Diversity in the History Curriculum


Lots is being said about the issue of Diversity at the moment. That is a good thing. If we are to teach British History (or any other countries for that matter) we need to reflect the actual history, not just the cherry-picked parts. We need to look at the way that society has developed over the years. Problem is, most of what is being said on social media appears NOT to be truly diverse at all to me.

Pure Diversity by Mirza Toledo. Wikimedia. Creative Commons Licence

Why? Well, let us look at it in very simple terms. Most of the talk about diversity stems from current affairs. Fine, no problem with that, or with the cause. Thing is, embedding diversity into the curriculum is not as simple as embedding the history of one racial group into the curriculum. Especially when it was embedded in the curriculum 20 years ago…


But that isn’t actually very diverse, is it? Nor is it specific, is it? What exactly is meant by ‘white’ or ‘black’? Does white mean Anglican British born to British stock? (In which case I’m not white) Or is it something different? Does Black mean ‘here because of Windrush’? or something beyond that?

Neither black or white are particularly helpful or constructive terms for people to be using if a truly diverse curriculum is going to be put together.

The ‘problem’ of black and white

White could mean people from one of numerous different nations. Even within the United Kingdom, there are a lot of ways of identifying yourself. Not just the nationalities but regional differences, religious differences, 2nd/3rd/4th generation issues; Romany-Gypsies: and we do not really hear much about teaching about any of that history.

Black could mean Afro-Caribbean, or African American, or Sub-Saharan African. It may mean English speaking Christian, or a follower of a relatively unknown faith, who speaks a relatively unknown language. And this is lacking in the National Curriculum too, though there are some fine examples being shared at the moment so there is hope on this area.

Another Problem…

Even if we addressed all of that, we still have half(ish) of the world’s population with whom Great Britain/ the UK have interacted, conquered, ruled, subjugated, provided relief to, traded with, or had migration to/from.

Just from parts of the world who were part of the Empire, we can add Southern Asians and those from South East Asia and parts of China. Within those are religious, political, and cultural differences. If they are not included in a British History Curriculum, there is a lack of breadth, challenge, and diversity. (Good time to remind yourself of what Ofsted looks for these days – breadth and challenge are both in there…) And by they, I do not mean the imperialists, I mean the ordinary people who were as much under British rule as a mill worker or coal miner here was.

And as Empire has been mentioned, what of indigenous people’s relationships with the explorers and settlers of Great Britain? If we are being diverse, do they not need to be included as much as the likes of Cook?

Current Affairs and Curriculum Modelling?

In a nutshell, current affairs getting people talking about adding Black History to the curriculum is great. Apart from the fact it was embedded into the National Curriculum 20 years ago so should not be an issue beyond regular reviews. So, doing more of that and nothing on other areas seems worryingly short-sighted and suggests that diversity is not actually the aim here. If diversity were the aim, would people not be begging for quality resources not only on Black British History but for other areas? They are not. That is the sad fact of the matter. Evidence: find me examples on facebook or twitter or schools clamouring to find resources and share ideas for Gypsy-Romany heritage month. Bet you struggle. We are on day 26 of it.


We all know the issues. Time, Subject Knowledge, Resources, CPD, Pressure of Exams, the actual curriculum.


1) E-cpd is offered on Diversity by the HA
2) Again, the HA has a number of practical guides, articles and resources for both Primary and Secondary on Diversity
3) Audit coverage to identify areas where incorporating migration and/or resident minority groups can enhance learning and awareness of diversity
4) Think about trade, think about war. Both led to migration of people and transmission of ideas from numerous cultures. These are evident in all of the suggested areas of study from KS2 upwards.
5) Adapt some units. For example I was sent this link whilst writing this post which shows how a wide range of nations, faiths and races can be included in a study of the Holocaust. https://www.hmd.org.uk/learn-about-the-holocaust-and-ge…/…/…

Simple examples, more needed…

– Normans. Traded in Africa, the Middle East, with Scandinavia.
– Crusades. Transmission of ideas from Arabia and Africa. Migration limited but there was some. Also, Slavic cultures involved.
– Plantagenets. Still Crusading but also a good chance to look at the European links and the diversity that stemmed from those.
– Tudors. Explorers, Trade routes
– Stuarts. Royal Africa Company, Coffee House Culture, European ties, Growth of International Commerce, Indigenous peoples of the Americas
– Empire. The whole empire thing… the good and the bad but more focus on the people maybe needed?
– Industrialisation. Look at the link to migration patterns within the British Isles and Ireland, it transformed communities.
– First World War. Emphasise the global nature of the war, see https://schoolshistory.org.uk/…/…/global-conflict-1914-1918/

– Second World War – similar to first. Remember the navies, the soldiers deployed around the world, merchant shipping, origin of foods and natural resources.
– Holocaust – see link above.
– Post War. Windrush stands out currently. There is also the drive to recruit from India and Pakistan for industries such as the wool/ cotton trades.
– And the one everyone seems to forget, the Romany is a great example of continuity and change.


Originally posted onto our Facebook Page on 26/6/20

British History

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