic information that doesn’t add to the enquiry process.  

Why does this matter? It’s important that pupils gain both substantive and disciplinary knowledge.

However, history has the word story in it for a reason. We need to historicise knowledge in order to place it within a particular ‘story’ of the past.

Focus on building a more detailed picture of the past and connecting the various snapshots and interpretations the children have encountered to form a stronger and more secure understanding.  

Sources of evidence, then, are what we use in history in order to construct our knowledge of the past.

Therefore, we need to teach them explicitly and throughout the teaching sequence.

Ensure children know that sources offer us some evidence towards our enquiry but are unlikely to provide a complete picture – such is the nature of history!  

3 common misconceptions

  • There is a definitive list of knowledge to take from sources of evidence. This is not true because there are many categories of source material we may choose to tap into. An archaeological object is inherently different to a diary, therefore what they offer is also fundamentally different. Historian Christine Counsell said a key difference is whether the source offers conscious commentary or not. The question we ask is what drives the evidence we take from the source.    
  • Sources are either useful, or they’re not. Once again, the answer is more complex and led by the important role enquiry questions play. Can an object be unreliable given it just is ? The reliability is more likely a feature of what we endeavour to learn from it and our interpretations based on the limited picture it presents. Reliability is more likely to be an active consideration when dealing with a commentary. Here, bias does matter and considering it is right and proper. Make sure the children are aware of who wrote it, when, why, etc, alongside their perspective. Without that, we may know what someone said about something, but are missing what facilitated their particular perspective of that event.  
  • Primary sources are better than secondary. This is not the case even if the person writing the source material actually witnessed the event to which the source relates. They offer a perspective on what happened, but this is one snapshot of many. A secondary source collates a broad range of evidence and therefore has a wider field of study which includes primary source material.   

Stuart Tiffany Stuart is a primary teacher, history CPD provider and consultant. He is also the author of Mr T Does Primary History (£21.99, SAGE) is out on 8 July.  Follow Stuart on Twitter @Mr_S_Tiffany and see more of his work at

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History skills resources

International schools, tes resources team.

History books on shelves for History skills with secondary students

To support you in assessing your history students key skills, we have gathered together a helpful selection of skill-based resources perfect for developing historians. Whether you're looking for full lessons that explore what history is and why it is important to learn about it, or activities and assessment resources which cover a range of key historical skills including chronology, evidence and interpretation, we have you covered.

History skills lessons and activities

Stone Age Artefacts and Sources of Evidence (Lesson for KS2)

Stone Age Artefacts and Sources of Evidence (Lesson for KS2)

History Skills - Questioning Primary Sources

History Skills - Questioning Primary Sources

Bias, Fact and Opinion - History Skills

Bias, Fact and Opinion - History Skills

Chronology (What is history? (KS3))

Chronology (What is history? (KS3))

Year 7 History Transition timeline work

Year 7 History Transition timeline work

Ice Mummy Interpretation Skills Lesson (What is history? (KS3))

Ice Mummy Interpretation Skills Lesson (What is history? (KS3))

History skills in practice.

Skills in History - The Tollund Man

Skills in History - The Tollund Man

Mystery of the princes in the tower

Mystery of the princes in the tower

History Baseline Test

History Baseline Test

Investigating the death of Thomas Becket

Investigating the death of Thomas Becket

Jack the Ripper Investigation Lesson

Jack the Ripper Investigation Lesson

History Detective - The  Mystery of  Easter Island

History Detective - The Mystery of Easter Island

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Key Stage 2 Curriculum

Useful articles in 'Primary History' (PH)

1. Stone Age to Iron Age 2. Romans, Saxons and Vikings 3. Ancient Civilisations 4. Ancient Greece 5. Non European 6. Local 7 . Post-1066

1. Stone Age to Iron Age

research history ks2

  • Richard Harris, ‘ The Amesbury Archer’ , PH 93, spring 2023
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ Using ancient monuments to help teach about pre-Roman times in Britain ’, PH 90, spring 2022.
  • Paul Bracey, ‘ Teaching these islands from prehistoric times to 1066 ’ PH 89, autumn 2022.
  • Francis Pryor, Hilary Morris and Wessex Archaeology, ‘ Stone Age to Iron Age – overview and depth ’ PH 66, spring 2014. Includes a range of activities, resources and what the co-ordinator might do.
  • Bev Forrest, Jon Nichol and Dave Weldrake, ‘ Windmill Hill: a visual image at a prehistoric scene ’ PH 66 spring 2014. Image and teaching ideas.
  • Graham Birrell and Marion Green, ‘ Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Bronze Age? The first cross-channel ferry ’ PH 71, autumn 2015. Ideas, case studies, subject leader notes on teaching the Bronze Age.
  • James Taylor, ‘ The Stone Age conundrum: making use of a local site to develop historical knowledge and enthusiasm for the Stone Age ’ PH 73, summer 2016
  • Jessica Glennard, Suzanne Mohabir, Jacob Short and Gabrielle Surman, ‘ Our Iron Age challenge: developing historical understanding through building an Iron Age house ’ PH 73, summer 2016
  • Elaine Skates, ‘ Teaching pre-history outside the classroom ’ PH 75, spring 2017
  • Tony Pickford, ‘ The Standing Stone ’ PH 78, spring 2018. With coordinator notes. Prehistory.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Rethinking the Stone Age to Bronze Age ’ PH 81, spring 2019
  • Karin Doull, ‘ The Bronze Age: what was so special about copper and tin? ’ PH 82, summer 2019
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Turning technology: making life better in Iron Age Britain ’ PH 83, autumn 2019
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ How did a volcano affect life in the Bronze Age ’ PH 87, Spring 2001
  • Helen Crawford, ‘ Just a pile of stones? Exploring the Rollright Stones as part of your Stone Age to Iron Age study ’ PH 88, summer 2021
  • Maureen Grantham, ‘Pre-history on Bodmin Moor’ in PH 12 , March 1996. Covers first farmers, Bronze Age and Celts .
  • Lucy Bradley, ‘ Prehistory in the Primary Curriculum: A Stonehenge experience to remember ’, PH 51, spring 2009.
  • Julia Dauban with John Crossland, ‘ Working with Gifted and Talented Children at an Iron Age Hill Fort in North Somerset ’ , PH 51, spring 2009.

2. Romans, Saxons and Vikings

research history ks2

  • Karin Doull, ‘ Trade – lifeblood of the empire: how trade affected life in Roman Britain ’ PH 91, summer 2022.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ Britain’s settlement by Anglo-Saxons and Scots ’ , PH 68, autumn 2014
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Sandbach Cross: an Anglo Saxon market cross ’ PH 68, autumn 2014. Images and teaching ideas.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ Viking and Anglo-Saxon struggle for the kingdom of England ’ PH 69, spring 2015.
  • Polly Tucknott, ‘Portchester Saxon Settlement’ in PH 69 , spring 2015.

Image and teaching ideas.

  • Sue Temple, ‘ The Roman Empire and its impact on Britain ’ PH 70, summer 2015. Includes subject leader notes.
  • Catherine McHarg, ‘ Reconstructing the Romans ’ . PH 70, summer 2015. Image of Chester Amphitheatre with teaching ideas
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Anglo-Saxon women ’ PH 74, autumn 2016.
  • Ilona Aronovsky, ‘ A trail of garnet and gold: Sri Lanka to Anglo-Saxon England: what can weapons and jewellery tell us about Anglo Saxons and the wider world? ’ PH 76, summer 2017.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ The gall nuts and lapis trail: what can you tell about Anglo-Saxon trade from ink? ’ PH 76, summer 2017
  • Sarah Whitehouse and Penelope Harnett, ‘ The Vikings: ruthless killers or peaceful settlers? ’ PH 77, autumn 2017. Includes co-ordinator notes .
  • Summer Resource for Primary History 2018. By Sue Temple. Romans in Britain . A scheme of work aimed at Years 3 and 4 covering why they invaded, how much resistance and their legacy.
  • Hugh Moore, ‘ Ordinary Roman life: using authentic artefacts to achieve meaning ’ PH 80, autumn 2018.
  • Poster: Anglo Saxon houses and artefacts PH centrespread PH 82, summer 2019
  • Matthew Sossick, ‘ The Anglo Saxons: push, pull, cause and consequence ’ PH 82, summer 2019
  • Sue Temple, ‘ Teaching the Romans in Britain: a study focusing on Hadrians Wall ’ PH 85, Summer 2020.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ What can you tell about the Vikings from a chess piece? ’ PH 85, Summer 2020.
  • Carol Jackson and Darius Jackson, ‘ I have to stop Mrs Jackson’s family arguing: developing a big picture of the Romans, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings ’ PH 87, Spring 2021
  • Thor Ewing, ‘The Viking Wordsmiths’ in PH 13 , June 1996. Includes Viking words, shields etc.
  • Thor Ewing, ‘Cooking the Viking Way’ in PH 13 , June 1996.
  • Rick Weights, ‘ Hands On Archaeology: A Case Study: Visiting the Archaeological Resource Centre in York ’ , PH 35, autumn 2003.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘Teaching Romans, Saxons and Vikings’ (Co-ordinators dilemma) in PH 37 , summer 2004.
  • Hilary Claire, ‘Citizenship: Citizenship through the English National Curriculum’s The Romans in Britain Study Unit’ in PH 45 , spring 2007. Plenty of ideas for teaching the Romans.
  • John Rainer and Pat Hoodless, ‘ Case Study 5: Dramatising Boudicca and the Celts: A Case Study from the Classroom ’ PH 48, spring 2008.
  • Alison Gove-Humphries, Paul Bracey and Darius Jackson, ‘ Here come the Vikings! Making a saga out of a Crisis ’ , PH 50, autumn 2008.
  • Jon Nichol, ‘ Classroom Archaeology: Sutton Hoo or the Mystery of the Empty Grave ’ PH 51, spring 2009.
  • Nuffield Primary History Project, ‘ Sutton Hoo: Classroom Archaeology in the Digital Age ’, PH 54, spring 2010. Saxons
  • Hugh Moore, ‘ QR (Quick Response) bar codes: instant website access for historical sources and field work’ in PH 62 , autumn 2012. Covers Roman Britain.
  • Hilary Claire, ‘ Political literacy: citizenship through the English national curriculum’s Romans in Britain study unit ’ PH 64, summer 2013.
  • Barbara Bailey and Lynne Minett, ‘ The world on the Wall: exploring diversity on Hadrians Wall ’ , PH 65, autumn 2013.

3. Ancient Civilisations

research history ks2

  • Stephen Parr, ‘ One of my favourite history places: Luxor, Egypt ’ PH 92, autumn 2022.
  • Kate Rigby, ‘ Significant anniversaries: the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb ’ PH 92, autumn 2022.
  • Susie Townsend, ‘ Two women linked across three thousands years of history: the story of Zheng Zhenxiang and Lady Fu Hao ’ PH 92, autumn 2022.
  • Ilona Aronovsky, ‘ Think like an archaeologist: Investigating Indus Valley artefacts in the primary classroom ’ PH 91, summer 2022.
  • Ilona Aronovsky and Akshyeta Suryanarayan, ‘ Bringing an archaeologist into the classroom ’, PH 91, summer 2022.
  • Rosanna Evans, ‘ Instead of mummies made with loo roll: how museum collections make ancient Egypt, and the people who lived there, real ’ PH 91, summer 2022.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Teaching Ancient Egypt ’ PH 67, summer 2014. Plenty of teaching ideas.
  • Ilona Aronovsky, ‘ Investigating the Indus Valley 2600-1900 BC ’ PH 68, autumn 2014
  • Dr Catherine Parker Heath, ‘ Ancient Sumer ’ PH 69, spring 2015
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ The Shang: what can we tell about an ancient civilisation from one tomb? ’ PH 70, summer 2015. Including subject leader notes.
  • Alun Morgan, ‘ Searching for the Shang in Shropshire ’ PH 72, spring 2016
  • Paul Bracey, ‘ So was everyone an ancient Egyptian? Developing an understanding of the world in ancient times ’ PH 73, summer 2016.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ What made Cleopatra so special? ’ PH 74, autumn 2016
  • Jules Wooding, ‘ Mummified cat embalmed in linen cloth ’ PH 74, autumn 2016. Egyptian image and teaching ideas.
  • Alice Kirk, ‘ The Shang Dynasty: How to investigate history through art and explore art through history ’ PH 78, spring 2018
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Texts for the Classroom: Ma’ats Feather by Juliet Desailly ’ PH 78, spring 2018. Ancient Egypt.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Miss, did the Romans build pyramids?’ (ancient societies who built pyramids) PH 83, autumn 2019
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Ankhu and Nebu of Deir el Medina ’ PH 84, spring 2020 Ancient Egypt
  • Matthew Laban, ‘ Language and Communication in the Ancient World ’ PH 86, autumn 2020.
  • Susie Townsend, ‘ Ancient Sumer: the cradle of civilisation ’ PH 87, Spring 2021.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Teaching Ancient Egypt: developing subject knowledge ’ PH 88, summer 2021
  • Kate Rigby, ‘ Supporting colleagues to develop their subject knowledge – the role of the subject leader ’ PH 88, summer 2021. Examples of Ancient Egypt
  • Jeanette L Philp, ‘An Approach to Studying Ancient Egypt’ in PH 13 , June 1996. A little old fashioned but some good valid ideas .
  • Ilona Aronovsky, ‘Resourcing the Indus Valley Civilisation, a Key Stage 2 Non-European Civilisation’ in PH 22 , April 1999.
  • Ilona Aronovsky, ‘ Teaching the Indus Valley Civilisation in the 21st century ’ , PH 33, winter 2002.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘Teaching Ancient Egypt’ (Co-ordinators dilemma) in PH 34 , spring 2003.
  • Jane Shuter, ‘ Throw away the old worksheets! ’ PH 54, spring 2010. Artefacts for Ancient Egypt.
  • Meg Friis, ‘ Egyptians, Embalming and Experiences ’ PH 61, summer 2012. Based on ITT placement at Leeds City Museum.
  • Ilona Aronovsky with Kate Benson and Ann Plummeridge, ‘ Animation: A tool to develop historical understanding ’ PH 62, autumn 2012. Example of Indus Valley.
  • Caitlin Bates, ‘ A creative Egyptian project ’ PH 63, spring 2013.
  • Caroline Meller, ‘ Mesopotamia ’ PH 65, autumn 2013.

4. Ancient Greece

research history ks2

  • Nichola Philpott, ‘ My favourite monument: the Acropolis, Athens ’, PH 93, spring 2023
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ How an atlas and a very old map can help us make sense of the ancient Greeks ’, PH 90, spring 2022.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Whatever did the Greeks do for us? ’ PH 89, autumn 2022
  • Jerome Freeman and Jon Nichol, ‘ Teaching the Ancient Greeks ’ , PH 71, autumn 2015. Includes Olympic Games.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Wot, no women? Did all Ancient Greek women stay at home and weave? ’ PH 76, summer 2017
  • Karin Doull, ‘ A cultural legacy: the theatre of ancient Greece ’ PH 85, Summer 2020
  • Patrick Wood, ‘How to make a Corinthian Helmet’ in PH 13 , June 1996.
  • Patrick Wood, ‘Begin at the Beginning: The Iliad’ in PH 13 , June 1996. Literature in Ancient Greece.
  • Keith Dickson, ‘Using Greek Vases in a Study of the Greeks at Key Stage 2’ in PH 13 June 1996.
  • Harriett Martin, ‘An Active Approach to Ancient History: The Greeks’ in PH 14 , November 1996. Strong emphasis on archaeology.
  • Vincent Jones, ‘How a Little Hollywood can help History’ in PH 16 , June 1997. Film in teaching the Ancient Greeks
  • Anita Markan, ‘Living Pictures, Living History’ in PH 21 , January 1999. A living tableau with Y5/6 children studying Ancient Greece.
  • Hamel, Kevin, ‘The Odyssey: A Musical and Historical Journal’ in PH 24 , January 2000; The role of music. Examples largely from Ancient Greece.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Putting the Story back into History ’ PH 43, spring 2006. Teaching Ancient Greece.
  • Peter Vass, ‘ Making links: Myths, legends and problem-solving with the Greeks ’ , PH 53, autumn 2009.
  • Nuffield Primary History, ‘ Your Victorian (and Greek) Olympic Games ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • ‘ Primary History and Planning for Teaching the Olympics – Four Curricular Models ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • ‘ Teaching Possibilities from Plato to Nato ’, PH 58, summer 2011.

