This is a guest blog entry of Georgina Watson, a final-year PhD student at Manchester working on early modern Mediterranean commercial, military and religious interaction between Tuscany and the Ottoman Empire. In focusing on various members of the Tuscan Order of Saint Stephen, her thesis concentrates on the political and religious power held by the Order’s Grand Master, Cosimo I de Medici, the Papacy and the Ottoman Sultanate of the late sixteenth century. As a member of The Bodies, Emotions and Material Culture Collective, Georgina reports about her experiences of working on history outreach and engagement activities at Oakhill School.
From September 2022, I have been working with the pupils of Oakhill School in Whalley, Lancashire, to produce a historically focused-magazine—The Oak. As a pupil-led initiative, The Oak, has been celebrated by The History Association at the Young Historian Awards in 2021 and 2022. The pupils’ efforts even secured Oakhill the title of ‘Best School History Magazine’ for two years in a row. This is no small feat and the History Club is delighted to share this year’s edition also via the Club’s Podcast on Spotify:
Earlier this year, The History Club took on its latest challenge and participated in the National Archives ‘20sStreets competition’. The competition attracted more than 150 entries covering a vast range of topics. I am delighted to share that the pupil’s submission was a success!
As Grand Prize Winners for the Groups Category, the History Club has received an all-expenses-paid afternoon at The National Archives. Launched in partnership with the British Association for Local History, the competition invited entrants to research and share stories connected to the 1920s, focusing on the different communities within an area covered by the 1921 Census of England and Wales. The Oakhill History Club submitted a paper titled ‘Connecting the Threads of Life’ and wowed the judges with their enthralling study of the mill workers and their families who lived down Factory Row in Billington near Oakhill School.
The judging panel included historian and author Melanie Backe-Hansen, research consultant for the BBC2 series ‘A House Through Time’. The whole panel concluded that the research quality of the pupils was very strong and that the submitted work conveyed an excellent sense of house history, local history, and family history. Speaking about the competition on the National Archives webpage, Melanie has stated, “The overall standard was extremely impressive and the range of subjects was fascinating. We had some tough decisions to make!”1
As part of their prize, the pupils were guided around the National Archives in a Behind-the-Scenes tour, for which staff have curated documents from the Archives collections about the Ribble Valley for the pupils to examine. As an added bonus, each pupil will also be provided with a goodie bag to take away.
The magazine has allowed the pupils of Oakhill School to share their enthusiasm for the past and present, to share their interests, and to practice the skills necessary to become the next generation of historians. I can’t wait to see their progress.
1 Anon, 20sStreets competition: winners chosen from ‘impressive’ field (2023) <https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/news/20sstreets-competition-winners-chosen-from-impressive-field/> [accessed 24 October 2023].