Life in Late Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine: a Social History Workshop for Secondary Schools

by Eibhlin Priestley and Jean Franco

​​Critical and constructive approaches to teaching the history of Palestine and Israel, with a particular focus on Britain’s colonial legacy, are lacking within the UK curriculum. Educational resources focusing on Palestine and Israel tend to highlight a history of conflict and violence, with a particular emphasis on more recent events. Such a focus ignores the longer-term processes that have led to the current situation and absolves Britain of its colonial responsibility as a Mandatory power in historic Palestine (1920-1948). Furthermore, emphasis on memorisation and limited source work deprives students of approaches and resources that humanise the people who lived there and the lives they led.

Our project offers a stand-alone 90-minute workshop which will refine GCSE and A-Level History students’ source evaluation skills. It aims to inspire engagement on the topic by centring often-forgotten historical voices, as well as prepare students for exams and for some, Higher Education. It will achieve this by equipping students with the analytical tools to analyse curated materials from late Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine from the period 1890 to 1948 selected from UK and international archives. Driven by a social and cultural history methodology, and representing perspectives from different communities, our ‘mini-archives’ contain photographs, letters, memoirs and poems alongside political documents and selected historiography.

The focus on late Ottoman and Mandatory Palestine reflects our belief in the importance of highlighting histories of co-existence and Britain’s historic role and responsibility in the region. In order for students to better understand today’s Palestine and Israel, it is necessary to provide a broad historical overview with source-driven lessons and a safe and open space for discussion. The project will also entail the creation of a digital educational resource which will offer access to the curated collection of sources and the accompanying lesson plan. This will benefit the work of other organisations working in the field, as well as teachers themselves, thus extending the reach of the project into other schools.

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