Teaching about the Olympics.

  • Hilary Cooper, ‘ Story, Myth and Legend: The Story of Atalanta ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • Will Griffiths, ‘ Ancient Greece: Birthplace of the Olympics – Teacher Briefing ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • Pat Hoodless, ‘ The Olympic Games, Classical and Modern ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • Jacquie Dean, ‘ Investigating the Ancient Olympic Games: A Case Study ’ PH 58, summer 2011.
  • Peter Vass, ‘ Ancient Greeks: The Olympics’ War Games: Teaching through Drama ’ PH 58, summer 2011.

5. Non-European

research history ks2

  • Karin Doull, ‘ Benin: exploring an African empire at Key Stage 2 – why is it worth studying ’, PH 94, summer 2023
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Baghdad: What were its connections across the medieval world? ’ PH 93, Spring 2023
  • Paul Bracey, Chad McDonald, Kayleigh Billins, Kerry Kup and Michael Knight, ‘ Eweka’s story: Benin, Big Picture History and the National Curriculum for History 2014 ’ PH 67, summer 2014. Includes co-ordinator notes
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Curriculum Planning: which non-European society might we offer as school? ’ PH 67, summer 2014.
  • Genner Llanes-Ortiz, Diane Davies and Ian Mursell, ‘ The Maya: a 4000 year old civilisation in the Americas ’ PH 68, autumn 2014
  • Paul Bracey, ‘ What do we mean by Big Picture History? ’ PH 68, autumn 2014. Includes overall plans and Maya case study.
  • Ayshah Ismail, ‘ Early Islamic Civilisation ’ PH 69, spring 2015. Plenty of resources and co-ordinator notes.
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Studying the Maya: a case study in making history accessible to all pupils ’ PH 74, autumn 2016
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ What can you tell about the Maya from a Spanish soldier? ’ , PH 78, spring 2018.
  • Polly Tucknott, ‘ Why stop at the Tudors? Enhancing an understanding of the sixteenth century through a comparative study of Benin ’ PH 79, summer 2018.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Trade and pilgrimage in the Abbasid Caliphate ’ PH 81, spring 2019

research history ks2

  • Rachel Bruce and Susannah Russell, ‘ Teaching local history in primary schools: learning about effective practice from the British Association for Local History/Historical Association Teacher Fellowship ’, PH 94, summer 2023
  • Stuart Boydell and Verity Downing, ‘ How local history can bridge the gap from teaching Understanding the World in the EYFS to teaching history in Key Stage 1 ’, PH 93, spring 2023
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Artefacts in the neighbourhood ’ PH 92, autumn 2022.
  • Susie Townsend, ‘ What’s in a road? Local history at Early Years and Key Stage 1 ’, PH 91, summer 2022.
  • Lynne Dixon and Alison Hales, ‘ What makes good local history? ’ PH 71, autumn 2015. Includes case studies and subject leader notes.
  • Anna Husband, ‘ Local history as a way of developing a sense of identity and place ’ PH 74, autumn 2016
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ A local history investigation in Key Stage 2: probably one of the best resourced themes you can find – your local railway ’ PH 75, spring 2017.
  • Susie Townsend, ‘ Not again! An additional viewpoint on using railways ’ PH 76, summer 2017.
  • Summer Resource for Primary History 2018, by Alf Wilkinson. World War II and Local History Many source extracts including oral testimony. Examples from different parts of the country and India with useful sources of information.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ Teaching local history through a family ’ PH 81, spring 2019
  • Helen Crawford, ‘ Using a house for your local history study ’ PH 82, summer 2019
  • Karin Doull, ‘ Come all ye fisher lassies ’ PH 85, Summer 2020. Herring fishing.
  • George Skinner and Judith Peel, ‘ Belmont’s evacuee children: a local history project ’ PH 87, Spring 2021.
  • Kate Thomson and Tracey Wire, ‘ Take one day: undertaking an in-depth local enquiry ’ PH 87, Spring 2021.
  • Dan Lyndon-Cohen, ‘ Exploring empire, artefacts and local history ’ PH 88, summer 2021
  • Jayne Pascoe, ‘ Researching the History of the Fire Service in the Local Community ’ , PH 30, January 2002.
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ How do we ensure really good Local History in Primary Schools? ’, PH 30, January 2002.
  • Emma Valerio, ‘Scheme of Work for a Local History of Southall designed for Year 5’ in PH 39 , spring 2005. Focus on buildings and the changes.
  • Richard Knights, ‘ Developing a Local History Project based on a Local Industry ’ PH 39, spring 2005. Example of British Insulated Callenders Cables of Prescot, St Helens.
  • Nick Hasted, ‘ Case Study 5: Local History: A pupil-led study with 9-10 year olds ’ , PH 47, autumn 2007. Aimed at gifted and talented.
  • Charlotte Blanch and Catherine McHarg, ‘ Chronology and Local History: Year 6 ’ PH 59 , autumn 2011.
  • Ben Screech, ‘ Using a local historical figure as a stimulus for history in the English National Curriculum ’ PH 55, summer 2010. Cross curricular .
  • John Fines, ‘ Doing Local History ’ PH 55, summer 2010.
  • Barbara Sands, ‘ Planning for Local History in the New Curriculum: A Teachers Perspective ’ PH 55, summer 2010.

7. Post-1066

research history ks2

  • Debbie Doolan, ‘ World War II: how local expertise and continued refinement breathed life into an enquiry in a Somerset school ’, PH 94, summer 2023
  • Bee Rowlatt and Kirsty Ruthven, ‘ Significant people: Why its worth considering Mary Wollstonecraft ’, PH 94, summer 2023
  • Matthew Sossick, ‘ Why teaching the Wars of the Roses in primary history might be challenging but a good idea ’, PH 94, summer 2023
  • Paul Bracey, ‘ Teaching about “these islands” since 1066 ’, PH 93, spring 2023
  • Penny Byrne, ‘ What’s in your pocket, Peg? A story book about living in Jersey during German Occupation in World War II’ , PH 93, spring 2023
  • Helen Otterwell, ‘ Teaching about the German occupation of Jersey through the Occupation Tapestry ’, PH 93, spring 2023
  • Andrew Wrenn, ‘ Teaching the British Empire in primary history: very important but tricky!’ PH 92
  • Damienne Clarke, ‘ Significant anniversaries in 2022: 50th anniversary of the UK’s first official Pride march: 1 July 2022 ’, PH 90, spring 2022
  • Helen Crawford, ‘ Ten texts for the Platinum Jubilee ’ PH, 90, spring 2022.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ The Queen in Procession ’, PH 90, spring 2022.
  • Kate Rigby, ‘ Happy and Glorious: exploring and celebrating the Platinum Jubilee ’ PH 90, spring 2022.
  • Matthew Sossick, ‘ Using photographic evidence to explore the impact of the Berlin Wall’ PH 90, spring 2022.
  • Edward Washington, ‘ Female migration to Australia ’, PH, 90, spring 2022.
  • Sue Temple, ‘ Victorians ’ , PH 67, summer 2014. Includes themes, teaching, resources.
  • Paul Bracey, ‘From Home to the Front: World War 1 in the primary history classroom’ PH 69, spring 2015. Covers KS1 and 2 .
  • Mel Jones and Kerry Somers, ‘Commemorating Agincourt as part of the primary curriculum ’ PH 73, summer 2016. Based on HA Teacher Fellowship
  • Steven Jolly, ‘This is no ordinary story.,.this is our story…Teaching the First World War in the primary school ’ PH 74, autumn 2016
  • Vivien Southall, ‘ Bringing the Civil War to Life in Somerset ’ PH 75, spring 2017. Includes co-ordinator notes.
  • Summer Resource for Primary History 2018 . By Alf Wilkinson: World War II and Local History . Many source extracts including oral testimony. Examples from different parts of the country and India with useful sources of information
  • Paul Bracey, ‘Elizabethan times: Just banquets and fun? Developing a sense of period and chronology by exploring an aspect of the past since 1066 ’ PH 80, autumn 2018
  • Paul Bracey, ‘ The Blitz: All we need to know about World War II? Relating an event to a bigger picture of the past’ PH 81 , spring 2019
  • Matthew Sossick, ‘The Phoney War: Breadth and depth in teaching and learning about World War II ’ PH 83, autumn 2019
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ How can we teach about medieval Britain in primary schools ’, PH 86, Autumn 2020
  • Nicola Caskey, ‘A Project on Working Class Education in the Victorian Period’ , PH 36, spring 2004. Information about types of schools and how this can be taught to pupils. 

Thematic Study post-1066:  

  • Karin Doull, ‘ The Coronation ’, PH 93, spring 2023
  • Vikki Pearson, ‘ The world at our feet: a history of shoes ’, PH 92, autumn 2022.
  • Susie Townsend, ‘ Sporting legacy: the history of endeavour ’ PH 89, autumn 2022.
  • Matthew Sossick, ‘ Who lived in and changed Britain from the Iron Age to the time of Robin Hood c.1200 ’ PH 67, summer 2014.
  • Allison Robinson, ‘ A development study for Key Stage 2: poverty in Britain ’ PH 72, spring 2016
  • Alf Wilkinson, ‘ Making the most of the post-1066 unit: looking at continuity and change over 10,000 years ’ PH 75, spring 2017. Focus on houses and homes.
  • Sally Sculthorpe, ‘ Overground, underground and across the sea: communications ’ PH 76, summer 2017. Covers KS1 and KS2
  • Ian Dawson, ‘ Having fun through time: planning a unit to extend pupils chronological knowledge past 1066 ’ PH 77, autumn 2017.
  • Karin Doull, ‘ To boldly go: exploring the explorers for primary history ’ PH 80, autumn 2018. Covers KS1 and KS2
  • Liz Egan, ‘ Pain, pus and blood: the history of medicine – warts and all for Key Stage 2 ’ PH 82, summer 2019
  • Tim Lomas, ‘ Teaching crime and punishment as a post-1066 theme ’ PH 83, autumn 2019
  • Paul Bracey and Darius Jackson, ‘ Migration to Britain through time ’ PH 85, Summer 2020.
  • Matthew Laban, ‘ Language and Communication in the Ancient World ’ PH 86, Autumn 2020.
  • Damienne Clarke, ‘ Changes in an aspect of social history from 1945 to 2000: Youth culture, music and identity ’ PH 88, summer 2021
  • Jul 30, 2021
  • 11 min read

A Summary of Ofsted's History Report for Primary Teachers and Leaders

Here is my summary of Ofsted's research review into effective history curriculua. I have written it with a primary audience in mind although I hope it is useful to anyone who reads it. If I have misinterpreted any of the research, I would be gladly corrected, but I hope I have represented all of the findings in the spirit with which they were written. I've spent about 6 or 7 hours producing the information on here as (it's been a really rainy day in the holidays) I think it is a really useful document which provides an insight into effective history and should allow schools to evaluate their provision with some direction. Hopefully, the work I've done will save someone some time or will help them in any other way.

To view the original report from Ofsted's website, click here .

If you would like to support the work I do at the same time as downloading a high-quality PDF version of the visual summary, please visit my Gumroad page by clicking here . (I’ve included an additional PDF of the written notes and editable Microsoft Word version as a thank you for your support 🙏).

If not, you can find the usual download link at the bottom of the page.😀

Designing the Curriculum

🏫Schools need to make decisions on three levels: topics, content and the balance between detail and breadth.

📚Pupils need to develop both substantive and disciplinary knowledge as they progress through the curriculum. Secure substantive knowledge supports the learning of disciplinary knowledge and the acquisition of further knowledge. However, the two are mutually beneficial, and knowledge of the past should be shaped by how this knowledge is constructed.

🧠👌🏻Knowledge in history can be understood as ‘residue knowledge’ - that which is important to enable further learning - and ‘fingertip’ knowledge which is important to understand the intended curriculum during the sequence of learning, especially by reducing cognitive load, but might be less useful to retain afterwards. This requires decisions to be made about which knowledge pupils are expected to retain as they progress through the curriculum.

Generative Knowledge

🌱This is the type of knowledge that will be helpful for pupils to know in order to learn more in the future. It is unlikely that this is straightforward but would include knowledge that enables pupils to grasp new learning more readily at a later stage. For example, understanding that the Romans withdrew from England in the 400s would support understanding of why the Anglo-Saxons were able to settle in England without conflict with the Romans. Alternatively, the concept of a monarch could be introduced in stories about Kings and Queens in EYFS before learning about different types of monarchies that they study such as emperors, caliphs and pharaohs.

⚛️ This core knowledge becomes ‘core’ when considered as part of its usefulness for future learning; there is nothing inherent within it that makes it core.

Types of Generative Knowledge

Substantive knowledge.

👑 Substantive knowledge relates to abstract concepts which occur frequently throughout studying history, such as ‘monarchy’ and ‘taxation’. Pupils develop their understanding through planned, repeated encounters with these concepts through a range of contexts.

Substantive concepts have specific meanings in different contexts, rather than existing as definitions. Revolution is one example which represents an idea that has a different meaning depending to which period of time it refers: the French Revolution and Industrial Revolution, for example. Simply knowing the definition of ‘revolution’ does not enable pupils to fully understand the nature and essence of these two periods.

🌿 Although it is important to intentionally plan for pupils to learn about these concepts, this in itself is unlikely to be sufficient, and pupils will need exposing to a range of concepts without explicit teaching.

💰 The Matthew Effect occurs in history: the more children know, the more able it is for new knowledge to stick. This supports both intentional and incidental learning which teachers can encourage by selecting appropriately challenging vocabulary and texts.

🔄 Meaningful examples with repeated encounters are the most effective ways of developing this substantive conceptual knowledge and understanding.

Chronological Knowledge

📆 This is highly generative knowledge which allows pupils to organise their learning into coherent narratives.

📈 Pupils should develop a mental timeline which provides an overview of what they are learning and supports its relation to what has been previously learned.

⏳ Pupils should remember the broad features and characteristics of historical periods, and this can enable deeper learning in other contexts.

🔗 Over time, pupils should develop a complex schema of how historical periods connect with each other, with a deeper understanding of the individual events and phenomena within each period.

➕ How periods connect is important to prevent pupils from developing a disconnected or episodic understanding of the past.

🤿 It is possible for pupils to gain a sense of the overview through investigating the depth. For example, studying life in the workhouse might enable pupils to deduce and understand the beliefs and values of society during the Victorian age.

⛪️ It is important for pupils to understand the chronological order of broad periods of time and build their knowledge of developments, links and themes across time, such as the spread of Christianity, or impact of technology.

Teaching Substantive Knowledge

📝 Specific examples can make the unfamiliar elements of new material more meaningful and make it more accessible for pupils to make sense of more abstract ideas.

🔁 Repeated encounters enable pupils to develop their schema and increase their security with knowledge. Intentional curriculum design can prioritise content to support pupils’ progress.

📈 The more content pupils learn, the more teachers are able to increase the range, depth and complexity of their learning as they progress through the curriculum. This expanding knowledge is not only progress in itself, but also a driver of progress.

😕 It is not always possible to know what previous knowledge pupils are drawing on when making sense of new ideas, and a curriculum cannot always guarantee the precise knowledge the pupils will acquire. However, curriculum design and teaching can significantly influence what pupils know.

🛑 It is important not to reduce a curriculum to ‘core’ knowledge only’; the importance of background knowledge is stark in history.

🌆Hinterland knowledge provides meaningful examples and secure contexts for learning and develops familiarity with new learning.

Disciplinary Knowledge

🏗 Pupils learn about how historians study the past and construct accounts through specific examples. This requires substantive knowledge about relevant historical contexts.

🔎 Historical enquiry is not a pedagogical approach: it refers to the means by which historians enquire about the past and use their findings to construct meaning. Enquiry is a sophisticated device for shaping the curriculum content: it enables both substantive and disciplinary thinking to be developed simultaneously.

