In our first session with Sean Lang we looked at how we frame questions. We discussed how people often think that historians are people who find answers – in books or archives or wherever, and learned that, in fact, historians spend just as much time finding the right questions to ask.
We started by focusing on the special events and programmes that have been taking place to mark the centenary of the First World War and thinking about what we had learned through these about the war that we didn’t know at this time last year. We then shared what we knew with each other.
From there, we then began to think about Sawston and, from the facts we had established, thought about what would have directly affected people in Sawston at the time, what would have indirectly affected them, and what wouldn’t have affected them at all.
We then considered what we can find out easily, for example, from books, from the internet or from asking people. Some of the questions we thought about are listed below.
• When did Britain declare war on Germany?
• Which other British territories declared war on Germany, and when?
• When did Lord Kitchener issue his famous appeal for men to join the army?
• When did Belgian refugees start arriving in Britain?
• When did the first Zeppelin raids happen, and where?
• When did women start doing war work in the factories, the fields and so on?
• When was conscription introduced in Britain?
• When was rationing introduced and what was rationed?
From here, we then considered what else we wanted to find out and formulated some enquiry questions to explore. Enquiry questions need a lot of thought. We made questions beginning:
Why didn’t….?/Why wasn’t…?
How come …?