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  Teacher's Guide

The aim of this exhibition of National Archives materials is to encourage students to look critically at documentary evidence of the past; to investigate and challenge interpretations and views of the past; and to reach balanced conclusions based upon the evidence.

The exhibition is divided into eight sections.
The first is an introduction, which focuses upon the Great Exhibition of 1851.
There then follow six galleries, each of which focuses upon an area of public life during the Victorian period. In each of these galleries, students are required to investigate an aspect of Victorian life by considering a key question.


The six galleries are:

A Healthy Nation?: key question - Were the rich just as likely to catch cholera as the poor?

An Industrial Nation?: key question - How safe was it to work in Victorian Britain?

A Lawless Nation?: key question - Were the streets safe in Victorian Britain?

A Happy Nation?: key question - How did the railways change the lives of people in Victorian Britain?

A Caring Nation?: key question - Did the treatment of the poor improve after the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834?

A Divided Nation?: key question - Were men and women equal in Victorian Britain?


Each gallery is made up of the following sections:

An introduction, which provides contextual information for the topic.

A timeline, which sets out chronologically the main developments during the Victorian age.

A series of sources, each with tasks, which ask the student to investigate the issue and then reach conclusions.

Further background information under the heading 'Do you want to know more?' This allows students to put the issue into a wider context.

A series of activities, which require students to make use of the knowledge and understanding that they have acquired.

There is then a final gallery entitled 'A Great Nation?' This requires students to reach an overall judgement on the Victorian Age. Was it Fair or Foul?


How could the exhibition be used?

These are some suggestions for using the material contained in the exhibition.

Students could make use of the exhibition as part of their programme of study in Key Stage 3, concentrating on certain galleries. For example Unit 22: The Role of the Individual for good or ill: Section 4 which explores the impact of the life of an individual would be useful for a study of Lord Ashley, Edwin Chadwick and Sir Robert Peel within the galleries "Industrial", "Caring" or "Divided" Nation. The “Find out More” section of each of these galleries also provides more information on these people.

The exhibition as a whole supports those Key stage 4 GCSE syllabuses covering aspects of British Social and Economic History and the Schools History Project section on the history of medicine with regard to “Healthy Nation”. For those courses covering the Suffragette Movement and the demand for the vote, the gallery “Divided Nation” could be used as an introduction to the position of women in the mid nineteenth century.

For younger pupils at Key stage 2, selective use of material and sources could be made to support unit 11: What was it like for children living in Victorian Britain?

In terms of helping to meet the ITC requirement for history, the sources could be linked to other websites or web pages and used to create an individual web page for an investigation.

Finally, it is possible to use many of the sources in isolation or they could be “book-marked” to form part of a scheme of work.


The key aspect of the exhibition is that the content can be adapted in a variety of ways to meet the needs of individual schools and year groups.


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