🕵🏾‍♀️ Teaching how historians learn about the past is very different from everyday thinking and needs explicit teaching, alongside a secure understanding of the substantive knowledge that is considered alongside it.

☯ Substantive and disciplinary knowledge are meaningless without the other.

📝 Disciplinary knowledge can be developed by following these principles:

Avoiding generic approaches for ‘skills’ such as source analysis

Using the work of academic historians to inform teaching and learning

Teaching the language of analysis explicitly

Disciplinary Concepts: Cause

🔗 This requires teaching pupils to use detailed and developed substantive knowledge to examine how and why events or states of affairs occurred or emerged.

🔎 Pupils should select and combine information about potential causes and shape them into an explanation. Pupils need repeated encounters of how historians construct such arguments.

🚂 Models and diagrams can help pupils develop understanding of causal arguments.

🤔 Some likely misconceptions that pupils can develop are that certain events were inevitable, and a failure to appreciate relationships within the context of the study.

Disciplinary Concepts: Consequence

😠This is challenging for pupils and is unlikely to be worthwhile unless they are working with a broad and secure knowledge of the pertinent developments.

☝️ It is better for pupils to consider either cause or consequence in isolation rather than at the same time.

Disciplinary Concepts: Change and Continuity

🌿 This relates to the pace, nature and extent or characterisation of change.

⁉️ Questions about change are often ones where pupils can think and argue about continuity at the same time: what changed, and what stayed the same or similar?

4️⃣ There are four types of change to consider and teaching is likely to be most effective if it concentrates on one aspect only:

Extent or degree

Pace or rate

Nature or type

💬 Strategies which support teaching about change and continuity include: teaching historical language; using metaphor; using visual representations of change or models to represent abstract ideas.

📈 A common misconception that pupils hold, which can be addressed through explicit teaching, is that change is a discrete series rather than a continuous process. Pupils require security in substantive knowledge in order to fully appreciate this.

Disciplinary Concepts: Similarity and Difference

👨🏻‍🏫 This refers to the extent and type of difference between people, groups, experiences or places in the same historical period. It often involves detecting and analysing generalisations.

✋🏽Generalisations can be powerful tools for historians to use to describe historical entities but pupils should be taught about their limitations.

🗺 Pupils’ knowledge can be developed by teaching about similarities and differences on different scales. This can be effected by using individual stories to develop a complex understanding. Again, this requires security in substantive knowledge.

Disciplinary Concepts: Historical Significance

☝️ This refers to how and why historians ascribe significance to events, trends and individuals.

👑 A common misconception is that pupils think some events are inherently significant rather than understanding that this status has been ascribed to them.

🤫 It is also important to consider historical silence: why things haven’t been considered significant.

⛓ Teachers are able to focus on factors which can lead to historical significance, and again, pupils need a secure substantive knowledge in order to understand this concept.

Disciplinary Concepts: Sources and Evidence

🔎 Pupils need to learn how historians use sources as evidence to construct, challenge or test claims about the past.

🗞 An effective curriculum is designed to provide clarity about sources as artefacts of evidence and how these relate to the claims that are being made.

😠 A common misconception developed by pupils is that bias in a source is a bad thing; teachers should focus on what bias in a source means for its analysis. In additional, some pupils make claims greater than the scope of the evidence which individual sources can provide.

💬 It is important to teach pupils that sources can establish evidence for specific historical questions and that they should be interrogated with particular questions in mind.

📚 Pupils should study anthologies of sources so they can understand how historians use such collections to learn about the past. These should include longer extracts and whole texts, in addition to non-textual sources such as photographs, songs, folk-song and oral traditions.

🧠 It is important for pupils to study sources with a rich and detailed knowledge of the context in which they were produced. They need this detailed factual knowledge in order to draw inferences, as well as understand how historians are able to draw inferences from sources.

Disciplinary Concepts: Historical Interpretations

🤯 This relates to the how and why of why different historical accounts of the past are constructed. A common question thread would be, “Why do historians disagree about the causes of…?”

🏗 Pupils encounter problems when they treat interpretations as fixed or given: they need to be taught that different interpretations exist and can change in accordance with evidence and different means of analysis.

👨🏼‍⚖️ Such enquiries should not invite pupils to make a judgement for themselves; rather, they should study different and specific interpretations and understand how and why they have been constructed.

🧠 In order for pupils to engage critically, they require secure substantive knowledge of the context in which the events described occurred, and the context when the interpretation was produced.

Breadth and Depth in the Curriculum

⏳ Like in geography, there is a tension between providing sufficient breadth and depth in the curriculum. Although some periods of time are prescribed by the National Curriculum, curriculum designers have the freedom to choose which content they intend to teach. There are a few principles which can help in making such choices and decisions.

🕌 Pupils need to develop a secure knowledge of a range of historical periods and can benefit from studying the past on a range of different timescales. Any gaps in a pupil’s mental timeline might be a barrier to future learning.

🤴🏻Conceptual development can benefit from studying recurring concepts in different periods of time. In primary, this might include trade, government or empire: the order in which they are introduced and developed can affect how they are constructed and how pupils will be able to use their understanding to make contrasts between different time periods.

🧠 Pupils need to gain a rich, thorough knowledge of what they study so they can grasp the complexities of the concepts about which they are learning.

🏟 Each period of time has peculiarities which can be studied in their own right.

🌍 When designing the curriculum, teachers and leaders should consider the extent to which they take pupils outside of their everyday experiences but at the same time reflect their identities so that that pupils can see themselves in the curriculum.

🌏 Having a geographically diverse curriculum enables pupils to develop their concept of interconnectedness as well as understanding different scales. The notion of “meanwhile, elsewhere…” is useful for this so that pupils understand how the focus of their study can be understood in a wider context.

⚔️ The National Curriculum requires pupils to learn about the political, economic and social history. The political history of a country, for example its rulers or governments, can be a useful organising framework for pupils and develop concepts such as monarchy, empire and invasion. The social and cultural history can develop understanding of concepts such as ‘poverty’, ‘households’ and ‘leisure’.

🕌 Studying diverse civilisations in KS2 allows teachers to lay the foundations for deeper comparisons at KS3 and beyond.

📚 It is important to represent diversity in the curriculum, which can come through the richness of individual stories.

EYFS and KS1

🏗 In the early stages of education, teachers should focus on developing knowledge of a few concepts that are important to create familiarity for what pupils will learn afterwards.

⏳ Meaningful examples for younger children might include family histories and local history - stories with which the children can more easily connect.

📚 Stories are powerful vehicles which enable pupils to access unfamiliar content. Fictional stories can also be useful to illustrate concepts.

⏳ It is important to remember that the concept of the ‘past’ is incredibly abstract for children, and as such it brings challenges for teaching and learning.

💬 Pupils benefit from vocabulary development including learning and understanding chronological markers such as ‘ancient’ and ‘in the past’.

KS2 and beyond

🌏 In Key Stage 2, the curriculum should become much broader and pupils will begin to learn about disciplinary concepts.

⛓ When designing the curriculum, it is important to consider: the need for secure substantive knowledge; the likelihood of misconceptions; the importance of pupils developing disciplinary knowledge through studying meaningful examples.

🏗 The aim of history in KS2 is for pupils to progress towards constructing their own historical arguments and accounts; younger pupils benefit from specific examples of how historians work.

Effective Teaching

🧠 The goal of teaching should be for the retention of knowledge, which is more likely to occur when children’s minds have been engaged analytically.

👨🏻‍🏫 It is likely that teaching disciplinary knowledge requires distinctive teaching approaches.

💬 When teaching for memorisation, teachers should draw attention to important terms and expressions.

📝 Pupils need repetition and practice to develop their substantive and disciplinary knowledge.

🤯 A barrier to effective teaching is that it is difficult for teachers to consider all potential barriers to comprehension.

📚 Stories are an effective way of teaching children due to the power of narrative and the way in which they develop both core and hinterland knowledge.

🧩 Children with SEND are entitled to learn the same curriculum as the others in their school, though it may be necessary to adapt how they are taught. They should never receive a reduced curriculum, except in the most exceptional of circumstances for a handful of pupils. Reducing content coverage is counter-productive as it often makes further learning more difficult to achieve.

🎣 Formative assessment should be used to assess the range and security of knowledge, conceptual and chronology.

🤔 Teachers need to make decisions about what content to prioritise when assessing formatively, and it is likely that this should include important, highly generative knowledge.

🕵🏾‍♀️ Whatever is assessed must allow teachers to draw valid inferences about pupils’ current levels of understanding.

📝 When assessing disciplinary knowledge, a similar approach should be taken. It is important to provide specific feedback based on the specific content of what is being assessed.

✅ It is unlikely that skills ladders or generic approaches to assessment could capture the interplay between different layers of knowledge that pupils will be drawing upon.

⏰ Leaders should ensure sufficient curriculum time for history, made in the context of the required breadth of the curriculum.

🖌 Where schools use generic models of progression, they should avoid uncritical application of such models to history, which might fail to take into account the precise requirements of effective curriculum design.

🧠What makes a significant different to the quality of the curriculum is the content knowledge of teachers as well as their pedagogical content knowledge - how much they know about how to teach the content of the curriculum.

🏅CPD is a driver of curriculum effectiveness.

research history ks2

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HIstory Lessons, Resources and Activities

Lessons and Activities

Lesson plans and activity ideas for history teachers. Our range of resources for history teachers at KS2, KS3, GCSE and A-Level history. Each lesson provides detail, sources and a range of questions or discussion points. Some have accompanying worksheets or PowerPoint presentations, others do not need them. 

History Classroom Posters (Pack 1)

History Classroom Posters (Pack 2)

Bundle – Both of the above at a special offer price

Using Source Material

How to Evaluate a Historical Source

Lindow Man: How did Pete Marsh Die?

Primary History Resources: Key Stage 2

Online Training. Our Primary CPD for Key Stage 2 History allows you access to a wide range of support materials that you can access anytime, anywhere, with no end date. Covering assessment methods, teaching and learning, Development of Historical Enquiries, the Ofsted Framework, Local history, each of the National Curriculum topic areas and more… this course has been put together with History Rocks! It combines our experiences of dealing with all aspects of the curriculum in the classroom, as subject leaders, CPD providers and as Historical Association committee members.

Ancient Greek Medicine

The Greek God of Healing: Asclepius for KS2

Romans in Britain

Norman Conquest for Key Stages 2 and 3

Bayeux Tapestry Sequencing Activity

Domesday Book. Using Sources lesson . Aimed at Year 7, this is ideal as an introduction to sourcework. Contains everything needed for a one-off lesson.

The Feudal System .

Pupils learn about the way in which Feudal Society developed after the Norman Conquest. Containing PowerPoint and supporting materials.

Motte and Bailey Castles

What was a Motte and Bailey Castle? Why did the Normans build so many of them? This lesson provides learners with an understanding of the purpose and strengths of early Norman Castles. It can be used as part of a sequence of lessons on the Normanisation of England, or in a series of lessons on the development of castles and fortifications.

Norman Conquest Workbook

Covers the basics and can be used as a standalone resource, homework pack or for cover lessons.

Black History and the First World War

Medieval England for Key Stage 3

The Crusades

Causes of the Peasants Revolt

Medieval Crime and Punishment

Including a PowerPoint, this lesson explores a variety of crimes, punishments and means of policing in the medieval era. Can be used to draw on pupils KS2 knowledge, or to develop an awareness of continuity and change.

King John: an assessment

Is John’s reputation deserved? This lesson guides pupils through different interpretations of King John’s reign. It structures their thoughts and responses whilst expecting them to support assertions with evidence.

The Slave Trade

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

These activities break down the main teaching points of the trade in Slaves. It addresses the way in which triangular trade worked. It introduces some imagery associated with the abolition movements. Comparisons between the 18th century and the modern day are included, to allow discussion about continuity and change, human rights and what freedom is

World War Two

D Day decision-making activity

Places pupils in the role of Allied High Command and asks them to consider the various options available when planning to open up a Western Front following the entry into the war of the United States. Online activity that can be used alongside other resources. Has been used with Primary classes and in Secondary at KS3, GCSE and A-Level.

D Day Infographic

The First World War

Global Warfare

How ‘Global’ was the First World War? This lesson introduces pupils to the war from the perspective of it being a world war. Students quickly learn about the interrelationship between different parts of the word and the manner in which colonialism and Imperialism continued to fuel the fighting.

Western Front – Would you have made a good officer?

Interactive Exercise. One of our oldest activities. A decision-making game about leadership on the front lines. It is really good at getting pupils to realise that the front lines were not as simple as they may appear to be. Best used on Desktop/Laptops.

Conscription – Key Stage 3 / GCSE

3 levels of difficulty included in this worksheet on Conscription in the First World War.

Kitchener’s Recruitment Drive 

Germany 1919-39. A study of Weimar and pre-war Nazi Germany at GCSE

Origins of the Weimar Republic

The Role of the SA. 

Source analysis lesson. Exploring a famous political cartoon, breaking it down into easy to digest pieces and structuring pupil responses to exam-style questions.

Revision notes on Weimar and Nazi Germany. 

Hitler’s Rise to Power – Revision Chart

Rise of Hitler

Rise of the Nazi Party: Themes and Factors

Life in Nazi Germany – Revision Chart

United States of America 1919-42 for GCSE History

The Great Depression

Health and Medicine through Time for GCSE History

Medical Monopoly: The Ancient World

Medieval Medicine: Simulation Activity

A challenging but highly engaging activity that places your class at the heart of the Medieval Medical World. Pupils take on roles as different types of care providers, or patients from different backgrounds. Moving around the medical marketplace they encounter all manner of beliefs and a few costly roadblocks to their preferred elixir! All resources provided. Featured in Teaching History and Recommended by TES .

Medicine in the Renaissance

Medical Change in the Renaissance

Renaissance -Timeline activity for Revision

William Harvey

Andreas Vesalius

Edward Jenner and the Smallpox vaccine.

This lesson examines source material on the first vaccine. It develops source evaluation skills and reinforces their understanding of views at the time.

The Fight Against Infectious Disease

Hippocrates and Clinical Observation

Great Plaque of London

Troubles in Northern Ireland – GCSE

Easter Rising 1919

Consequences of the Easter Rising

Partition of Ireland

The Troubles: 1968

Bloody Sunday 1972

Powerpoint based lesson on Bloody Sunday

Wars of the Roses lessons for A-Level History

A harvest of heads

Explore the personality of Henry 6th through a lesson that is designed to develop your classes understanding of the period. This Context-driven approach enables a breadth of understanding about the intricacies of the court.

Factions and Feuds

This lesson looks at the structure of Government in Henry’s Minority and Majority. From here it explores the way in which decision making was conducted. Sources are introduced to show students some of the reasons why factions began to develop and encourages them to think about how this may affect the structures of government.

A Paper Crown

What went wrong for Richard, 3rd Duke of York? This lesson explores the tumultuous events of 1459/60. Students will gain an awareness of the various pressures upon both factions at the time.

The Personality of King Henry VI

What did Henry’s contemporaries think of him? This lesson examines a series of sources to develop an awareness of different views and the reasons why subjects and other commentators interpreted him so differently. Exam-style questioning is included with tips for students.

How did Edward IV gain the crown in 1461? 

In this A-Level lesson, students explore the events from the death of Richard of York through to the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Towton. How was Edward able to turn a dire situation around so quickly?

Consolidating Power: The Edward IV Roll

This lesson takes a close look at the imagery in the Edward IV roll. It is designed to help students better understand the importance of legitimacy in the context of the day.

The ‘She-Wolf of France’: Is this a fair assessment of Margaret of Anjou?

Margaret of Anjou’s role in the build-up to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses and its early stages is subject to much debate. Shakespeare’s caricature of her being a ‘She-Wolf’ remains a popular view. But how accurate is this assessment of Henry VI’s wife and Queen? This lesson explores the evidence.

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville: Impact of their marriage on the State

The secret marriage of King Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville was both unexpected and unwanted by many in the Council. Yet, it had to be accepted. The implications were large at court and ultimately throughout the country. In this A-Level lesson, we examine the consequences of various aspects of changes that the marriage resulted in.

