author Chris Rowe, e-mail:






Prague Seminar: “At The European Crossroads”

Czechoslovakia Between East & West In The Short 20th Century

October 2005



History Methodology:

Achieving Both Breadth And Depth In History Teaching


*** Please note this is a summary of the main points to be made in the opening presentation of approximately 25-30 minutes. This presentation will not be read out word for word. In the appendix there are some materials relevant to the workshop session that will follow on from the presentation.





Aims: my purpose is NOT to tell good teachers how to do their job; nor to claim that everything done in the English system is wonderful. Some of my suggested methods may be things you do already; some will not be practical in your particular circumstances; some you may simply not agree with. All I am offering is first to explain some flexible basic principles and then to open up the session to practical workshop activities aimed at putting these principles into action.


The Principles


·        The Big Picture – History teaching needs to include both breadth and depth – in a clear, structured and SELECTIVE overall context. 

·        A Multi-perspective Approach – students have to be presented with a range of views and they must make choices in response.

·        Use of Historical Sources – wherever possible, students should be improving their skills and their understanding of a range of sources. 

·        Active Learning – Studying History needs active student participation, not just listening and absorbing information.

·        Targeted Assessment – Tests and assignments should be closely related to the way the subject is studied, measuring understanding and skills as well as knowledge

·        Lesson Plans – History lessons should be carefully planned to include a variety of activities, always in a coherent overall framework.


The Big Picture


The overall framework needs to be brief and clear – preferably contained on a single sheet of paper. It needs to be inclusive – containing both the landmark events and a range of perspectives. As well as chronological outlines, maps are also useful in showing the Big Picture. This Big Picture can be equally effective in showing breadth through an overview – and in the “Little Big Picture” outlining a specific issue in depth.

               [Powerpoint slides will show two or three examples]




Multiperspectivity can be summed up in two ways {a valuable Council of Europe handbook by Dr Bob Stradling is highly recommended]


  • The Range Of Perspectives At The Time – what diverse elements are contained within the historical topic? Class differences? Regional differences? Language and religion? Conflicts between national and ethnic groups? Political differences between Right and Left? Urban or Rural? Old or Young? Male of Female?
  • Differences In the Perspectives Of Later Generations – how do historians and popular opinion regard the past?


A Range of Different Types of Historical Sources


  • High-level ‘Insiders’ – key players, actively involved in the events;
  • Expert Outsiders  - journalists & historians etc;
  • Ordinary People Witnessing Important Things;
  • Official Government Documents (including propaganda).


Active Learning


Students must be participants, not spectators. Activities can include Group Work, Oral Presentations, Simulation Games and Role Play, Problem Solving through targeted assignments. Obviously, the range of activities in any one lesson has to be carefully selected – Rule 99 of History teaching says that not even dedicated lady teachers can do everything all the time.


Targeted Assessment


Tests and Assignments can and should be closely linked to the methodology used in class teaching – they should NOT be tacked on at the end as an afterthought. They should also test a range of skills and activities, not only accurate factual knowledge. And they should always allow for differentiation between varying levels of ability – yes/no questions should be discouraged.

[I will deal in more depth with assessment in the workshop session)


Lesson Planning


Lesson Plans, like everything else in History, need both breadth and depth. Breadth is the curriculum as a whole, matched to the time available:

  • What is the age range and academic ability of the students?
  • How long is each lesson going to be?
  • How many lessons will be available in all?
  • What resources are available to be used?
  • What are the compulsory elements of the curriculum?
  • How much freedom do you have in terms of teacher initiative?
  • Are you able to alter the classroom seating plan for certain activities?




Can you arrange yourselves into working groups?


Anything from 3 to 8 according to your preference and the seating plan


Can your group please choose whether it would like to work on Lesson Plans – or on developing Sources Units for Written Assessments?


Lesson Plans – Czechoslovakia in the short 20th century


Overall Strategy


·        Decide what age group you will be planning for

·        How many lessons will you have in total?

·        How many minutes will each lesson last?

·        What historical content is absolutely essential?


