Bringing the past to life in the history classroom

by Dinos Aristidou | 1 September 2017

History, like drama, also deals with humanity.

Drama is a powerful tool for inquiry-based learning. This art form gives students the opportunity to examine the world, develop their conceptual understandings and express their ideas and learning. Its value and power lies in the fact that it brings abstract concepts and ideas to life and makes them concrete and tangible. Drama and theatre cannot help but address the human condition and the world around us – what it means to be of the world, to live in the world and to live with each other. In addition, and relevant to the use of drama and theatre in history, is the fact that because theatre is live, it takes place in the present, as if it is happening now. It therefore has the power to bring the past into the present, transforming the then into the now.

History, like drama, also deals with humanity, our actions, interactions and the impact these have had on the world. Among the many skills required of the historian is the ability to look at the world through different perspectives – be they of another time or another place – in order to piece together a narrative that will provide us with insight and understanding into events we have not been part of or witnessed.

One of the most obvious and most commonly used forms of drama is the reenactment or reconstruction of particular events in history. These may be battles or scenes showing the everyday lives of people in the past. Though these may be useful, especially in giving students a physical sense of a past situation, they run the risk of encouraging playacting, a form of performance which focuses primarily on the external and the superficial.

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