HTAA Conference: Day 3 workshops
Posted by Lisa Hill on October 5, 2008
My first workshop was with Mike Wohltman, a colleague I met at the History Summer School, and a teacher from Marden College in Adelaide. He had changed the focus of his talk to be more schools-and-teaching orientated (which didn’t really suit either Tim or me) but it was still interesting.
The Enlightenment is such an fascinating period, and it was very influential in our early history. I first learned about it at the History Summer School from Professor John Gascoigne, (UNSW) from his presentation The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia, and Mike went on to make more specific its links to topics that are studied in the history curriculum. He was very generous with resources, and passionate about teaching students to value reason in decision-making and to use it to combat prejudice and ignorance.
The Enlightenment covers the period in Europe from 1715 (the death of Louis XIV) to 1776 (the US Declaration of Independence) and 1797 (the First French Republic. It is based on a belief in the supremacy of reason over pleasure; the conviction that humans could perfect society through application of the intellect to human affairs. Science took its place for the first time in history, and the movement influenced all the great intellectuals of the period. The timing of Australia’s settlement was fortunate, for the Enlightenment was influential in the peaceful political development of our country – our public intellectuals at the time learned from the revolutions in Europe and applied ideals about stable and effective government without bloodshed.
The motto of the Enlightenment is Sapere aude! which means have the courage to use your own understanding. There are five driving forces: happiness, liberty, nature, reason and progress, and they influenced all aspects of C18th life, including politics, intellectual life, culture, society and the economy. To learn more, Mike recommends A Beginner’s Guide to the Enlightenment…
I am especially fond of this period too because of my visit to the Enlightenment Exhibition at the British Museum in 2005.
After lunch, I went to Laura Chandler’s presentation about The Changing Roles and Identities of Women in the Latin East at the time of the Crusades. Laura is a Phd student researching this period, and it was fascinating. My grade 6 boys are not going to get away with their sexist comments about weak women any more (not that they ever did, but now I have some handy facts to impress them with!) There will be a book one day, and I hope it’s well publicised because I’d like to know more about these women who ruled crusader states in the absence of their men, not to mention how they actively participated in the front lines in various ways (albeit non combatant).
Tim came with me to the final workshop, Pompeii and Herculaneum, presented by Denis Mootz. We loved our visit to Pompeii, due in no small part to the teachers who inspired us to visit it. Denis showed us some brilliant images of the forces that caused the eruption, and introduced us to some of the controversies around interpretations about the event. Most amusing were his stories of how ‘discoveries’ were timed to coincide with the visits of VIPs – whose vanity was sufficiently flattered to ensure funding for continued research and excavations! We shall look at these sites with fresh eyes, next time we visit, and my teaching of the topic of natural disasters will definitely include Pompeii!
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