The Lesson Plan in Breadth


·        Plan the overall sequence of lessons, either or both chronologically, or thematically

·        Fill in a box diagram to show this overall plan


The Lesson Plan in Depth


Choose one of the lessons in the overall plan and develop a detailed scheme of work for that lesson. The Plan should include:

·        Links with the preceding lesson and with the next lesson after this one

·        Approximate indications of how much time will be devoted to each section of the lesson

·        A summary of the (concise and selective!) teacher presentation that will commence the lesson

·        A Summary of the sources and study materials available (allowing for a multi-perspective element)

·        An indication of the main activity the students will take part in

·        A guide to the assessment exercise that will later check on the progress made by the students in connection with this lesson

·        A summary of the way the lesson will be concluded


*** It is extremely important not to overload the lesson plan so that it cannot easily be fitted in to the time available. There is a need to be selective – remembering that other desirable information and activities can be addressed in other lessons.





Targeted Assessment Exercise based on Historical Sources


This means choosing a topic that forms a key part of the curriculum; assembling (for today, either in practice or in theory) a collection of varied sources (5 is a good number, 3 is a minimum); and then devising a set of questions to test a range of skills and to produce differentiated results – it is no good if the questions are so easy that everyone can do them, or so difficult that everyone scores badly. The tasks are:

·        Deciding what the age range and the ability of the students will be

·        Deciding how many minutes will be available to students in finishing the assignment (this could be in class; as a test; or as homework)

·        Choosing an appropriate central topic and setting out the sort of knowledge about this topic the students would be expected to have

·        Collecting a range of sources – of different types and different views (*** See the model example and the “blank” version)

·        Setting a range of questions to test a range of skills – these skills might include comprehension; knowledge of the context; comparison; evaluation of sources; writing an essay to bring together the topic as a whole

     (*** See the sample Unit)








We, the delegation of




wish to open informal and confidential discussions on the following issue of mutual concern:














Code Orange


To the delegation of




We, the delegation from




wish to thank you for your recent communication.


We are currently following other policy initiatives and do not wish to enter into discussions at this time. ***


We would be interested in further discussions and propose to meet you in the Neutral Zone as soon as possible. ***


At our meeting we would (would not ***) appreciate the presence of an international adviser as go-between.


*** Delete as appropriate







Policy Decisions

Summarise briefly the lines of policy your delegation decided to follow:




The Turkish delegation, led by Professor Halil Berktay on behalf of important figures in the “Young Turks”, decided to make a radical shift in Turkey’s foreign policy as a consequence of the Austrian Annexation. Under the leadership of a modernising group headed by Kemal Ataturk, they committed themselves to an accelerated programme of military reforms and internal civic reforms. This would involve developing existing links with Germany but also a complete reversal of policy towards Austria- Hungary, opening the way for resolving disputes in the South Balkans.



Summarise briefly any negotiations entered into but not leading to firm agreement:




Urgent steps were taken to open negotiations with the Austrian delegation. Although protests were made against the Austrians’ unilateral action in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Turkish willingness for a new relationship with Vienna was made clear. Propsals were put forward to make Salonika a free city and to accept Austrian rights over the railway southwards to Salonika down the Morava valley. The question of access to the tobacco fileds of the Drama River region was also opened for discussion. The Austrians were also invited to join in the ongoing military cooperation between the Tukish armed forces and Germany.   


Actions & Agreements 

Summarise briefly any decisions for action or agreements concluded with other parties:




In response to inquiries from the Albanians and the Macedonians, discussions on internal reforms to meet the demands of the nationalities under Turkish rule were entered into, mediated by the British diplomatic representative. As a result, constitutional conference is planned to take place in 1909.