Historiography of the Wars of the Roses . An introduction for A-Level students

This lesson provides students with an overview of the way in which historians views about the wars of the roses have changed over the years. This will help them to understand the various sources that are presented over their studies within context. This can lead to further exploration and analysis of historians changing views and the debates that have surrounded them.

Consummate Politician? Assessing Warwick the Kingmaker

Was Warwick the Kingmaker a consummate politician? This A-Level History exercise assesses his methods and motives c1450 to 1471.

Richard III: An extensive overview

A series of activities covering Richard’s adult life. A presentation provides an overarching chronology of his involvement in politics under the reign of Edward IV, explores the manner in which he became King in 1483, looks into his brief reign and finally addresses the invasion of Henry Tudor and Richard’s defeat and death at Bosworth.

A-Level and GCSE: Russia c1900-1953

Russian Empire: The Big Picture

Ruling Russia: Russian Government c1900

Revolution of 1905

February Revolution Tag Cloud

Short Term Causes of the Russian Revolution

Russian Revolution – Overview Video 

Russian Revolution – Video for use as a Starter Activity

Russian Revolution: Continuity and Change

Stalin’s Rise to Power – Revision

A Level Politics

Thomas Hobbes: Social Contract

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A purposeful timeline display in and across Key Stage 2

Setting the scene:.

Chronology is a dominant feature of the primary National Curriculum for history (NC2014). There is a clear link from Ofsted’s report ‘History for All’ in 2011 to the NC2014 (let’s ignore the monstrosity that was draft 1 shall we!). A couple of key phrases stand out: “Although pupils in primary schools generally had good knowledge of particular topics and episodes in history, their chronological understanding and their ability to make links across the knowledge they had gained were weaker .” (p5) This, anecdotally, is something many schools that I work with say is a difficulty for their children. A recommendation from History for All was that: “…pupils in primary schools experience history as a coherent subject which develops their knowledge, thinking and understanding, especially their chronological understanding ,” (p7). The influence of this is evident across the curriculum’s purpose of study, aims and subject content. If you haven’t already read them, make sure you do because they explain so much more about how we teach history and the breadth beyond toys, Romans or the Great Fire of London.

How it impacted my teaching of chronology:

Teaching it in two clear ways: the overall narrative or wider history to reinforce how the timelines fit together to form the ‘complete’ narrative. This and the internal narrative of each period of history which is more detailed and sets out the narrative to be taught across that half-term. This was influenced by the glorious work of Ian Dawson who said at the first Northern History Forum (now called the Yorkshire History Forum) to use the language of story when teaching chronology. He used the words to the effect of, “We are learning the story of the Romans. We don’t have time to learn the full story and will only get chance to look at a couple of phrases.” As I now know, this uses the same principles as Willingham showing that the human brain privileges story. The implication for my teaching is that I use narrative extensively as an idea within hi story … I mean, the word is right there!

Ensuring chronology is just not just a quick tick box activity completed once at the start of the topic to tick that objective off the progression of skills spreadsheet (DON’T get me started on assessment spreadsheets for primary foundation subjects). But rather a fundamental part of the teaching sequence for adding new, linking to existing and reinforcing the core knowledge associated with the enquiry question. “Chronology is a key organising tool for developing pupils’ understanding of history and as a ‘concept’ within the history curriculum.” (Phillips, 2008 cited here ) From this, we can conclude that ‘chronology’ is an ongoing process in students learning of history and plays an important role in the both the teaching and learning of history. This is not something I was aware of when I started teaching.

Finally, teaching children how to interpret the timelines had to be a fundamental building block during lessons alongside the substantive knowledge which they presented. There is such a direct link to maths and therefore it was helpful to consider the presentation and complexity of the data. I’ve annotated two of the display pictures I was tagged in (with kind permission from the teachers) to explain this below.

Materials to use:

If you ever have to endure CPD from me around chronology, you’ll come to know my love of using border paper for timeline construction – it’s the perfect material and schools have it in abundance! All of the following points can be done with border paper and either on the floor for more active engagement and exploration or as a display on the wall to refer to and build on. I am absolutely aware that schools use toilet paper for the same purpose, using each sheet as an increment on the scale but, personal preference sends me to border paper.

Building the timeline:

I will always advocate for building BIIIIIIG timelines and ensuring children have chance to interact with them to fully engage with the information it presents. This blog by my great mentor in all things history (@historyprimary) sums it up. The approach mirrors the annotations of the timeline display so should hopefully help:

research history ks2

1) Numbered scale – by adding a numbered scale, we can make our timelines more precise, easier to construct and interpret. A common pitfall is the labelling of year 0. Because of the way we count centuries, there is no year 0 and we move from 1 BC/BCE to AD/CE 1. The clear and precise scale is a requirement for the subsequent points to work. For the majority of primary classes, I construct and label the scale so the focus is on the timeline bars and making the links between them. The exception was a Year 6 class who I had built timelines with before. They were really familiar with the process so it was a step for them to take control over. We built the timeline across the hall and used post-its labelled with centuries as markers. I always put an arrow on my scale to indicate time expands far further into the past than we could every show on a display/in a lesson. It also forms a key teaching point to ensure the enormous duration of the Palaeolithic isn’t misunderstood.

2) Periodisation, intervals and duration – We teach periods of history across Key Stage 2. This is a core concept to cover when we introduce history to Year 3. The fact that we are studying history across hundreds or potentially even millions of years makes and including the lives of a range of people, a multitude of events etc makes it a more challenging concept than in Key Stage 1. To that end, the overall narrative timeline shows simple bars to ensure the focus is on the narrative. The differing duration is simpler to identify because of the accurate scale and bar sizes (similar to a bar model/graph in maths). For British history, where the periods that we teach flow naturally, children can identify that there may be intervals between periods (end of Roman Britain in 410 AD to the alleged arrival of Hengist and Horsa in AD 450).

3) Relative position on the overall narrative – When teaching the achievements of Ancient Greece, we mainly focus on the classical period. This is a smaller part of the narrative of the history of Greece so appears with a small duration on the timeline. We can then have a second timeline with a much smaller scale to interpret that period of time with more precision and depth. The principle is that we can highlight the overall narrative before ‘zooming in’ on one smaller part. I use the phrase zooming in as the children are familiar with the action on iPads etc. If you really must, you can even have a gimmicked sound or action… not for me mind you!

4) Bars for periods or a duration of time and arrows for single events or ‘points’ – this was something that took me a couple of attempts to get right when teaching the internal narrative. I was used to building the timelines, talking about periodisation, duration and intervals but the display didn’t really represent them effectively enough. I tried arrows for start and end points but didn’t feel the connection was strong enough. As such, the arrow for points and bars for duration become my choice. It allows me to distinguish between a singular event and a change over time. This links to the accompanying disciplinary understanding of continuity and change.

For example:

– I’d mark Boudicca’s revolt in AD60 – 61 as a point (marked with an arrow) because it’s a short duration of time and, in effect, one point on the overall timeline even though it covers more than one year.

– the construction of around 8,000 miles of road would be a bar because it was a change that took place across the first 60 years or so of the period. It’s also an effective way of summarising a group of linked events. On the second example shown, it’s harder to see the duration of the First World war with two strings when it’s so close to the Treaty of Versailles being signed.

research history ks2

5) Link between British and world history using the scale to support – one of the most important NC2014 aims is number 6 which is located on a different page to the other 5 so could easily be missed. It states: “gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history ; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales .” Because of this, I always depict British and world history separately to ensure the concurrence is clear and make the connections can be established clearly. A natural boundary would be the scale and having British history above and world history below. Then, as the overall narrative is constructed, the concurrent periods can be established, discussed and any interactions considered. Although not literally related to the timeline display, having a world map established to make those links is an absolute must. The two disciplines are absolutely linked when establishing the links between British and world history.

What to include on the overall narrative?

What should I put on my overall narrative is an important question to consider? It depends on a number of variables so the decision is more nuanced than choice a or b (that’s surely the narrative of teaching history…) so this hopefully covers a range of options. For any approach, it’s important to consider how to reinforce which periods of history interacted. The way in which I show this is with an overlap. In Key Stage 2, these would be:

– The British iron age and Roman Britain period

– The Anglo-Saxon and Viking conflict

– The expansion of the Roman empire, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

– The Viking trade contact with the Abbasid Caliphate (Early Islamic history)

A whole school chronology display – in this case, it needs to represent everything that’s taught across Key Stage 2 history. The teaching would focus on which periods of history the children are already aware of and linking them to the knew knowledge taught.

A timeline in each class (my preferred option) – here, we can limit the amount of information based on what is taught. I would suggest having the LKS2 curriculum in both Year 3 and 4 to begin to build the narrative. The complete curriculum would be displayed in UKS2. The teaching in Year 3 would focus on establishing what a period of history is and how they form a narrative. Making links between what was taught in Year 3 and the continued narrative in 4. My logic here is based upon the fact that only having two history periods taught would result in a largely empty timeline and therefore harder to introduce the concept of periodisation and how the periods form the narrative. Year 4 could then add further depth and ensure links are established and reinforced. I would also consider what information must be presented on the overall narrative so as to reduce the unnecessary cognitive load on children. On the overall narrative, my preference is just the periods of history.

What to include on the internal narrative?

The purpose of my timelines of the internal narrative is to set out the context of what is to be taught during the subsequent enquiry/enquiries. It is representing a much smaller duration of time than the overall narrative and can be more detailed to show specific events, people etc. Using the timeline as an organisational tool helps to make those important links because the information is presented in context.

Once again, the key people, events and changes to be taught are what I would place on the timeline. If you aren’t teaching about something, why is it on your timeline? I’ve included a screenshot of a PPT example where all of the content ties directly to the taught lessons in history or the wider curriculum. The visual depiction allows me to break the Roman Britain period into three phases. First, the actual invasions, conquest and gaining control (although there were rebellions and raids throughout the period). Then, during the consolidation of control with Hadrian’s Wall being built alongside villas etc being built. Finally, post 250AD, the raids from the Picts et al was a feature of the weakening grip Rome had on its empire at large.

research history ks2

The chronology display as part of the teaching sequence

Every time a lesson is taught, the position on the internal narrative is reinforced and linked to what the children already know. If there’s a substantive link between this and a previous period studied, this can explored using the overall narrative timeline. If your school uses a working wall approach to displays, greater depth of information can be added with annotated pieces of work, collaborative tasks etc.

Hopefully what came from this blog is an urge to teach more chronology! – Teach it explicitly at the start of topics, reinforce the overall narrative and where the new period sits.

– Add introductory context by constructing the internal narrative. Be mindful to put key facts on and not overdo it!

– Reinforce the internal narrative throughout each topic and make links where appropriate.

– The importance with teaching history with a sense of narrative. The overall narrative to show how the periods of history we teach fit together, flow concurrently and how civilisations interacted with each other.

– Understanding the composite parts of a timeline so it’s more than just a random sequence with no context.


Understanding and Teaching Primary History by James Percival pp34 – 53 in particular

Mastering Primary History by Karin Doull , Christopher Russell and Alison Hales

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Lessons and resources for primary history

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Ancient Greece Lessons Pack

A complete 10-lesson history unit of work for Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11), with detailed lesson plans, Powerpoint slides, teacher guides and printable activity sheets.

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FREE: 'Who were the Ancient Greeks?' Lesson

A free lesson introducing the Ancient Greeks, including powerpoint, lesson plan and pupil resources

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Greek Myths Teacher Pack

A book and Read & Respond Guide for teachers planning around an illustrated Greek Myths collection.

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1. Who were the Ancient Greeks? (FREE)

2. Why Were Athens and Sparta so different?

2. Why Were Athens and Sparta so different?

4. Why did a small Greek army win the Battle of Marathon?

4. Why did a small Greek army win the Battle of Marathon?

3. What was Alexander the Great’s impact on the Greek empire?

3. What was Alexander the Great’s impact on the Greek empire?

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Blog Ofsted: schools and further education & skills (FES)

History in outstanding primary schools 

primary school children writing in workbooks

Tim Jenner HMI, Ofsted’s subject lead for history, talks about the findings from our history subject inspections.  

History is vital  to a rich and broad primary education.  It helps pupils to make sense of the  present as well as the past , and  to appreciate the complexity and diversity of human  societies and development.   

Between January and March 2020,  we inspected  the quality of history education in 24 primary schools with an outstanding judg e ment.  We  spoke to leaders and teachers about the history curriculum , visited  lessons, looked at pupils’ work and  spoke to  pupils.  

In  all of  the schools we visited,  pupils enjoyed learning about the past.  It was great to see the  breadth of the history curriculum across these schools ,  with pupils studying a wide range of topics from the history of Britain  and  the wider world.  In almost  all of  the schools, the  national curriculum  was used as the basis for  what pupils were taught.   

Building blocks of progress

We saw some excellent examples  of  schools  that   had carefully considered the building blocks of progress in his tory, identifying knowledge  that   was essential to pupils’ understanding of new material.  Several schools paid lots of attention to building up pupils’ knowledge of substantive concepts , such as  empire, tax, trade and invasion.  They are crucial components of pupils’ comprehension of new material because they are abstract ideas ,  and therefore difficult to grasp ,  but  are  also used very commonly in history.  In a number of schools ,  we were impressed by the range and security of pupils ’  knowledge of some of these concepts . Schools secured these by using appropriately challenging vocabulary in lessons, explicitly teaching these concepts, using them regularly in context and ,  sometimes ,  by assessing pupil s’  knowledge of identified concepts.  

In  some  schools ,  w e were also impressed with pupils’ chronological knowledge.  This is pupils’ knowledge of broad developments and historical periods, and their ‘mental timeline’ of the past.   This knowledge supports pupils to place their learning in context both in history and across  other  subjects.  In a number of schools ,  this  knowledge  was regularly revisited and assessed,  and pupils  were securing historical knowledge as coherent narratives.   Inspectors were pleased to hear pupils confidently  discussing broader developments across the periods they had  studied, and   drawing on secure and well-organised knowledge of events and periods.  

Support for pupils with  special educational needs and/or disabilities ( SEND )  was a strength in all of the schools we visited.  All of these schools balanced their ambition for all pupils to access the full history curriculum with a  clear understanding of the  needs of their pupils. Pupils were  given careful individual and/or group support to secure the knowledge they needed to  continue to access  content in history.   

Primary school children writing in books

Areas for improvement

There were areas of weakness in some of the schools visited.  Pupil knowledge was less secure in those schools where leaders and teachers had not identified  the  knowledge  that  was most important for pupils to learn and remember.  Often, these schools did not assess pupils’ knowledge of the  history content they had learned and therefore were not able to ensure  that  all pupils were making progress in their knowledge  of history .  In some of these schools,  not enough priority was given to pupils building their historical knowledge. Inspectors saw some  lesson activities  that  were not well-designed to secure pupils’ knowledge . These included anachronistic  writing tasks ,  such as  writing  a newspaper report on the Viking invasions  of England ,  and   activities   that  distracted  from the history content  pupils needed to learn .  

We also saw generally weaker practice  in the teaching of disciplinary knowledge. This is knowledge of how historians study the past and construct accounts. In most schools, pupils ’  knowledge in this area was not secure.  We saw a lot of  teaching  that  encouraged misconceptions about the discipline of history.  Often ,  this was because  pupils were asked to make complex historical judg e ments without enough knowledge to support these.  In other cases,   the way  historians analyse the past  was  misrepresented. For example, pupils were taught to label sources as either ‘reliable’ or ‘unreliable’  using simplistic criteria .   

In many schools,   historical concepts  w ere  poorly understood. Teach ing   sometimes  focused on pupils making th e ir own  judg e ments about significance, rather than learning about how others have attributed significance to topics or events.  Similarly, pupils were  encouraged to ‘come up with their own  interpretations ’ about the past  without enough knowledge to do  so  successfully ,  rather than  learning about how and why historians construct different interpretations of the past.   

Teacher subject knowledge seemed to be an important factor in the quality of education in this area , but also across history in general .  S chools  that   had support from subject-specialists – whether from  school  staff, a multi-academy trust or local authority, or through subject associations – often had higher-quality plans in place.  


