We gave our students the first Progress Test from the book today. The writing task was
Think about something important that has happened in your country.Then write about:
- what happened and when
- why you think it happened
- the effects it had on the people of your country
- the effect (if any) it has had on your family
Since I had nothing better to do, I wondered what my ancestors did during significant periods of English history. Most of my forebears come from Yorkshire or southern Scotland, and I would assume that they were probably fairly sedentary for most of the past thousand years.
What were they doing in 1066 when William of Normandy invaded England? Did they take part in the rebellion against William which resulted in Yorkshire being laid waste? Or did they merely suffer the consequences of that?
Did they take sides during the civil war between Matilda and Stephen? Did any of them go off on the Crusades?
Some of them must’ve survived the Black Death in the mid 1300s, but how many succumbed to it? How did affect the lives of the ones who survived? Were any of them attracted by the Flagellants? Or did they decide to eat, drink, and be merry? Somehow, I think they probably just got on with things.
What did they do during the Wars of the Roses? Did they fight for the Yorkist cause? From what I’ve read, it seems likely that my ancestors were probably unaffected by the whole squabble.
What did they think about the Reformation and the Dissolution of the Monasteries? There was a popular rebellion in Yorkshire, and there were several important monasteries in the shire, including Rievaulx Abbey. My ancestors could’ve been a part of the Pilgrimage of Grace, and may only have abandoned Catholicism because of the harsh recusancy laws. Did they lament Guy Fawkes’ failure to blow up James II?
Then there was the civil war in the 17th century between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. The Parliamentary army in Yorkshire defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Naseby, suggesting that my ancestors might have fought for Parliament.
And when, over a century later, Bonnie Prince Charlie invaded England, did he have any direct affect on my forebears? Or did his army pass by without seeing them?
What impact did the Industrial Revolution have? Did they head for the towns to look for work, or had they been town dwellers all along? And what involvement did they have in the rise if the British Empire? (Apart from being mere migrants.)
I guess that for most of history my ancestors might’ve been there, but played no significant part in it. Other questions which spring to mind are whether any of them ever joined the church, and who my first literate ancestor was.