From October 1908 to December 1912



  • The Austrian annexation of Bosnia was announced on 6 October. Despite Austrian promises in the secret Buchlau agreement, Russia was given only 3 days advance warning.
  • Bulgaria did decide on an immediate declaration of full independence. There was opposition from Turkey and some danger of a war.
  • Russian policy did turn away from the previous policy of co-existence with Austria-Hungary. Russian diplomatic agents began to encourage joint measures by the Balkan states to block Austrian expansion.
  • Turkey did protest strongly against the annexation and launched a highly effective boycott on Austrian goods
  • Serbia did make strong demands that the Treaty of Berlin be enforced or that Serbia should receive compensation. Serbia called up their army reserves. Montenegro demanded that Antivari should be freed from Austrian control.
  • The great powers did urge Serbia to avoid hostilities. Turkey did demand an international congress to be held (supported by Britain, Italy and France) but this did not take place because of Austrian opposition, strongly supported by Germany



  • Austria-Hungary did offer substantial financial compensation to Turkey. In February Turkey recognised the annexation.
  • Austria-Hungary did mobilise a large army and the Danube flotilla in order to intensify pressure on Serbia
  • Germany did give full support to Austria-Hungary and notified Russia in March that if Russia supported Serbia, Germany would mobilise her forces to back Austria-Hungary. Russia recognised the annexation.
  •  Serbia did finally renounce opposition to the annexation on 31 March.
  • On 6 April Montenegro also renounced her opposition in return for Austrian withdrawal from Antivari.
  • Turkey did recognise full Bulgarian independence in return for financial compensation (mostly provided by Russia)
  • There was a counter-revolution in Turkey in support of Sultan Abdulhamid II. When this revolt failed, the Sultan was deposed and replaced by Mehmet V
  • Russia and Italy did make an agreement to support each other in the region (this later encouraged Italy to invade Turkish North Africa)



  • Bosnia-Hercegovina was given its own provincial government and elections were held
  • Serbia did succeed in overcoming the Austrian economic blockade. The ‘Pig War’ ended with Serbia having found alternative markets



  • Germany’s relations with Britain and France did become more hostile. The Agadir Crisis increased tensions over colonies and sea power.
  • Italy did decide to declare war on the Ottoman Empire. This military action was successful, giving Italy control of Tripoli and Cyrenica and the Dodecanese islands.



  • Serbia and Bulgaria did make an alliance in March 1912, with secret clauses concerning the division of Macedonian territory.
  • Bulgaria and Greece did make a defence pact, though there were no specific territorial provisions
  • Montenegro did sign agreements with Serbia and Bulgaria in October 1912, thus linking Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro in an anti-Ottoman alliance organised for war.
  • Turkey did attempt to guard against the dangers. Agreements were made with the Albanians and with Italy, recognising Italian gains of 1911, but the Turkish armed forces were not well prepared for war
  • The great powers did attempt to avert war in October 1912. Russia and Austria-Hungary (acting on behalf of all the great powers) sent a warning to the Balkan states – but on the same day Montenegro launched an attack on Turkey; the First Balkan War began.
  • The Balkan League (with a total of 700 000 troops against Turkey’s 320 000) did achieve a convincing military victory. Bulgaria fought the Ottoman armies in Thrace; Serbia and Greece invaded Macedonia; Montenegro attacked Shkoder
  • Greece did occupy Thessaloniki before Bulgarian forces arrived there
  • The British government did lead great power attempts to control the situation left by the collapse of Turkey by calling an international conference in London
  • German government did decide on a policy of preparing for war. A secret meeting of the Kaiser and the high command in December 1912 discussed plans for ‘war in 18 months’






From December 1912 to August 1914



  • Greek armies did occupy Thessaloniki before Bulgaria’s forces reached the city. Thessaloniki was incorporated into Greece.
  • The First Balkan war ended with the comprehensive defeat of the Ottoman Empire
  • British diplomacy did succeed in calling an international conference in London to adjudicate the outcomes of the First Balkan War



  • Austria-Hungary did succeed in blocking Serbian ambitions through the creation of a separate Albanian state. The London conference led to the treaty of London by which Albania was established as a new autonomous state, though the final territorial borders were to be left to an international commission.
  • Bulgaria did decide to declare war on Serbia and Greece, thus launching the Second Balkan War
  • Romania, Montenegro and Turkey did decide to ally themselves with Serbia and GreeceBulgaria was heavily defeated and forced to make peace
  • At the Treaty of Bucharest, Serbia and Bulgaria made significant gains at Bulgaria’s expense. Turkey regained Adrianople, though the overall impact of the Balkan wars was disastrous for Turkey.
  • The war was also a setback for great power diplomacy because efforts to restrain and manipulate the Balkan states had largely failed



