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Rewriting Historical Events

Rewrite a historical event, based on a specific perspective, using relevant and available evidence.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students consider varied cultural interpretations of key historical events by rewriting an event, based on the available evidence about a specific perspective.

Before completing this challenge, students would benefit from knowing about the effects of British and French imperialism on colonization of the new world as well as Aboriginal understanding of land use and ownership, as explored in The Impact of Imperialism (Critical Challenge) and Aboriginal Societies (Critical Challenge). Drawing or describing a historical event, based on multiple perspectives, as outlined in Perspectives on Early Contact (Critical Challenge), would also be beneficial.

Activity 1
Use one or more print, visual or video resource to show a pre-Confederation event, such as Jacques Cartier erecting a cross on the shore of the new world when he leaves. Possible sources include the Canada: A People's History video series, the Canadian Encyclopedia on CD-ROM and online images from the National Archives. Ask the class to deconstruct the account by identifying:

  • the point of view portrayed
  • the audience for which it was created
  • its purpose; e.g., message the author or artist is trying to convey.

Help students recognize that accounts of any event–historical or contemporary–are presented from specific points of view or perspectives. Suggest that history is about his story: a person or group's interpretation of an experience or event. Explain that these interpretations may misrepresent the events or inaccurately portray those involved.

Activity 2
Reread or review the account. Stop at appropriate points and invite students to speculate how the event might be perceived from the perspective of various groups, such as French immigrants, Jesuit priests and nuns, Aboriginal peoples, European explorers and King's Daughters. Ask students to notice similarities and differences in the interpretations and to share their insights with a partner. Discuss possible responses, including feelings, thoughts and reactions, from each perspective as well as the consequences or impact of the event on each group. Invite the class to consider how the account might change if written, based on the perspective of each group.

Activity 3
Inform students that they will have an opportunity to rewrite history–to explore an event and rewrite it, based upon the point of view or individual perspective of a historical figure. Possible events and historical figures include:

  • Jacques Cartier taking Donnacona back to France, from the point of view of Donnacona or that of his sons
  • a French settler's first winter in New France, from the point of view of an Aboriginal person or that of a member of Champlain's crew
  • the value of the seigniorial system in New France, from the point of view of the King's advisor, an Ursuline sister or that of a fur trader.

Suggest that students take into account the:

  • writer's role; e.g., crew member, child
  • audience; e.g., King, priest
  • format; letter, speech
  • topic; i.e., historical event
  • overall tone or purpose of the piece; e.g., to persuade, to plead.

Explain that students must use facts to create a fictional but historically plausible representation of the event. With the class, develop criteria for a plausible and effective interpretation that includes key facts, imaginatively represents perspective of assigned role and is insightful about the person and the time. Encourage students to consider these criteria while rewriting the account. Direct students to use their textbook and/or a combination of resources to gather information about their figures and events. Consider adapting the charts and strategies outlined in Writing Based on a Perspective (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Invite students to write two different, but plausible accounts of the same historical event. Alternatively, have students exchange their work with others and deconstruct their writing, looking for evidence to determine the perspective represented.

Adapted from Critical Challenges in Social Studies–Intermediate/Middle School, edited by John Harrison, Neil Smith and Ian Wright. Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2004, pp. 37–46 (ISBN: 0–86491–247–1).

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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