Friday, 1 January 2010

Introduction to Political Cartoons

As part of their GCSE History students have to be able to interpret political cartoons. This is a complex skill. Firstly, it requires students to be have knowledge about the historical context of the cartoon. Secondly, students have to be able to identify individual elements of the cartoon, which itself requires them to understand the sophisticated skills cartoonists use in their work. Students then have to be able to explain the significance of these elements of an image in relation to the historical context. Phew!

So, the earlier students start to learn these skills the better and the best way of learning how to do something is to do it yourself. The following cartoons have all been created by students, to illustrate a particular point about their area of study.

Students used some or all of the following techniques in the creation of their cartoons:
1) Symbolism
2) Caricature
3) Personification
4) Caption
5) Sizing
6) Placement
7) Context

There is a powerpoint available to help teach these techniques at:

Creating cartoons using these techniques, with the aim of making a particular point, helps students to be able to recognise the technique and the message in professional cartoons.

Year 8 Students were also asked to create a commentary on their cartoon of Cromwell. This commentary had to explain the meaning of the different features of their cartoon. The best commentaries also supported explanation of the cartoon's meaning with historical detail. This pattern of thinking fits in perfectly to the GCSE criteria for cartoon interpretation.

GCSE Markscheme

Level 1
Describes surface features of the cartoon
Level 2
Explains what the cartoon means without reference to the source details
Level 3
Explains what the cartoon means with reference to either the details of the source OR contextual knowledge
Level 4
Explains what the cartoon means with reference to BOTH the details of the source AND contextual knowledge

See if you can level the Year 8 Cromwell cartoon commentaries!

Even if you're not a GCSE student, we hope you enjoy these images!

The following article appeared, in edited format, in TES on 25 January 2008:

Political Cartoons in History

As all History teachers know, students who study History at GCSE will have to demonstrate their ability to interpret a political cartoon. This is a staple of all examination boards and the marks available don’t really do justice to the complexity of the skills required. In order to access the higher levels, students have to be able to deconstruct a cartoon into component parts, rather than commenting summarily on the meaning. They have to explain the meaning of these component parts and substantiate their explanation with reference to the specific historical context. No mean feat!

So, after struggling to drily teach technique to a non-enthusiastic GCSE class, I started to wonder if becoming the cartoonist might be more inspiring!

So, students were given a crash course in political cartooning, learning the basic techniques of context, caption, caricature, personification, placement, symbolism and sizing. This can be done at any appropriately controversial moment of study, not just at GCSE. For example, Year 8 students can use political cartoons to illustrate the ‘real’ reason why Henry broke with Rome or the nature of Cromwell’s rule; Year 9 students can use cartoons to illuminate Haig’s role in the Battle of the Somme or the impact of industrialization.

The advantages of such an activity extend far beyond the generation of techniques that will be needed at GCSE. Firstly, and most importantly, it’s fun -not least for you, the teacher! Additionally, it’s motivational for those students who struggle to articulate their ideas in writing, but who comprehend the historical context perfectly well. It provides meaningful differentiation, for students who are, in Gardner’s terms, ‘picture smart’.

Cartooning can also be used to help students to understand the nature of interpretation. When studying, for example, Cromwellian rule, author identities can be given to students, for example, MP/Lord or, more subtly, northerner/southerner, merchant/peasant. Cartoons have to be drawn as that individual would have seen events/individuals. If author identities are kept secret, the finished cartoons can be used as exercises in usefulness and reliability very successfully. Ownership of the product helps students understand the core issues of sources as evidence, rather than just information. It also helps students to explain their ideas effectively and peer teaching takes off.

Once learned, the technique is also a valuable revision aid. Arguably in response to the constant barrage of visual stimulation in the modern age, many more students are demonstrating a preference for visual learning. Creating cartoons is a valid and valuable mnemonic aid for such students.

The final advantage of cartooning, of course, is that complex historical periods can be summarized, without losing the subtleties, as can happen when reducing topics to key words and key cards.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Year 8 Cromwell Cartoons

Year 8 have been studying Oliver Cromwell.

They investigated the way Cromwell ruled the country, including his massacre of the Irish rebels at Droheda, his treatment of the Levellers and his outwardly puritanical attitude towards fun and festivities. Students made a judgment about the quality of Cromwell's leadership of England, and created a cartoon to reflect their key idea.