  • Serbia did continue to intensify support for Bosnian Serb terrorism. On 28 June the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo
  •  Vienna did accept the arguments of Conrad von Hotzendorff about the need for pre-emptive action against Serbia. On 23 July Vienna issued a harsh ultimatum to Belgrade, designed to be almost impossible for Serbia to accept.
  • Russia did decide to give full support to Serbia (unlike 1909) and ordered army mobilisation
  • Germany did decide to give full support to Austria-Hungary and issued an ultimatum to St Petersburg to cancel the mobilisation order
  • Britain did decide to commit to a full military alliance with France and sent troops to the western front
  • Turkey and Bulgaria did decide to join the Central Powers in the war
  • Italy decided not to enter the war but to remain neutral (in 1915 Italy entered the war, fighting alongside Britain and France and against her former allies in the Triple Alliance)







THE BALKANS 1856-1908


After the Crimean War, the Treaty of Paris set out the framework of the ‘Eastern Question’. Russia was still barred from her warships passing through the Straits. British and French support had maintained the security of the Ottoman Empire but Serbia and Romania were now to be independent states, following the example of Greece thirty years earlier. It was hoped that the stability of Turkey would be guaranteed for the long term.


This did not prove to be the case. There were continuing challenges to Turkish rule in the Balkans and continuing internal tensions within Turkey itself. In 1875 risings in Bosnia-Herzegovina led to widespread violence and the so-called ‘Bulgarian atrocities’ of 1876 as Turkey struggled to retain control. Also in 1876 there was a revolution in Constantinople bringing to power the new Sultan, Abdulhamid II. The crisis of 1875-76 led to the involvement of the Great Powers, with Russia supporting the ideals of ‘Pan-Slavism’ and Austria-Hungary anxious to prevent Balkan nationalism from spreading more widely.


In 1877 war began between Russia and Turkey. Russian victories led to the treaty of San Stefano in 1878 at which a new state of Bulgaria was formed. It was generally assumed that this new Bulgaria would be in Russia’s sphere of influence. The other powers, especially Austria-Hungary and Britain, were very opposed to the San Stefano settlement and called for an international conference to revise it. Bismarck offered German mediation. The result was the 1878 Congress of Berlin. At the Congress both the size and the extent of the independence of Bulgaria were greatly reduced. The outcome of the Berlin conference was seen as a triumph for Britain’s prime minister Disraeli and also for Austria-Hungary because it blocked Russian ambitions and because Austria-Hungary was to occupy and administer Bosnia-Herzegovina as a ‘defensive measure’. The new state of Montenegro became independent.


Instability continued after 1878. In 1885 there was a renewed crisis when Bulgaria enlarged its territory by uniting with Eastern Rumelia. This Bulgarian crisis ended in 1887. The Balkans continued to cause tension between Russia and Austria-Hungary. The 1879 Dual Alliance had already made Austria the ally of Germany. In 1893-94 Russia achieved an alliance with France. There was now a permanent danger of European conflict being caused by rivalry in the Balkans between Austria-Hungary and Russia.


For a time this danger was lessened by Russia’s foreign policy aims in the Far East. Between the early 1890s and her defeat by Japan in 1905 Russian policy in the Balkans became passive. In 1897 there was an Austrian-Russian ‘rapprochement’. This was reinforced by the Murzsteg agreement of 1903 and, later, by the secret agreement between Aehrenthal and Izvolsky at Buchlau Castle in September 1908.


There were, however, several trends leading towards fresh tensions in the Balkans. Firstly, the foreign policy of Germany was changing. In 1896 and 1899 Kaiser Wilhelm II made important state visits to Constantinople to support the Sultan and to pave the way for German military and economic assistance. This was the beginning of direct German involvement in the Balkans (and support for Austria) where previous policy had been merely to keep the peace.