These inspections were  carried out   under section 8 of the Education Act 2005 and in accordance with Ofsted's published procedures for a no formal designation inspection of schools. The inspections were carried out to enable Her Majesty's Chief Inspector to better understand the quality of education in specific subjects provided by outstanding primary schools.  Twenty-four   history inspections were carried out between November 2019 and March 2020.   

As these inspections only looked into one subject, inspectors were not expected to evaluate or infer the quality of education in the school. This is because the  e ducation  i nspection  f ramework  methodology requires a minimum of three subjects to be reviewed  in order to  draw out systemic features. This was not the purpose of these inspections.  

Schools inspected  

The full detail of the findings of each inspection are published on Ofsted’s  reports website.  

Balksbury  Infant School, Andover  

Barnfield Primary School, Edgware  

Callis  Grange Nursery and Infant School, Broadstairs  

Coit  Primary School, Sheffield  

Gillespie Primary School, London  

Greenfield  CofE  VC Lower School, Greenfield  

Hampton Hargate Primary School, Peterborough  

Histon  and  Impington  Junior School,  Histon  

Horndean  Infant School,  Horndean  

Kempston Rural Primary School, Kempston  

Mayflower Academy, Plymouth  

Milford-on-Sea Church of England Primary School, Lymington  

Rodmersham  School, Sittingbourne  

Seaton  Primary School, Seaton  

Shoreditch Park Primary School, London   

St Aidan's Voluntary Controlled Primary School, London  

St Clement Danes  CofE  Primary School, London  

St Francis Church of England Primary School, Eastleigh  

St John's Church of England Primary School, Maidstone  

St Joseph's Catholic Primary and Nursery School, Burnham-on-Sea  

St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School, London  

St Thomas' Church of England Infant School, Newberry  

Wigton Moor Primary School, Leeds  

William Ford  CofE  Junior School, Dagenham  

You can follow Ofsted  on Twitter .

Sharing and comments

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Comment by Phil Unsworth posted on 27 April 2021

An extremely well written, clear and concise report in which the findings could be extrapolated for many other foundation subjects.

Comment by External Relations posted on 27 April 2021

Thanks, we're glad that you found the blog helpful.

Comment by Jane Warwick posted on 27 April 2021

Very helpful report. Clear with useful examples.

Is this one of the ‘subject reports’ we are told Ofsted will issue from April? Will other subjects appear as blogs?

Comment by @TeacherToolkit posted on 27 April 2021

Is there any examples of where 'outstanding history' is being taught in schools judged Requires Improvement?

Comment by External Relations posted on 04 May 2021

Thanks Jane, we're glad you find the blog helpful. This is a separate piece of work to the subject reports. We'll be publishing two more blogs in this series, on languages and geography.

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Research review series: history

A review of research into factors that influence the quality of history education in schools in England.

Applies to England

In this report, we have:

  • outlined the national context in relation to history
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Study finds political beliefs shape the way the public interprets history

by City University London

election campaign

Research shows that when exploring attitudes in the U.S., UK, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, and Poland—countries with different economies, cultures and political regimes (past and present)—right- compared to left-wing supporters evaluated the past more positively.

The data reveal that, in part, this occurs because right-wing supporters are more nostalgic about tradition. While the right looked more favorably to the past, in the U.S. and Poland (and potentially in the UK too), the left was more optimistic about what humanity can potentially achieve in the future. Though these observations indicate that political opinions matter when people consider the past and the future, the study found no difference in how people on the right versus left evaluate the present.

Published in the journal Political Psychology , the paper shows that how history is interpreted is central not only to political elites but also to lay people reporting divergent political opinions. These findings are particularly relevant today, given the number of prominent election campaigns taking place this year.

Politics and history

When looking at classical political texts, one realizes that the way history is interpreted is one of the major aspects. Marxism, for example, offers a view of history where, following original communism characterizing ancient hunter-gatherer societies, new economic systems replace old ones, with class conflict being common to all. This process is believed to culminate in a new age of communism, where economic scarcity is finally overcome and class conflict ends.

As another example, central to many classical liberal writings is the idea that, before civilization emerged, mankind lived in a state of nature where individuals survived without being part of an institutionalized community. History is central to fascist ideology too, where people are mobilized towards a struggle to recreate a mythical past during which the folk expressed all its power and glory.

As these examples illustrate, the pivotal role of history in the thinking of political elites is well established. This raises the following question: is history interpreted differently also by laypeople with divergent political opinions?

Assessing history

To understand more about how history is assessed by lay people reporting different political orientations, Dr. Francesco Rigoli, Reader in the Department of Psychology at City, conducted an online study with 1,200 participants from the U.S., the UK, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, and Poland where, in addition to reporting their positioning on a left-right political spectrum, participants evaluated the recent past (i.e., the period ranging from 1950 to 2000), the present, and the near future (i.e., society in 25 years).

The data show that, in all countries, right- compared to left-wing supporters evaluated the past as more positive. To elucidate this effect, a second study manipulated the appraisal of the past between groups, but found that this did not influence participants' political ideas.

A third study manipulated the prominence of political opinions between groups. Here, the high-prominence group displayed a stronger link between political ideas and evaluation of the past, indicating that embracing certain political opinions encourages a specific interpretation of the past.

Exploring the factors mediating this effect, one last study found that nostalgia for tradition partially explains why right-wing supporters cherish the past more.

Dr. Rigoli said, "It is remarkable that the rhetoric employed by politicians often evokes images of the past or visions of the future, such as the recent slogans of Barack Obama ('Yes we can') and Donald Trump ('Let's make America great again'). I wanted to explore whether these messages resonate with the general public by exploring whether people on the right of the political spectrum appraise the past, present, and future differently from people on the left.

"My observations indicate that a better appraisal of the past distinguishes the right from the left, an effect evident in all nations and thus reflecting a general phenomenon. Moreover, the data suggest that this does not arise because people with a better opinion about the past are attracted towards the right, but rather because the right-wing ideology provides a framework to interpret the past as being a better age.

"This suggests that nostalgia for tradition might mediate this effect, at least partially: people on the right report a longing for tradition, for hierarchical order, and for family connections, which they attribute to the recent past.

"The analyses also reveal that left-wing supporters believe that human actions can make a difference: their opinion is that, if appropriate choices are made, the future can improve substantially. However, the left's optimism was evident only in the U.S., Poland and possibly the UK, indicating that this is not a general phenomenon.

"These observations may help to clarify why people on the right often resist change: this may occur not much because they like the present, but, rather, because they like the past and they may view change as being a further step away from the past."

Provided by City University London

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Klarman Fellow: Digital media connects people in a polarized world

Klarman Fellows

By | Kate Blackwood , A&S Communications

Every time Shiqi Lin traveled back home to China on breaks from college in the U.S., she was sure to pack two things: her phone and a sound recorder.

Armed with these digital tools, she would walk through teeming neighborhoods bustling with new construction to archive disappearing landscapes and interview people whose lives had been upended by China’s massive drive toward urbanization.

“I remember speaking with a lady who was 80 years old. During our oral history interview she burst into tears, tracing back her long history, and I wondered, what does it mean for her that all the neighborhoods around her have been transformed into skyscrapers and shopping malls?” said Lin, a Klarman Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. “By the end of the conversation she thanked me – that was the moment I saw a strong human bond through our interview and the mediation of my sound recorder.”

Lin, who experienced China’s rapid changes herself growing up, feels drawn to document these events, but she’s become fascinated with forms of documentation, as well as content. She wants to better understand how cultural producers ­– such as filmmakers, writers and videographers – have created strong human bonds through their digital devices, as she experienced in her interview with the 80-year-old woman.

During her Klarman fellowship, Lin is examining how cultural producers in China have taken up literature, film, audio cultures and digital media to tell human stories since 2008, a time when China’s growth coincided with global economic, social and political tension. Situated at the intersection of media and politics, her research explores how critical media culture can push open new spaces for social participation and how new forms of media can bring people together, particularly at times of crisis and radical change.

Three people sit at a table, conversing

 “I take the contemporary Chinese world as an especially controversial but critical site for problematizing this quest of media and politics,” said Lin, adding that her project also includes how Chinese diasporas navigate the changing world and how digital cultures cross national borders.

Arnika Fuhrmann , professor of Asian studies (A&S) and Lin’s faculty co-host, describes Lin as “an emerging theorist of the present.”

“Producing highly innovative theorization in the fields of documentation and media studies and pathbreaking research in Chinese studies, Lin combines rigorous analytical skills and robust scholarly training with strong commitments to global social change,” Fuhrmann said.

Lin is writing a book about the rise and shift of documentary media in post-2008 Chinese media landscapes due to digitization. With smart phones, social media and apps like WeChat available to everyone, documentation has opened up beyond traditional cinema and nonfiction writing to include all the tools we carry with us, she said. Videos, podcasts, digital-first writing and other forms make for media collections that “go against the grain.”

Exploring these forms of documentation takes Lin in interdisciplinary directions, including Asian studies, media studies, literature and social theories.

Nick Admussen , associate professor of Asian studies (A&S) and Lin’s faculty co-host, said that “not only is Shiqi Lin active in many scholarly fields simultaneously, her talent for connection and collaboration is off the charts. Her current project on the idea of the document in contemporary China, which includes documentary film and remixes of all kinds, is relevant and meaningful to many different kinds of scholars and provides a meeting place for people from lots of different intellectual, cultural and ideological backgrounds.”

Admussen and Lin are co-organizing a workshop, “ Pandemic Archives: Media, Geopolitics, and Temporalities of Crisis ,” to take place at Cornell May 3-4. Bringing together scholars of fields ranging from Chinese cultural studies to media studies and Asian American studies, the workshop will focus on how the diverse cultural practices that flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic are now transforming into historical and aesthetic archives – with a particular focus on new sources of creativity across continents during this crisis period.

“The study of pandemic media has been central to me since the COVID outbreak in 2020,” Lin said. “My first piece about COVID documentation was published in March 2020, when the whole world was bracing for an uncertain future. Since that moment I’ve been committed to thinking about how digital media created spaces for people to come together while they were physically locked down, and how those new modes of media can negotiate political fractures.”

Lin said the collaborative and interdisciplinary intellectual community at Cornell provides an ideal environment for her multi-faceted research. She has formed connections with scholars across the East Asia Program, as well as media studies scholars from several departments such as Comparative Literature and Performing and Media Arts.

Within the Klarman Fellowship program, Lin enjoys the friendship between the fellows and the organic collaborations that form among those interested in China studies, media studies, literature and cross-cultural comparison.

“Cornell has all the pieces for me,” Lin said. “It’s an energizing community.”

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  • Published: 26 March 2024

Genetic similarity between relatives provides evidence on the presence and history of assortative mating

  • Hans Fredrik Sunde   ORCID: 1 , 2 ,
  • Nikolai Haahjem Eftedal   ORCID: 3 ,
  • Rosa Cheesman 3 ,
  • Elizabeth C. Corfield   ORCID: 4 , 5 ,
  • Thomas H. Kleppesto   ORCID: 1 , 6 ,
  • Anne Caroline Seierstad 3 ,
  • Eivind Ystrom   ORCID: 3 , 5 ,
  • Espen Moen Eilertsen   ORCID: 3 &
  • Fartein Ask Torvik   ORCID: 1 , 3  

Nature Communications volume  15 , Article number:  2641 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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  • Behavioural genetics
  • Human behaviour

Assortative mating – the non-random mating of individuals with similar traits – is known to increase trait-specific genetic variance and genetic similarity between relatives. However, empirical evidence is limited for many traits, and the implications hinge on whether assortative mating has started recently or many generations ago. Here we show theoretically and empirically that genetic similarity between relatives can provide evidence on the presence and history of assortative mating. First, we employed path analysis to understand how assortative mating affects genetic similarity between family members across generations, finding that similarity between distant relatives is more affected than close relatives. Next, we correlated polygenic indices of 47,135 co-parents from the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) and found genetic evidence of assortative mating in nine out of sixteen examined traits. The same traits showed elevated similarity between relatives, especially distant relatives. Six of the nine traits, including educational attainment, showed greater genetic variance among offspring, which is inconsistent with stable assortative mating over many generations. These results suggest an ongoing increase in familial similarity for these traits. The implications of this research extend to genetic methodology and the understanding of social and economic disparities.

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Assortative mating – the non-random pairing of individuals with similar traits – has long been a challenging topic of interest across various fields, including genetics 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , sociology 10 , 11 , 12 , and economics 13 , 14 . Consequences of assortative mating are wide-ranging, affecting topics such as genetic research methods 15 , 16 , relationship quality 10 , 17 , 18 , and the perpetuation of social and economic inequalities 10 , 13 , 14 . Although partner similarity have been documented for numerous characteristics 15 , 16 , 19 , it remains uncertain to what extent these similarities result from assortative mating or other processes, such as convergence over time 18 , 20 . Hence, the genetic consequences are unknown. Recent advances in data availability have enabled empirical investigation into the genetic consequences of assortative mating, wherein two are of key interest: First, partners should exhibit genetic similarity for assorted traits; and second, genetic similarity between relatives should increase for the assorted traits in subsequent generations 1 , 2 , 3 . In this paper, we aim to: 1) clarify the theoretical consequences of assortative mating on genetic similarity in extended families; 2) use polygenic indices to assess trait-specific genetic similarity between partners for a range of psychosocial, anthropometric, and health-related traits; 3) investigate whether these traits also exhibit increased genetic similarity among relatives; and 4) use the observed genetic similarity in mother-father-child trios to investigate the stability of assortative mating over many generations.

According to a recent meta-analysis, phenotypic correlations between partners exist for many traits 16 . The correlations are particularly high for cognitive and social traits like educational attainment (0.53) and political values (0.58), but moderate correlations exist for many diverse traits such as height (0.23), depression (0.14), and personality (0.08–0.21). Positive correlations between partners can arise from numerous processes, including convergence (partners becoming more alike over time due to mutual influence), common environments (partners originating from similar environments that affect their traits, but without influencing partner formation), and assortative mating (individuals tending to form partnerships with those having similar traits) 18 . If partner similarity arises because of assortative mating, then this will induce cross-partner correlations between factors that are associated with the trait. If the trait is heritable – which most traits are 21 , 22 – then partners will tend to carry genetic variants with similar effects on the trait. Genetic similarity between partners has been documented for some traits, including height and educational attainment 6 , 19 , 23 , 24 , 25 . For example, Yengo et al. 25 investigated genetic similarity in partners from the UK Biobank across 32 complex traits, but lack of statistical power left the question unresolved for most traits. Here, we remedy this by investigating partners in the Norwegian Mother, Father, and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) 26 , 27 , the largest cohort of confirmed partners with available genetic data ( n  = 47,135).

If assortative mating leads to genetic similarity between partners, then any resulting offspring are likely to inherit trait-specific genetic variants with similar effects from both parents. This has two important consequences: First, the trait-specific genetic variance in the population will increase because genetic variants with similar effects will tend to co-occur in the same individuals (i.e., variants will be in linkage disequilibrium) 3 , 8 , 28 , 29 . Second, trait-specific genetic similarity between relatives will increase because other family members are more likely to inherit genetic variants with similar effects 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 8 . With no assortative mating, genotypic correlations between family members for a trait should equal the coefficient of relationship. For example, full siblings (not including monozygotic twins) and parent-offspring pairs are first-degree relatives, with a coefficient of 0.50; aunt/uncle-niece/nephew and grandparent-grandchild pairs are second-degree relatives, with a coefficient of 0.25; and first cousins are third-degree relatives, with a coefficient of 0.125. Under assortative mating, however, the trait-specific genotypic correlations will be higher than the corresponding coefficients of relationship. Importantly, assortative mating only induces correlations between trait-associated loci and should not be confused with inbreeding, which induces correlations between all loci 30 . With successive generations of stable assortative mating, trait-specific genetic variance and genotypic correlations between relatives increase asymptotically towards an equilibrium, at which point they become constant across generations 3 , 8 , 28 , 29 . (See also Supplementary Note  2 ).

