The recent furore over how the First World War should be interpreted has, directly and indirectly, raised questions about how the period should be taught in schools. It is worth noting, first, that the First World War is one of the most commonly taught periods of history in school: there is probably not a single pupil in the country who has not studied it. The First World War battlefields – particularly those of Flanders and the Somme – are visited by vast numbers of pupils each year. We can, therefore, be quite confident in stating that schools – for once – probably do play an important role in determining the historical consciousness of the country.
The debate about the First World War, at least within the UK, centres on three key questions.
- Why did it begin?
- How bad were the generals?
- What role was played by non-English troops?
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