Secondly, there was a palace revolution in Belgrade in 1903. The King and Queen of Serbia were assassinated. The Obrenovic dynasty was overthrown and replaced by the new Karadjordjevic King, Peter. Serbian policy had previously been dominated on most issues, including trade, by Austria-Hungary. The new rulers of Serbia, especially the army officers who had brought about the revolution, were aggressively pro-Russian and anti-Austrian.


Thirdly, Russia suffered a humiliating defeat in 1905 at the hands of the Japanese. This halted Russian expansion in the Far East. Once again, the main thrust of Russia’s foreign policy turned to the Balkans.


Lastly, there was a radical change in Turkey in July 1908. Abdulhamid II, who had been Sultan since 1876, was saw his government taken over by the ‘Young Turks’ – army officers committed to reform and modernisation. This created great uncertainty because it raised the possibility of a recovery in Turkish power and authority. The ‘Young Turk’ revolution led to changed attitudes and policies in several capitals. They included Vienna (prompted to push ahead more quickly with the annexation of Bosnia); Berlin (ready to support the new Young Turk regime); and Belgrade (anxious in case Turkey restored full control in Bosnia and blocked Serbian ambitions there). Other Balkan nations were also concerned to see if their hopes for territorial gains or independence would be prevented by Turkish revival.


The stage was set for the Austrian annexation of Bosnia and a full-scale international crisis in the Balkans. 






The British Diplomat




You are a vastly experienced diplomat, now retired after numerous postings abroad. You attended the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and served as an attaché at Constantinople in the 1880s. You served in both Paris and Berlin in the 1890s and you were involved in the preliminary talks concerning a possible Anglo-German alliance in 1898. You were later Britain’s Ambassador at St Petersburg and played a role in the negotiations leading to the formation of the ‘Triple Entente’ in 1907.




You were a close associate of J.B. Haldane and you have always been in favour of better relations between Britain and Germany. You have little sympathy with those who recommend a closer military alliance between Britain and France. You believe that there are many policymakers in Germany who do not wish to see Anglo-German rivalry get out of hand. You suspect that the occasional wild statements by the Kaiser do not necessarily provide a reliable guide to Germany’s real policy intentions. From your contacts in St Petersburg, you are also convinced that Russian policy is more defensive than it sometimes appears – you feel that Austria-Hungary is wrong to overreact to fears of Russian hostility. You are uncertain about the new Young Turk regime and would prefer the rule of Abdulhamid II to have continued. In overall policy, you support the peacemaking approach of his foreign minister Sir Edward Grey and you believe that the best way to deal with crisis in the Balkans is through international agreements and the mediation of the Great Powers


Although now retired from active diplomacy, you are a source of valuable information and advice, not only on British policies but also about the likely approaches of Russia, Germany and France. You also have useful knowledge passed on by your long-standing friends in Italy; and you believe that Italy may yet be persuaded to side with Britain rather than with her allies in the Triple Alliance if there should ever be a European conflict.





The German Countess




Coming from a wealthy aristocratic background, you are highly educated and able to speak four languages fluently. Your father and several other members of your family held important posts in the German military and in the diplomatic service. From your social and family connections, you are extremely well informed about the inner workings of Germany’s government and foreign policy. Among your high-level contacts are General Liman von Sanders, the German military adviser at Constantinople, and Prince Lichnowsky, the German Ambassador in London.




You are very critical of some of the ultra-conservatives in the army high command. You regard their fears of Germany being ‘encircled’ as exaggerated and have even called them ‘hysterical’. You have little time for the views of the right-wing nationalist groupings such as the Pan-German League and the Navy League and you feel that their calls for a ‘place in the sun’ are both unrealistic and dangerous. You support German links with Turkey and the economic and military assistance being given to the Turkish government but you do not approve of boastful talk about the plans for a ‘Berlin-Baghdad’ railway. You have said openly that Germany should not give backing to Austria-Hungary in the Balkans but should use her influence to restrain Austrian policy. You are against further expansion of Germany’s battle fleet and remain convinced that it is still possible for Britain and Germany to have a harmonious relationship.  


You are an excellent source of information and advice about policies under discussion in Germany. Due to your connections with Prince Lichnowsky, you know a good deal about British diplomatic circles. You also have good contacts in Paris and in Constantinople. 