The picture is trying to show that the rules Cromwell put across, he himself did not take into account. So he lied to his own people; who looked up to and trusted in him and his rules. On one side of Cromwell he is wearing a crown and holding signs reading ‘No Smoking’ and ‘No Drinking.’ The people are behind the signs. He is wearing a crown to say he does these actions in the role of King. The people are behind the signs to show that the people followed his rules. On the other side he is smoking and drinking which shows he is not following his own rules and is lying to his Country. These are not elements a King should have. He also has a large head to show he is big- headed and selfish. Katie

My cartoon shows a crowd of people listening to a puritan (you can tell by his hat) ringing a bell (to get attention) and holding a list of paper which is so long it goes all the way down to the floor and rolls around. On the paper it says “don’t…” because it is a list of things Oliver Cromwell has forbidden, like singing and dancing. The people look shocked and horrified because they are upset at all the things Cromwell has said they can’t do. But, in the foreground and behind them, you can see Oliver Cromwell with a can of shaving foam, a pot of slime and a whoopee cushion. He has a finger to his lips to tell the reader not to tell the people he is there, because he is about to play practical jokes on them. What my cartoon is saying is that Cromwell banned people from doing just about anything that is fun and people like to do, even Christmas, while going and doing it all himself behind their backs!!! He was trying to do the right thing by banning things but what he was doing was very unfair. You should practice what you preach. I have done Cromwell in caricature by giving him lots of warts and a big nose so you can easily tell who he is. I have also done him in more detail than anyone else. I have also exaggerated the black Quaker style hat and outfit, so you know he is someone who is on Cromwell’s side. I’ve placed Cromwell more or less in the middle, and a lot bigger than everyone else, so you’re eyes are probably drawn to him first. The people in the crowd are quite small and in much less detail than Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan. Madeleine

My cartoon is about Cromwell. It suggests that he was an evil person andwas wrong to kill Charles. I used size and made Cromwell big because he is the most important thing in the cartoon. I have drawn a crown on his head with question marks on to show when he couldn't decide to accept the crown or not. I have drawn him on a cricket pitch with a cricket bat. He is hitting balls away from him. This is to show that he is knocking out things that he hates. I have used placemen to put the closest and most important thing that Cromwell is getting rid of in the biggest ball. In the first ball is Cromwell with his crown falling off his head and splitting in half. Then there are presents showing when he tried to ban Christmas. After that there are balls showing when Cromwell tried to ban smoking and drinking and finally in the the last ball trying to ban Easter. Divya

My cartoon is saying that Cromwell is a devil because of the horns, tail and fangs. I think Cromwell is a devil because he kills quite a lot of people. For example a party called the Levellers (who wanted to give poor men the chance to vote) were locked up in the Tower of London. Then a 1000 soldiers who agreed with the Levellers rebelled. Cromwell got the loyal army together who captured 400 rebels and shot 3 of the leaders, Cornet Thompson, Corporal Perkins and Private Church. Cromwell also showed his nasty side when he killed a lot of Irish Catholics. I have shown Cromwell locking away “fun”. He voted a ban on Christmas and Easter because they were not in the Bible and were associated with Catholics. Cromwell agreed to have new holidays once a month to replace Christmas and Easter. In the jail holding “fun” I have used symbolism to show Cromwell supported the MP’s when they voted to close all the theatres in London. Puritans thought they were evil places. He also stopped drunkenness. I have shown, next to Cromwell, the gravestones of those he has killed and at he end, England because he is stopping how England was back then. Philippa

My Cartoon is saying that Cromwell was a villain how forbade beer and establishments where you can have fun. He was a killjoy. The Puritans supported him. He killed Charles and cushioned the poor people like the soldiers. I have shown Cromwell much bigger than the others to represent thatCromwell cushioned the others and that he had the power to do that. He is holding a gun and shooting at a cup of beer, a soldier, a theatre and Charles, because he forbade beer and closed theatres. He cushioned the soldiers and executed Charles. The Puritans are standing behind him to show that they supported him. They have a table with lots of guns and are holding a signpost which is saying ‘Go Cromwell’. Valerie

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

GCSE Modern World History: Treaty of Versailles

We have been studying the 1919 Peace Treaties as part of our study of Modern World GCSE.

In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed. This treaty was written mainly by the BIG THREE: Woodrow Wilson (USA), Georges Clemenceau (France) and David Lloyd George (UK). Germany was forced to agree to the terms of the Treaty, which were exceedingly harsh.

