The following questions (The History Boys) were posed to my group on ‘Creating and Consuming History’ today as they watched Alan Bennett’s film ‘The History Boys’. This film could be analysed from a number of perspectives (film theory, feminist/gender theory, aesthetics, narrative, film history, teacher training, etc), but on this occasion we were looking for a consideration of ‘what is history’, which is spelled out from different perspectives by a number of different characters from the film ((is it just “one f****** thing after another as Rudge says, or “facts, facts, facts” as Totty says, or.. please summarise other character perspectives), and also ideas of what it is appropriate to teach in history lessons (e.g. is the holocaust just another topic, and should we remain detached, or are our emotions important) and ideas of memorialisation (we don’t place memorials to remember, we place memorials to forget). A further opportunity would be to reflect upon the film from the perspective of a fictional film of a historical era, and how such things were depicted when the film was made in 2005/6.
I thought that we’d get around 10 minutes to discuss the film, but the projector took 10 minutes to warm up, and the film was around 10 minutes longer than I’d calculated (maths has never been my strong subject), so I would like to encourage students to read the IMDB Review, and provide feedback, comments and debate upon this blog! No, this is NOT assessed (a point that made itself clearly known in the film), but will provide you with an interesting exercise in developing your critical skills in engaging with historical material.