In this paper, we study the extent of assortative mating on a range of phenotypes and its historical consequences by using genetic data from extended family members. Our first aim is to derive the expected genotypic correlations between family members under various assumptions using path analysis. There are earlier theoretical papers that lays out the consequences of assortative mating on familial resemblance 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 31 . However: 1) they often focus on phenotypic rather than genotypic resemblance; 2) they don’t consider imperfectly measured genetic factors (i.e., polygenic indices); 3) they often do not consider gene-environment correlations; and 4) they either don’t consider disequilibrium or do so only under simplistic assumptions. We use path analysis because it offers a ready way to relax assumptions while making the theory accessible for non-specialists. In doing so, we describe a general formula for finding such correlations between any two extended family members under assortative mating at equilibrium. Our results imply that genetic similarity between distant relatives should be more affected by assortative mating than similarity between close relatives 1 , 3 , 32 . Our second aim is to document polygenic index correlations for various traits among partners in MoBa 26 , 27 . We find genetic evidence of assortative mating for nine out of sixteen investigated traits. Our third aim is to investigate whether genetic similarity between relatives was increased as predicted for these traits. We find that polygenic index correlations among relatives was increased in a way that broadly corresponded to the theoretical expectations. Trait-specific genetic similarity between partners and elevated genetic similarity between relatives indicate that many of the previously observed phenotypic correlations are partly attributable to assortative mating. Our fourth aim is to use mother-father-child trios to test whether the observations were consistent with equilibrium. Although some traits did not significantly deviate from equilibrium expectations, psychosocial traits like education attainment did. This would imply that that the genetic variance and genetic similarity between relatives for these traits are still increasing across generations.

Figure  1 shows a theoretical model of similarity in extended families in the presence of assortative mating at intergenerational equilibrium. The model includes eight individuals ( \(i\) ) in three generations ( \(t\) ): two partners in the first generation, their two children in the second generation (who are each other’s full sibling) along with their respective partners, and two children in the third generation (who are each other’s first cousin). The phenotype that is assorted on is denoted with \({P}_{{it}}\) , whereas trait-associated additive genetic factors and unique environmental factors are denoted with \({A}_{{it}}\) and \({E}_{{it}}\) , respectively. The genotypic correlation between any two individuals is the sum of all valid chains of paths between their respective additive genetic factors and the value of a single chain is the product of its path coefficients 33 , 34 . Valid chains always begin by tracing backward (←) in relation to the direction of arrows, incorporating exactly one double-headed arrow (↔), after which tracing continues in a forward direction (→). Because the variables in Fig.  1 have unit variances, all valid chains connecting a variable to itself will sum to 1, allowing us to immediately trace in a forward direction (i.e., change direction at once). Copaths (—), which are arrowless paths representing associations arising from assortment 35 , link together valid chains per the rules above, forming longer, valid chains. For a more detailed description of path tracing rules involving copaths, see Balbona et al. 36 or Keller et al. 37 Path diagrams with relaxed assumptions (e.g., gene-environment correlations) are presented and discussed in Supplementary Notes  1 – 3 , whereas simulations validating our theoretical expectations are presented in Supplementary Notes  4 and 5 .

figure 1

Path diagram for a model of genetic similarity in extended families under phenotypic assortative mating at intergenerational equilibrium (i.e., equal variance across generations). The partner correlation attributable to assortment is denoted by \(\mu\) , the recombination variance is denoted by \({V}_{K}\) , and \(h\) and \(e\) denote the effect of additive genetic ( \({A}_{{it}}\) ) and environmental factors ( \({E}_{{it}}\) ), respectively, on the phenotype ( \({P}_{{it}}\) ) of individual \(i\) in generation \(t\) . All variables have unit variance, meaning \(e=\sqrt{1-{h}^{2}}\) and \({V}_{K}=\frac{1-\mu {h}^{2}}{2}\) . See the Supplementary Notes  1 – 3 for path diagrams with relaxed assumptions.

Expected genotypic correlations in the nuclear family

In Fig.  1 , there is only one valid chain between partners’ additive genetic factors (e.g., \({A}_{11}\)  ↔  \({A}_{21}\) ): \(h\times \mu \times h\) . The genotypic correlation between partners (denoted \({\rho }_{g}\) ) is thus the phenotypic correlation attributable to assortative mating, \(\mu\) , weighted by the trait’s heritability, \({h}^{2}\) :

Similarly, we can trace the valid chains between the additive genetic factors of a parent and their offspring (e.g., \({A}_{11}\)  ↔  \({A}_{22}\) ). There are two valid chains: one directly from parental genetic factors to offspring genetic factors, \(\frac{1}{2}\) , and one through the other parent via the assorted phenotype: \(h\times \mu \times h\times \frac{1}{2}\) . The genotypic correlation between parent and offspring is therefore \(\frac{1}{2}+\frac{h\mu h}{2}\) . With no assortative mating ( \(\mu=0\) ), this reduces to \(\frac{1}{2}\) . For siblings ( \({A}_{22}\)  ↔  \({A}_{32}\) ), there are four valid chains: \(\frac{1}{4}+\frac{1}{4}+\frac{h\mu h}{4}+\frac{h\mu h}{4}\) , which can be rearranged so that it equals the genotypic parent-offspring correlation. Because they are equal, we can define a common denotation ( \({r}_{{g}_{1}}\) ) for first-degree relatives. We can also substitute \(h\times \mu \times h\) with \({\rho }_{g}\) giving us:

In other words, the genotypic correlation between first-degree relatives, \({r}_{{g}_{1}},\) is increased by half the genotypic correlation between partners at equilibrium. (Note that the phenotypic correlation will not be the same for siblings and parent-offspring despite the same genotypic correlation 3 ). An advantage of using path analysis is how easy path diagrams are to expand. In the Supplementary Information, we detail how relaxing the assumption of equilibrium (Note 2) and including polygenic indices (Note 3) changes the correlations. During disequilibrium, the genotypic correlation between partners will still conform to Eq. ( 1 ), but the correlation between relatives will be less than what Eq. ( 2 ) would predict. For polygenic index correlations, one must include a term representing the imperfect correlation between the polygenic index and the true genetic factor. The polygenic index correlation between partners should therefore be:

where \({s}^{2}\) is the shared variance between the polygenic index and the true additive genetic factor (i.e., the genetic signal 19 ). Assortative mating will induce covariance between different loci (i.e., linkage disequilibrium), which is included in the genetic signal. This means that \(s\) may be larger than the correlation between the true direct effects and the polygenic index weights, and as such do not represent the accuracy of the polygenic index weights (see Supplementary Notes  3 , 4.4, and 5.6). If the genetic signal is low, the polygenic index correlation between partners will be biased towards zero compared to the true genotypic correlation 19 . For first-degree relatives, the equation becomes similarly altered, but because the error terms in the polygenic indices are correlated between relatives, the polygenic index correlation will be biased towards the coefficient of relatedness rather than zero:

Expected genotypic correlations in the extended family

The model in Fig.  1 has two properties that allow a general algorithm to find the expected genotypic correlation between any two members in extended families. First, all the chains that connect the genotypes of first-degree relatives can readily be continued without breaking path tracing rules. Second, all chains between the genotypes of any two related individuals are mediated sequentially through the genotypes of first-degree relatives. The genotypic correlation between \({k}^{{th}}\) -degree relatives, denoted \({r}_{{g}_{k}}\) , can thus be attained by raising the genotypic correlation between first-degree relatives to the degree of relatedness:

For example, the expected genotypic correlation between third-degree relatives like first cousins is \({(\frac{1+{\rho }_{g}}{2})}^{3}\) , which can be verified by manually tracing all valid chains between \({A}_{13}\) and \({A}_{23}\) in Fig.  1 . The genotypic correlation between non-blood relatives like in-laws, which will be non-zero under assortative mating, can be attained by linking together chains of \({r}_{{g}_{k}}\) and \({\rho }_{g}\) (for example, \({Corr}\left({A}_{12},{A}_{42}\right)={r}_{{g}_{1}}{\rho }_{g}^{2}\) ). As for polygenic index correlations, they can be approximated by replacing \({\rho }_{g}\) with \({\rho }_{{pgi}}\) in Eq. ( 5 ), although depending on the genetic signal, the true correlation between polygenic indices may be slightly higher (see Supplementary Note  3 ).

Figure  2 shows how assortative mating changes genotypic correlations between relatives at equilibrium. In Panels A and B, it is evident that assortative mating has a much larger effect on first cousins than full siblings. For example, for a trait where \(\mu=.50\) and \({h}^{2}=50\%\) (meaning \({\rho }_{g}=.25\) ), siblings (Panel A) will have a correlation of \({r}_{{g}_{1}}=.625\) whereas cousins (Panel B) will have a correlation of \({r}_{{g}_{3}}=.244\) , reflecting increases of 25% and 95%, respectively, compared to random mating. Panel C shows how this pattern extends to more distant relatives, with the genotypic correlation between second cousins 3.5 times higher than normal if \({\rho }_{g}=.25\) ( \({r}_{{g}_{5}}=.095\) vs . \(.031\) ). The larger relative increase is not merely because the correlations are smaller to begin with: Panel D shows that the largest absolute increase typically occurs in second-degree relatives like uncles/aunts and nephews/nieces.

figure 2

A , B The expected genotypic correlation ( \({r}_{g}\) ) at equilibrium between full siblings (i.e., first-degree relatives) and first cousins (i.e., third-degree relatives) under different combinations of assortment strengths ( \(\mu\) ) and heritabilities ( \({h}^{2}\) ). C , D The relative and absolute increase in genotypic correlation at equilibrium for various relatives and genotypic correlations between partners ( \({p}_{g}\) ).

The relatively greater increase in correlation between cousins is because third-degree relatives are affected by three assortment processes: Mother-father, uncle-aunt, and grandfather-grandmother partnerships are all correlated under assortative mating and contribute to the increased correlation (Fig.  1 ). For each additional degree of relatedness, there is an additional assortment process opening pathways for relatives to correlate. This pattern extends to unrelated individuals like siblings-in-laws, who would have a genotypic correlation of \({\rho }_{g}{r}_{{g}_{1}}=.157\) if \({\rho }_{g}=.25\) . It is evident that assortative mating has a relatively larger impact on the genotypic correlation between distant relatives compared to close relatives, and that heritable traits subject to strong assortment can produce significant genotypic correlations between family members who would otherwise be virtually uncorrelated.

Gene-environment correlations, shared environment, and dominance effects

One limitation with most earlier work, such as Fisher 1 , is that they assume a simplistic model where genetic similarity is the only cause of familial resemblance. In Supplementary Note  1 , we detail how genetic similarity between relatives are affected by dominance effects, shared environmental effects, and various forms of environmental transmission. If genetic and environmental transmission occur simultaneously, assortative mating will induce (and greatly increase) correlations between genetic and environmental factors. Such gene-environment correlations will, in this context, mimic higher heritability, leading to higher genotypic correlations between partners and thereby exacerbated genetic consequences of assortative mating. However, the relationship between the genotypic correlation between partners and the genotypic correlation between first-degree relatives will stay the same, meaning Eq. ( 2 ) and Eq. ( 4 ) can be used without making assumptions about gene-environment correlations or other sources of familial resemblance.

This is not the case for distant relatives. If there are substantial shared environmental effects, gene-environment correlations, or other sources of familial resemblance, the properties of Fig.  1 that allow the general algorithm in Eq. ( 5 ) are no longer present. This is because non-genetic causes of familial resemblance result in pathways between distant relatives that bypass the genotypes of intermediate relatives, thus increasing the true genotypic correlation to beyond what Eq. ( 5 ) would predict. Equation ( 5 ) still serves as a rough approximation, although any statistical model that relies on it could be biased if such extra pathways exist.

Empirical polygenic index correlations between partners and relatives

Figure  3 shows polygenic index correlations between family members for a range of traits. Nine out of sixteen traits were significantly correlated between partners (Panel A), including height (0.07), body mass index (0.04), intelligence (0.04), and educational attainment (0.14). When educational attainment was split into cognitive and non-cognitive factors (GWAS-by-subtraction 38 ), we find roughly equal partner correlations for both components. Psychiatric traits like ADHD, depression, cross-psychiatric disorder, and bipolar disorder exhibited no significant correlations between partners. Keep in mind that the correlations will be biased downwards to the extent the genetic signal is poor (ref. Equation ( 3 )).

figure 3

Polygenic index correlations (with 95% CIs) for various traits between various family members: ( A ) partners ( N  = 47,135), ( B ) full siblings ( N  = 22,575), ( C ) parent-offspring ( N  = 117,041), and ( D ) first cousins ( N  = 28,330). The vertical dashed lines are the expected correlation under random mating (i.e., the coefficient of relatedness), and the black crosses are the expected correlation at equilibrium given Eq. ( 5 ). Abbreviations: EA educational attainment, BMI body mass index, IQ intelligence, ADHD attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Correlations are also reported in Supplementary Table  17 .

Panels B, C, and D show polygenic index correlations between full siblings, parents and offspring, and first cousins, respectively (see Supplementary Fig.  29 for other family members). The vertical dashed lines are the expected correlations under random mating and the black crosses are the expected correlations at equilibrium given the partner correlation and Eq. ( 5 ). All traits with significant correlations between partners had significantly higher parent-offspring correlations than would be expected under random mating, and we observed similar patterns for other relatives. For example, the polygenic index correlation for educational attainment was 0.56 (instead of 0.50) between full siblings and 0.20 (instead of 0.125) between first cousins.

Testing intergenerational equilibrium

We fitted structural equation models using mother-father-child trios to see if a model constrained to equal variance across generations (i.e., equilibrium) resulted in significantly worse fit (see Supplementary Note  6 ). Six out of nine traits were significantly different from equilibrium. We also investigated two consequences of disequilibrium, namely greater variance in the offspring generation (Fig.  4A ) and smaller-than-expected parent-offspring correlations (Fig.  4B ). During disequilibrium, the ratio of offspring polygenic index variance to parental polygenic index variance should be positive: \({Q}_{{pgi}}=\frac{{Offspring\; Variance}}{{Parental\; Variance}}\) (see Supplementary Notes  2.1 and 3.3 ). However, this ratio is quite sensitive to the genetic signal of the polygenic index, and therefore provides limited information about the history of assortative mating beyond demonstrating disequilibrium. An alternative measure that is less sensitive to the genetic signal is the observed increase in polygenic index correlation as a percentage of the expected increase 19 : \({U}_{{pgi}}=\frac{{Observed\; Increase}}{{Expected\; Increase}}\) (see Supplementary Notes  2.3 and 3.4 ). This provides a measure of how close the trait is to equilibrium. By comparing \({U}_{{pgi}}\) to reference values under various heritabilities and assortment strengths, it is possible to infer the equivalent number of generations of stable assortative mating if starting from a random mating population. If the parental generation was the first generation to mate assortatively, we would expect \({U}_{{pgi}}\,\approx\, 70\%\) , while we would expect \({U}_{{pgi}}=100\%\) if the trait was in equilibrium.

figure 4

Parameter estimates (with 95% likelihood-based CIs) from structural equation models using mother-father-child trios (N = 87,896 families, 35,025 of which were complete). A Ratio of offspring polygenic index variance to parental polygenic index variance ( \({Q}_{{pgi}}\) , see Supplementary Note  2.1 ). A value above 1 would indicate that the variance is greater in the offspring generation compared to the parental generation, as expected during disequilibrium. B Observed increase in parent-offspring correlation compared to expected increase at equilibrium ( \({U}_{{pgi}}\) , see Supplementary Note  2.3 ). A value of about 70% would indicate that the parent generation was the first generation to assort on this trait, whereas 100% would indicate that the trait is in intergenerational equilibrium. Only traits with significant correlations between partners are shown. Shape corresponds to trait types in Fig.  3 , where circles are anthropometric traits and squares are psychosocial traits. Abbreviations: EA educational attainment, BMI body mass index, IQ intelligence.