Clemenceau wanted to punish France harshly, because he believed Germany responsible for the outbreak of war. In addition, much of the war took place on French soil, resulting in huge damage to the infrastructure of France. Equally important to Clemenceau was historic French hatred of Germany, stemming from the loss of Alsace-Lorraine as part of the harsh settlement imposed by Germany after the French defeat of 1871.

Woodrow Wilson was an idealist. He wanted a fair treaty that would enable Germany to recover as a healthy and prosperous European nation. Wilson could afford to be idealistic as America was distant from European affairs and had entered the war late, resulting in few casualties. The American public wanted Wilson to concentrate on domestic concerns such as the American labour crisis and housing shortage, rather than tying America up in European affairs.

David Lloyd George was a realist. He knew that Germany had to be punished for the war, but he recognised that unfairness would result in future conflict as Germany would seek to overturn a harsh settlement. However, David Lloyd George had promised the British public that he would 'squeeze the German lemon till the pips squeak'. He promised this because the British public were psychologically scarred by the war and desired revenge. Lloyd George wanted to win the forthcoming election!

The following cartoons represent the attitudes of, and/or the pressures on, one or more of the BIG THREE at the Versailles negotiations.

1. Clemenceau's desire to crush Germany:

2. David Lloyd George trying to balance French desire to destroy Germany with the American desire to protect it for the future:

3. Clemenceau's desire to destroy Germany in order to extract reparations:
4. Wilson's desire to protect helpless Germany from Clemenceau's desire to destroy her. David Lloyd George is being pushed towards the Treaty by the clamour of the British public for retribution, even though he, personally, doesn't share their view.

5. The Tug-of-War between France and Wilson, with Britain trying to act as the half-way point.

6. The three judges at Versailles, with their alternative sentences:

7. Clemenceau destroying Germany, Wilson trying, hopelessly, to catch the fragments, ending with David Lloyd George's confused attempt to manage revenge and idealism.

Year 8

Year 8 studied the reasons behind Henry VIII's break with Rome.

Henry was married to Catherine of Aragon but only had one daughter, Mary, in years. He was desperate for a son, because he wanted to secure his dynasty and girls could not, at that time, inherit the throne in their own right. Henry then met Anne Boleyn and fell in love with her. He wanted to divorce Catherine and marry Anne, but the Pope wouldn't let him.

The Pope's refusal was not only based on the Catholic belief that marriage is for life, but also influenced by the fact that the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, was holding him captive. Charles V was Catherine of Aragon's nephew!

Henry kept asking the Pope for a divorce for six years. Then Anne became pregnant. The situation was now desperate. If the Pope wouldn't back down, Henry would have to find another way to get a divorce.

Henry knew that a German monk called Martin Luther had been complaining about the Catholic Church. He said that the Catholic Church was corrupt and was more concerned with making money, through high taxes, than with helping people get to heaven. The German princes, who didn't like paying taxes, supported Luther and had broken away from the Catholic Church. They no longer had to do as the Pope said. Henry had criticised Luther publicly, and had even written a book defending the Catholic Church in 1521. However, by 1532 he was starting to see the advantages of breaking away from the authority of the Pope, even if he still shared his religious views. In 1533 Henry VIII broke with Rome by marrying Anne Boleyn and declaring his marriage to Catherine void (invalid).

Have a look at these cartoons. Some cartoons show that Henry wanted to divorce Catherine and marry Anne, some cartoons show why he wanted to do this. The best cartoons show, as well, that he used the religious changes in Germany to his own advantage in order to divorce Catherine.

Year 7

Our Year 7 study of the Romans focused on how Julius Caesar destroyed the Senate to become dictator of Rome.

The students had the following background knowledge:
Caesar was one of two Generals that led the Roman army. For many years the soldiers of Rome were more loyal to their own General than they were to the government (Senate). Caesar took control of the whole Roman army by killing Pompey, the other powerful General.

This gave Caesar the power to destroy the Senate, but he still needed a reason.

The poor of Rome hated the Senate because the Senators were very rich and refused to help the poor. Rich senators had even murdered the Gracchus brothers, who were the only people in Rome to try and help the poor. The poor were desperate and Caesar took advantage of this by promising them land if they would support him against the Senate.

Have a look at these cartoons and see if you can work out what message they are trying to convey.

Some cartoons make a simple, single point. The best cartoons try to express all of the above ideas.