The American Journalist




You are a well-travelled foreign correspondent with a reputation for collecting information from a wide range of unofficial sources. You became the Vienna correspondent of a prestigious Boston broadsheet and are known to be friendly with other foreign journalists such as Henry Wickham Steed of The Times. It is also claimed by your rivals that you obtain your scoops by paying lavish bribes to a number of informers in hotels and embassies all over Europe, especially in the Balkans. Very recently you attended the sensational ‘treason trial’ of Croatian nationalists in Zagreb.




Nobody really knows what your political views are. Some say that you are a Democrat, although the proprietor of your newspaper is a strong Republican. You are regarded with suspicion by the regimes of Russia and, Austria-Hungary because you have so many contacts with Balkan nationalists, especially in Serbia and Bulgaria; and because your articles are often insulting about the ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘corrupt’ nature of the old multinational empires. (Your coverage of the Zagreb trial enraged both Vienna and Budapest.)  


You are a well-informed if perhaps not totally reliable source of information. You have access to a vast range of unofficial rumours and diplomatic gossip. Your claims are often denied by government spokesmen (who refer to you as ‘that drunken American mischief-maker’) – but your supposedly wild rumours often turn out to be true. You are especially well informed about the aims and intentions of nationalist rebels, including Bosnian Serbs and Albanian bandits. It appears, for example, that you were the only westerner who knew about the 1903 coup in Belgrade before it happened.







  1. Preparation beforehand should include providing students with clear background information, not in excessive detail, suitable maps and careful explanation of the rules and the purpose of the simulation
  2. Having a large enough space is important – try to ensure there is a central area for the neutral zone and that it is easy for the Umpire and the Advisers to move round and speak to all the delegations. Any extra spaces, even store rooms and corridors, should be utilised for confidential negotiations
  3. Delegations can be of any size as long as they are not too unwieldy.
  4. Note that too close a supervision from teachers can be unhelpful – allow students scope to show initiative and to find their own way, even if this means watching them make mistakes.
  5. Briefing Cards should be brief and selective. Their main function is to provide enough scope for both genuine debate about the policies to be followed and an adequate basis for entering into negotiations with other parties. Getting students to research and design Briefing Cards in advance of the Simulation is both efficient and an excellent pedagogical ploy
  6. The role of the Umpire and of the Special Advisers in the neutral zone is very important – for time management, for provision of extra information, and for stimulating or assisting any delegations who appear uncertain or slow.
  7. Giving advance notice (“five-minute warnings”) of the approaching end of policy discussions or of negotiations is usually a good idea
  8. Although the Simulation allows for role play and enthusiastic involvement at the time, it has a real historical value. It should be followed up by a later lesson that allows full scope for discussion of the issues raised.






The Spy


You have served until very recently as Military Attache at the Russian Embassy in Belgrade. In your undercover role, you have been active in seeking out nationalist leaders in the Balkan states, encouraging cooperation between them in blocking the policies of Austria-Hungary and in spreading Russian influence in return for support for nationalist aspirations. Your role in the simulation is to provide information and advice to those nationalities who are sympathetic towards Russia and hostile to the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Some delegations may also wish to make use of your services as a “back channel” for passing secret information – be careful never to be overheard when carrying out such tasks. 






“Crisis in the Balkans 1900-1914”


Checklist of materials


  • Summary introduction by Bob & Chris
  • 3 Maps of South East Europe – 1878; December 1912; June 1914
  • Rules & Regulations for the simulation
  • Chronological Summary 1875-1908
  • Background Information Supplement 1856-1908
  • Briefing Cards for all Delegations “1908”
  • Briefing Cards for all Delegations  “1912-13”
  • Special Briefing Papers for the three International Advisers
  • “What Happened Next” sheet 1908-1912 (for half-time interval)
  • “What Happened Next” sheet 1913-1914 (for end of simulation)
  • Coloured Slips for initiating and responding to requests for negotiations
  • Summary sheets for recording policy decisions and negotiations
  • Checklist of issues for discussion in the Plenary Session