Height did not deviate from equilibrium: There was no significant difference between the parental and offspring variance nor between the observed and expected correlations. The results for drinking and smoking behavior were also consistent with equilibrium, although the observed partner correlation was too small to make this test informative. Body mass index and other psychosocial traits, on the other hand, did deviate from equilibrium: For example, the polygenic index variance for educational attainment was 2.46% greater in the offspring generation compared to the parental generation. The true genetic variance ratio is likely much larger: For example, if the polygenic index captures one third of the true genetic factor ( \({s}^{2}=1/3\) ), then the true variance increase would be approximately 7.4% (see Supplementary Note  3.3 ). The parent-offspring polygenic index correlation was also slightly but significantly lower than expected at equilibrium ( \({U}_{{pgi}}=90\%\) , 95% CIs: \(87{-}93\%\) ). When we compared this to calculations of what the observed increase would have been after successive generations of assortative mating, we found that \({U}_{{pgi}}=90\%\) is equivalent to approximately three generations of stable assortment (see Supplementary Note  2.3 ). Results were similar for other psychosocial traits, albeit with somewhat shorter implied histories. Body mass index, on the other hand, had a parent-offspring polygenic index correlation that would imply that the parent generation was the first to mate assortatively ( \({U}_{{pgi}}=71\%\) , 95% CIs: \(60{-}81\%\) ). This would also explain why the sibling correlation – many of whom are in the parent generation – was not higher than expected under random mating.

In this study, our goal was to clarify the theoretical consequences of assortative mating on genetic similarity in extended families and assess empirical measures of genetic similarity to provide insights into the presence and history of assortative mating. We first employed path analysis to deduce the expected polygenic index correlations between relatives under assortative mating. We then presented empirical evidence that assortative mating is present for many traits, leading to significantly increased genetic similarity among relatives for those traits. Finally, we showed that – while assortative mating does not appear to be a recent phenomenon for most traits – genetic similarity is still increasing across generations for psychosocial traits. Here, we discuss the implications of our findings.

Our first aim was to clarify the theoretical consequences of assortative mating. One key finding is the stronger impact of assortative mating on genotypic correlations between more distant relatives. Although not a novel discovery – even Fisher mentioned it offhandedly in his seminal paper 1 – this effect has been largely overlooked in the literature (cf 32 .). This is despite important implications. A Swedish economics paper reported that nearly one-third of persistence in inequality across generations – traditionally attributable to parent-offspring relationships – is attributable to the extended family 39 . Assortative mating’s effects on similarity in extended families may be key to understanding these issues. Similar logic may also apply to environmentally mediated sources of similarity 40 . We also described how assortative mating can induce and increase gene-environment correlations, which mimic higher heritability and thereby exacerbate the genetic consequences of assortative mating – especially correlations between distant relatives.

The second aim of this study was to investigate which traits show genetic evidence of assortative mating. One key challenge when evaluating the pervasiveness of assortative mating is that phenotypic partner similarity can come about from multiple processes. Genotypic similarity, on the other hand, can more confidently be attributed to assortative mating. Most anthropometric traits and psychosocial traits had significant polygenic index correlations between partners. The largest correlation was for educational attainment (0.14), which adds to the growing list of evidence that variants associated with educational attainment are undergoing assortative mating 6 , 19 , 23 , 25 , 41 .

Psychiatric traits did not show evidence of assortative mating despite pervasive phenotypic partner correlations 15 , 16 . Similarly, a recent study found no genetic partner similarity on general risk for psychopathology (i.e., the “p-factor”) 42 . These findings seemingly contradict Torvik et al. 19 , who reported evidence of assortative mating on depression using a smaller subset of the same cohort. However, that paper used a structural equation model requiring both genetic and phenotypic data, and the polygenic index correlations reported in that paper match those we report here. This could indicate that phenotypic partner similarity in mental health is caused by processes other than assortative mating, such as convergence 20 (which was not modelled in Torvik et al. 19 ). On the other hand, the results could also be false negatives resulting from low-quality polygenic indices. The depression polygenic index only correlates \(.11\) with the phenotype in the current cohort 19 , meaning the expected partner correlation is only about \({.11}^{2}\times .14=.0017\) under direct assortment. A false negative is therefore highly likely. Reports of smaller but non-zero phenotypic correlations prior to partner formation suggests that both convergence and assortment play an important role 43 , 44 .

As highlighted in Eq. ( 3 ), the polygenic index correlation between partners should be the product of the phenotypic correlation attributable to assortative mating ( \(\mu\) ), the heritability ( \({h}^{2}\) ), and the genetic signal ( \({s}^{2}\) ). If the polygenic index fails to adequately measure the relevant genetic factors (meaning \({s}^{2}\,\approx\, 0\) ), for example due to lack of statistical power or other measurement issues 45 in the underlying genome-wide associations study (GWAS), then the polygenic index correlation will be biased towards zero. The highest observed correlations were for educational attainment and height, which are among the traits with the largest sample sizes in the underlying GWAS. A corollary is that the correlations reported here do not quantify the exact degree of assortative mating because it is confounded by the genetic signal of the polygenic index. Complicating inference further is that the genetic signal is itself increased under assortative mating.

Our third aim was to investigate whether relatives were more genetically similar for traits that exhibit evidence of assortative mating. Our findings broadly correspond to theoretical expectations: Traits with significant polygenic index correlations between partners showed increased similarity between relatives, whereas traits with no correlations between partners broadly exhibit patterns as expected under random mating. These empirical patterns demonstrate the theoretical expectations derived earlier, meaning we should expect distant relatives to be highly correlated for traits under strong assortment. The correlations reported here are underestimated by the quality of the polygenic index, meaning the true genotypic correlations between relatives are likely much larger. Our findings have at least two implications. First, genetic variants associated with traits undergoing assortment, such as educational attainment, cluster in extended families, thus increasing or maintaining societal stratification by families 39 (i.e. between-family variation); and second, genetic studies that unknowingly involve numerous distantly related individuals may be biased if the genotypic correlations between them are not negligible.

For educational attainment, the polygenic index correlations between first-degree relatives are lower than expected (indicating disequilibrium, see below) while correlations between third- and fourth-degree relatives are higher than expected. This is consistent with substantial gene-environment correlations for educational attainment 46 , 47 , 48 . In Supplementary Notes  1 and 5 , we showed theoretically and with simulations that correlations between higher-degree relatives (but not first-degree relatives) will be higher than expected given Eq. ( 5 ) if such gene-environment correlations are present.

Our fourth aim was to investigate the history of assortative mating. Our findings differed across traits: Height did not deviate from equilibrium expectations, whereas psychosocial traits such as educational attainment did. This was evident in both lower-than-expected parent-offspring polygenic index correlations and greater variance in the offspring generation. Whether or not a trait is in intergenerational equilibrium has important implications for the consequences of assortative mating because it decides whether differences are increasing across generations or merely maintained. We found that polygenic index variance was stable across generations for height (as well as for traits not undergoing assortative mating). However, psychosocial traits have greater variance in the offspring generation, implying that the traits are in disequilibrium and that assortative mating is currently leading to increased genetic differences in these traits. Although the non-genetic consequences may differ, assortative mating may therefore play a key role in explaining recent increases in inequality 10 , 13 .

Despite being in disequilibrium, the evidence does not suggest that the parental generation was the first to assort on educational attainment. Instead, it appears that the trait is quite near equilibrium. This would also explain the discrepancy between our conclusion and that in Torvik et al. 19 , who found no significant deviation from equilibrium using an earlier version of data from the same cohort. We primarily used variance differences across generations whereas Torvik et al. 19 compared the predicted and expected correlations between siblings and partners. Considering that the sibling correlation in Fig.  3B is significantly lower than expected given equilibrium, the change in result likely stem from an increase in statistical power, owing to more genotyped individuals available in the current sample, and further aided by the use of parent-offspring dyads instead of sibling dyads. In this paper, we estimate that the evidence for educational attainment corresponds to approximately three generations of stable, univariate assortative mating starting from a random mating population, but the exact history of assortment will be longer if the strength of assortment has varied over time or if the genotype-phenotype correlation increased for other reasons 49 .

Many genetic research methods assume random mating, but our findings suggest that such assumptions are unwarranted for many traits. Accounting for assortative mating poses its own challenges, as the genetic consequences and corresponding methods needed depend on whether assortative mating started recently or has reached intergenerational equilibrium. Studies on the genetics of educational attainment especially – or the many traits that correlate with educational attainment 50 – may therefore be biased unless this is properly accounted for. Twin and family studies that account for assortative mating typically assume equilibrium 37 . For example, Clark 51 uses equations that assume equilibrium when he claims that familial correlations in social class in the United Kingdom can be explained by genetic similarity alone. Conversely, Kong et al. 46 , who investigated genetic nurture effects of educational attainment in an Icelandic sample, assumed no assortment prior to their parental generation. Our findings imply that, for some traits, neither of these assumptions are valid. Although the patterns and history of assortment may be different across populations, future research should investigate how the conclusions from Kong et al. 46 and related papers depend on these assumptions 52 , 53 .

Newer genetic methods that can account for disequilibrium are being developed 36 , 54 . When these methods are impractical, the potential biases induced by different assumptions must be considered on a case-by-case and method-by-method basis. Different methods will be biased in different ways. For example, assortative mating leads to underestimated heritability in classical twin designs 37 , 55 and overestimated heritability in molecular designs 56 , with the corollary that the missing heritability problem may be larger than previously assumed 57 , 58 . Overall, researchers must carefully consider what impacts the presence and history of assortative mating would have on their results.

Despite our large sample size, our results are limited by low-quality polygenic indices, which results in lower partner correlations and consequently less power to detect assortative mating. This is amplified in tests of equilibrium, where smaller polygenic index correlations between partners result in less statistical power to detect deviations from equilibrium. Our tests for equilibrium are therefore less conclusive for traits with small polygenic index correlations, such as drinking and smoking behavior. Furthermore, assortative mating can bias GWAS estimates and thereby bias polygenic indices 59 . Although this should not affect our conclusions (see Supplementary Note  5.6 ), it does make it difficult to precisely quantify the strength of assortative mating on various traits and hence the magnitude of the genetic consequences.

Another concern is that our results may be confounded by population stratification 60 , where (1) the trait in question happens to be more common within certain strata (e.g., subcultures or geographical areas), (2) some genetic variants are randomly present at higher frequencies in these strata, and (3) individuals are more likely to mate within these strata. The combination of the first two phenomena would result in a spurious correlation between those genetic variants and the trait, and when coupled with the third phenomenon, similar spurious correlations could emerge between partners. While we controlled for 20 principal components in our analysis, which is the standard method for addressing stratification 61 , this approach may not fully account for this phenomenon 62 . However, the evidence we present aligns well with predictions given assortative mating. It is also not obvious how population stratification could explain increased variance in the offspring generation. Consequently, our results should be considered indicative of assortative mating until a more compelling alternative explanation is offered. Future theoretical work should investigate how the consequences of assortative mating and population stratification differ so that they can better be distinguished in future research.

There are several interesting research avenues that could follow from this work. First, there may be some selection bias in the cohort study our results are based on. Future work using population-wide phenotypic data might provide insights into how much this matters. Second, patterns of assortative mating are likely to vary between populations 63 , 64 , meaning that our empirical findings are not universally generalizable. Replicating these results in other populations will therefore be beneficial. Third, the approach we use here is agnostic as to which trait(s) the polygenic indices actually measure, and which phenotype(s) are being assorted upon. Future research may want to investigate what set of phenotypes mediate the polygenic index correlations between partners, as it may not always be attributable to the phenotype that the polygenic index supposedly measures. Furthermore, we have assumed assortment is unidimensional. Considering ample evidence of partner correlations across different traits 44 , 59 , future studies may want to extend this line of research to multidimensional assortment.

We used data from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) 26 . MoBa is a population-based pregnancy cohort study conducted by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. Participants were recruited from all over Norway from 1999 to 2008. The women consented to participation in 41% of the pregnancies. Blood samples were obtained from both parents during pregnancy and from mothers and children (umbilical cord) at birth 65 . The cohort includes approximately 114,500 children, 95,200 mothers and 75,200 fathers. The current study is based on version 12 of the quality-assured data files released for research in January 2019. The establishment of MoBa and initial data collection was based on a license from the Norwegian Data Protection Agency and approval from The Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics. The MoBa cohort is currently regulated by the Norwegian Health Registry Act. The current study was approved by The Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (2017/2205).

The sample included all individuals who had been genotyped and passed quality control 27 . This included 77,506 mothers (birth year: M = 1974.36, SD = 5.1), 53,274 fathers (birth year: M = 1972.27, SD = 5.6), and 71,525 children (49% female, birth year: M = 2005.31, SD = 1.94). For the correlations, the sample included 47,135 unique mother-father dyads (i.e., partners). As described in Corfield et al. 27 relatedness relationships in MoBa were inferred from genetic data by applying KING programs 66 to a subset of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with call rate < 98% and minor allele frequency (MAF) < 5%. KING accurately infers monozygotic twin or duplicate pairs (kinship coefficient > 0.3540), first-degree (parent-offspring, full siblings, dizygotic twin pairs; kinship coefficient range 0.1770–0.3540), second-degree (half siblings, grandparent-offspring, avuncular relationships; kinship coefficient range 0.0884–0.1770), and third-degree (first cousins; kinship coefficient range 0.0442–0.0884) relationships. This method identified 117,041 parent-offspring dyads, 22,575 full sibling dyads, 35,923 second-degree dyads (e.g., uncle-nephew), 28,330 third-degree dyads (e.g., first cousins), 9392 fourth-degree dyads, and 235,209 dyads of unrelated family members (e.g., in-laws, nephews–uncles’ spouses, partners, etc.,) where both members of the dyads had been genotyped and passed quality control.

To test equilibrium, we used all available mother-father-child trios from MoBa. We relied on trios to test equilibrium for the following reasons: 1) It allowed estimating the partner correlation and parent-offspring correlations in the same model; 2) it allowed us to include both the mother-offspring and father-offspring dyads simultaneously thus increasing statistical power; 3) it allowed us to estimate variances separately for the two generations; 4) there was no need to distinguish between correlations between relatives in the parent generation and in the offspring generation, as this is inherent in the design; 5) focusing on the nuclear family removes the need to make assumptions about the genetic signal or gene-environment correlations; and finally, 6) the sample in MoBa is inherently selected on parent-offspring dyads whereas the availability of other relatives is coincidental. Using other relatives, such as siblings, could therefore lead to stronger ascertainment bias. After randomly selecting one offspring from each nuclear family, we were able to construct a sample of 76,869 genotyped mothers, 51,549 genotyped fathers, and 66,751 genotyped offspring, resulting in a total of 87,896 incomplete and complete trios. Of these, 35,025 were complete trios, whereas 9889 included only partners, 23,177 included only mother-offspring dyads, and 4157 included only father-offspring dyads.

We used beta weights from large, publicly available up-to-date genome-wide association studies listed the Supplementary Note  8 . None of the used genome-wide association studies used data from MoBa. Polygenic indices were calculated using LDPred v.1 67 , a Bayesian approach that uses a prior on the expected polygenicity of a trait (assumed fraction of non-zero effect markers) and adjusts for linkage disequilibrium (LD) based on a reference panel to compute SNPs weights. Genotypes were coordinated with the summary statistics, with the number of overlapping SNPs reported in Supplementary Note  8 . LD adjustment was performed using the European subsample of the 1000 Genomes genotype data as LD reference panel 68 . The weights were estimated based on the heritability explained by the markers in the GWAS summary statistics and the assumed fraction of markers with non-zero effects. For each GWAS trait we created LDpred PGI with the –score command in plink2 69 . Prior to calculating correlations between partners and relatives, we residualised the polygenic indices by regressing out the first 20 principal components of genetic ancestry, as well as chip, imputation, and batch number.

The polygenic index correlations (and 95% confidence intervals) were attained by correlating the residualised polygenic indices between partners and relatives using cor.test in R 70 4.0.3. We tested whether the observed correlations were consistent with equilibrium by fitting structural equation models to data on mother-father-child trios, and testing whether a model constrained to equilibrium via equal variance across generations resulted in significantly worse fit. These models were estimated using OpenMx 71 2.20.6. We describe this procedure in more detail in the Supplementary Note  6 .

Reporting summary

Further information on research design is available in the  Nature Portfolio Reporting Summary linked to this article.

Data availability

Data from the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) used in this study are managed by the national health register holders in Norway (Norwegian Institute of Public Health) and can be made available to researchers, provided approval from the Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REC), compliance with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and approval from the data owners. The consent given by the participants does not open for storage of data on an individual level in repositories or journals. Researchers who want access to data sets for replication should apply through Access to data sets requires approval from The Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics in Norway and an agreement with MoBa.

Code availability

Scripts used for simulations are provided in Supplementary Software 1 and at . The summary statistics and reproducible code for the figures in this manuscript are also available at .

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This work is part of the REMENTA and PARMENT projects and was supported by the Research Council of Norway (#300668 and #334093, respectively, to F.A.T.). The data acquisition, project management, and researcher positions were supported by the Research Council of Norway (#262177 and #336078 to E.Y., in addition to #288083). E.Y. is funded by the European Union (Grant agreement #101045526 and #818425). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. E.C.C. is supported by the Research Council of Norway (#274611) and the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority (#2021045). The Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Cohort Study is supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services and the Ministry of Education and Research. We are grateful to all the participating families in Norway who take part in this on-going cohort study. We thank the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) for generating high-quality genomic data. This research is part of the HARVEST collaboration, supported by the Research Council of Norway (#229624). We also thank the NORMENT Centre for providing genotype data, funded by the Research Council of Norway (#223273), South East Norway Health Authorities and Stiftelsen Kristian Gerhard Jebsen. We further thank the Center for Diabetes Research, the University of Bergen for providing genotype funded by the ERC AdG project SELECTionPREDISPOSED, Stiftelsen Kristian Gerhard Jebsen, Trond Mohn Foundation, the Research Council of Norway, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the University of Bergen, and the Western Norway Health Authorities. This work was performed on the TSD (Tjeneste for Sensitive Data) facilities, owned by the University of Oslo, operated and developed by the TSD service group at the University of Oslo, IT-Department (USIT). This work was partly supported by the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence funding scheme, (#262700).

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H.F.S. conceived of the idea, designed the theoretical models, and derived the relevant equations. E.C.C., R.C. and A.C.S. contributed to sample preparation and quality control of genomic data and polygenic indices with support from E.Y. H.F.S. carried out the analyses with support from N.H.E. and R.C. H.F.S. planned and carried out the simulations with help from E.M.E. and F.A.T. T.H.K contributed to the interpretation of the results. H.F.S. wrote the manuscript (incl. the supplementary information) with input from all authors. E.C.C. wrote parts of the methods. E.Y. and E.C.C. contributed to data generation and acquisition. E.M.E. and F.A.T. supervised the project. All authors provided critical feedback, discussed the results, and helped shape the manuscript.

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Sunde, H.F., Eftedal, N.H., Cheesman, R. et al. Genetic similarity between relatives provides evidence on the presence and history of assortative mating. Nat Commun 15 , 2641 (2024).

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March 26, 2024 | Mac Murray

In New Book, History Ph.D.s Explore ‘Why We Can’t Quit American Girl’

Mary Mahoney and Allison Horrocks talk the enduring significance of American Girl -- and why Molly would get kicked out of UConn

American Girl company logo on large burgundy tiles

The signature burgundy sign outside an American Girl store. (Adobe Stock)

In the right hands, dolls can tell all kinds of stories about the human experience. Most children understand this. Greta Gerwig, director of recent Oscar nominee “Barbie,” understands this. So, too, do Mary Mahoney ‘18 Ph.D. and Allison Horrocks ‘16 Ph.D. – historians whose interests in American studies, books, and family culture all converge in their new book “Dolls of Our Lives .”

The cover of the book "Dolls of Our Lives," featuring the eyes and iconic glasses of the Molly doll.

Released in November, “ Dolls of Our Lives” is an offshoot of the eponymous podcast the pair have hosted since 2019. Each episode of the podcast analyzes a specific book in an American Girl character series through the lenses of history and pop culture. (For example, the episode “Classy, Bougie, Ringlets” discusses the book “Samantha Learns a Lesson,” placing it in conversation with other modern-day classics like Selling Sunset.)

In their book, Mahoney and Horrocks get to break away from the American Girl literary world to consider how the brand – its characters, its stories, its publications, and even its merchandise – shaped the real lives of girls (and others) across the country.  

“ We wanted to expand the mission of our show to not just tell our stories, but to explore what it meant for generations of fans and people for whom it mattered,” says Mahoney.  

Living History

The book’s origins feel as magical as receiving a burgundy doll-sized box for a birthday: Mahoney and Horrocks were contacted by an editor from Macmillan Publishers, who had listened to the show and recognized something special. This editor wasn’t alone – the show attracted media buzz from the likes of The New York Times , NPR , and UConn Magazine , while the book prompted a warm-and-fuzzy feature in The New Yorker . As Mahoney and Horrocks know all too well, revisiting the world of American Girl is a surefire way to get people talking.  

But the creators are careful not to lean on nostalgia. In contrast to, say, pretending that Molly lives in a post-apocalyptic wasteland ravaged by nuclear war (a fan’s childhood anecdote recounted in the book), their engagement with American Girl’s legacy is marked by careful attention to history and critical analysis.  

“I think people who are really drawn to these kinds of conversations, they’re fascinated by reviewing something they loved, or still love, with a different lens and different outlook,” Horrocks says. “And I think that is very different than just reveling in something you used to take pleasure in. … The brand wanted to spark curiosity, and that worked. ”  

Within the book’s 243 pages, Horrocks and Mahoney trace the evolution of the American Girl brand, from its founding as Pleasant Company by educational entrepreneur Pleasant Rowland in 1986 to its present-day incarnation as a Mattel subsidiary.

They share firsthand interviews with women who helped bring American Girl history to life, among them Mary Wiseman, a Martha Washington living history performer at Colonial Williamsburg; Ingrid Hess, an illustrator who worked on the iconic AG book “The Care and Keeping of You”; and Courtney Price, the first girl who got to trace her own family’s history by being transformed into a paper doll for American Girl magazine.  

“I did a lot of 19 th century history when I was in grad school, so it’s nice to talk to and write about people who are still with us,” says Mahoney. “Someone I can call on the phone – what a gift!”  

Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney sit in the American Girl store to record a special episode of their podcast

Better (Research) Together

For as long as they have been collaborators, Horrocks and Mahoney have never lived in the same state. Mahoney works as a Digital Scholarship Strategist for Trinity College-Hartford; Horrocks works as an interpretive park ranger in Rhode Island. Like their podcast, their book was made possible by virtual collaboration, file-sharing, and the occasional joint excursion to Colonial Williamsburg.  

“A lot of times, it feels solitary when you do research – you go to an archive, you’re reading books,” says Mahoney. “But this felt like a joint effort.”  

The virtual space in which much American Girl content exists also lent itself to a new kind of historical work, one that took both historians beyond the realm of anything they’d tackled before.  

“I think what’s really different is usually you’re visiting an archive that’s been set up by other people,” says Horrocks. “Really, for this, we created the archive: the archive is in our Google Drive, it’s in other people’s Flickr account, it’s in things that people chose to share with us. There isn’t a singular place that you could go to access all these materials, so we’ve had to build up a kind of borrower’s library of all of it.”  

This work has allowed us to engage people who think history is not for them .

Historical training like hers, Horrocks says, tends to focus on physical artifacts. This has equipped her well to consider how objects like books, dolls, and accessories actually held meaning for the young people to whom they were important.  

“I think what makes [our work] different from a corporate-minded history is, we’re curious about the ephemera in a book,” she says. “We’re curious about how people actually use the products, not just how they were produced and then stored in an archive.”  

This democratic approach creates products, like the podcast and book, that virtually everyone can appreciate. Horrocks and Mahoney take the specialized training and knowledge they acquired through their graduate studies and transform them into public-facing scholarship you don’t need an advanced degree to wade through – childhood afternoons spent networking with Felicity and Kaya will suffice.  

“This work has allowed us to engage people who think history is not for them – which is the people public historians most want to reach – and actually get them involved or interested in conversations about history that they think didn’t include them or weren’t of interest to them,” says Mahoney. “And that’s probably been the most rewarding public history piece of it for me.”

Molly Gets Kicked Out

Asked which American Girl doll would be most likely to get a UConn history Ph.D., Horrocks doesn’t hesitate.  

“It has to be Julie Albright, because of the women’s basketball team,” she says, naming the spunky young San Franciscan who contends with the real-time implementation of Title IX at her elementary school. “I could see her hauling into a 1980s lecture in a power suit.”  

Mahoney offers a counterpoint in Kit Kittredge, an aspiring journalist who grows up during the Great Depression.  

“Kit could have come of age and been part of the Federal Writers’ Project, perhaps doing oral histories, and then maybe she gets into the UConn history Ph.D. later in life, kind of as a retirement project,” she says.  

“Just thinking about it,” Mahoney adds, “I think Molly may have tried to get a Ph.D. in history, but she would have been kicked out for basically doing ‘ Great Man ’ World War II history.”  

For what it’s worth, Mahoney and Horrocks are both self-identified “Molly”s. Thankfully, their collective body of work shows no warning signs of veering into this sort of uncritical hero-worship.  

While both historians enjoy the success of their recent publication, they don’t expect to close the book on their work together anytime soon.  

“My intention is to keep going, thinking about how I can reach people about public history, using pop culture as a shared language to access historical questions or historical thinking,” says Mahoney. The response to the book, she says, “makes us feel that we’re on the right path, trying to do work that can meet people where they are … and take them somewhere else.”  

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Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind and Inflection Co-founder, joins Microsoft to lead Copilot

Mar 19, 2024 | Microsoft Corporate Blogs

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Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer, shared the below communication today with Microsoft employees.

I want to share an exciting and important organizational update today. We are in Year 2 of the AI platform shift and must ensure we have the capability and capacity to boldly innovate.

There is no franchise value in our industry and the work and product innovation we drive at this moment will define the next decade and beyond. Let us use this opportunity to build world-class AI products, like Copilot, that are loved by end-users! This is about science, engineering, product, and design coming together and embracing a learning mindset to push our innovation culture and product building process forward in fundamental ways.

In that context, I’m very excited to announce that Mustafa Suleyman and Karén Simonyan are joining Microsoft to form a new organization called Microsoft AI, focused on advancing Copilot and our other consumer AI products and research.

Mustafa will be EVP and CEO, Microsoft AI, and joins the senior leadership team (SLT), reporting to me. Karén is joining this group as Chief Scientist, reporting to Mustafa. I’ve known Mustafa for several years and have greatly admired him as a founder of both DeepMind and Inflection, and as a visionary, product maker, and builder of pioneering teams that go after bold missions.

Karén, a Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Inflection, is a renowned AI researcher and thought leader, who has led the development of some of the biggest AI breakthroughs over the past decade including AlphaZero.

Several members of the Inflection team have chosen to join Mustafa and Karén at Microsoft. They include some of the most accomplished AI engineers, researchers, and builders in the world. They have designed, led, launched, and co-authored many of the most important contributions in advancing AI over the last five years. I am excited for them to contribute their knowledge, talent, and expertise to our consumer AI research and product making.

At our core, we have always been a platform and partner-led company, and we’ll continue to bring that sensibility to all we do. Our AI innovation continues to build on our most strategic and important partnership with OpenAI. We will continue to build AI infrastructure inclusive of custom systems and silicon work in support of OpenAI’s foundation model roadmap, and also innovate and build products on top of their foundation models. And today’s announcement further reinforces our partnership construct and principles.

As part of this transition, Mikhail Parakhin and his entire team, including Copilot, Bing, and Edge; and Misha Bilenko and the GenAI team will move to report to Mustafa. These teams are at the vanguard of innovation at Microsoft, bringing a new entrant energy and ethos, to a changing consumer product landscape driven by the AI platform shift. These organizational changes will help us double down on this innovation.

Kevin Scott continues as CTO and EVP of AI, responsible for all-up AI strategy, including all system architecture decisions, partnerships, and cross-company orchestration. Kevin was the first person I leaned on to help us manage our transformation to an AI-first company and I’ll continue to lean on him to ensure that our AI strategy and initiatives are coherent across the breadth of Microsoft.

Rajesh Jha continues as EVP of Experiences & Devices and I’m grateful for his leadership as he continues to build out Copilot for Microsoft 365, partnering closely with Mustafa and team.

There are no other changes to the senior leadership team or other organizations.

We have been operating with speed and intensity and this infusion of new talent will enable us to accelerate our pace yet again.

We have a real shot to build technology that was once thought impossible and that lives up to our mission to ensure the benefits of AI reach every person and organization on the planet, safely and responsibly. I’m looking forward to doing so with you.

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research history ks2

History, Latin America

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This research guide compiles resources related to Latin American History. Use the side navigation to locate background, scholarly, and primary sources for your research needs. We have compiled resources available through USC Libraries and in the larger community. Included you will find research strategies and additional ways to get help from a librarian . 

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    Historical sources are the main way that we can interact with and understand more about past events. Learning from history is very important, as it helps us to work out how we got here. We can explore events that shaped our society and even discover what society was like back then through the personal accounts of the people who lived through it.

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    By the end of Year 2, if children know what a source of evidence is, how to use them in history and that a range of them exists, that's a great starting point! In KS2, you can add to this understanding by distinguishing between primary and secondary. Primary sources are a snapshot in time with a direct link to the matter in question.

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    History is vital to a rich and broad primary education. It helps pupils to make sense of the present as well as the past, and to appreciate the complexity and diversity of human societies and development. Between January and March 2020, we inspected the quality of history education in 24 primary schools with an outstanding judgement.

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    Keystage history is the home of best practice in primary and secondary history teaching and learning. You can totally trust the authoritative, cutting edge, expert advice and you will be inspired by all the creative planning and teaching ideas. ... KS2 January 17, 2024; SEARCH. Keystage History Online Ltd. Registered Office: Queen's House ...

  21. Research review series: history

    considered curriculum progression in history, pedagogy, assessment and the impact of school leaders' decisions on provision. summarised our review of research into factors that can affect ...

  22. Study finds political beliefs shape the way the public interprets history

    Research shows that when exploring attitudes in the U.S., UK, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, and Poland—countries with different economies, cultures and political regimes (past and present ...

  23. Klarman Fellow: Digital media connects people in a polarized world

    During her Klarman fellowship, Lin is examining how cultural producers in China have taken up literature, film, audio cultures and digital media to tell human stories since 2008, a time when China's growth coincided with global economic, social and political tension. Situated at the intersection of media and politics, her research explores ...

  24. Genetic similarity between relatives provides evidence on the ...

    Assortative mating - the non-random mating of individuals with similar traits - is known to increase trait-specific genetic variance and genetic similarity between relatives. However ...

  25. In New Book, History Ph.D.s Explore 'Why We Can't Quit American Girl'

    So, too, do Mary Mahoney '18 Ph.D. and Allison Horrocks '16 Ph.D. - historians whose interests in American studies, books, and family culture all converge in their new book "Dolls of Our Lives.". "Dolls of Our Lives" was published in November 2023 by Macmillan. Released in November, " Dolls of Our Lives" is an offshoot of the ...

  26. Anglo-Saxons

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  27. Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind and Inflection Co-founder, joins Microsoft

    In that context, I'm very excited to announce that Mustafa Suleyman and Karén Simonyan are joining Microsoft to form a new organization called Microsoft AI, focused on advancing Copilot and our other consumer AI products and research. Mustafa will be EVP and CEO, Microsoft AI, and joins the senior leadership team (SLT), reporting to me.

  28. Home

    2) Ethnic NewsWatch: A History (1959-1989), which includes over 30 full-text newspapers, magazines and journals, focusing on African American, Hispanic American, and Native American presses from 1959-1989. The Latino American Experience The American Mosaic This link opens in a new window. Documents the rich heritage and current culture of ...

  29. Hewitt Elementary

    School of Education. 1214 S. Fourth Waco, TX 76706. Baylor School of Education One Bear Place #97304 Waco, TX 76798-7304. (254) 710-3111. General Information. Academics & Research.

  30. Maya Civilisation

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