July: Site update and Reith lectures on War

Wednesday 18 July 2018

This year's Reith Lectures focus on war and society. Margaret MacMillan provides a historical perspective on war from the view of combatants, civilians and peacemakers.

The 100 year anniversary of Nelson Mandela's death also brings some interesting articles and discussions on his life and contribution to today's South Africa.

The Reith Lectures: 'War and Humanity'

Each year the BBC commissions 'The Reith Lectures', given by a leading figure of the day and broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

This year the Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan is giving the lectures on the topic of 'War and Humanity'. Many of you will be familiar with MacMillan and her books such as The Uses and Abuses of History and The War that ended Peace.

Her lectures focus on four themes and are interesting for generating discussion on war and its historical development – interesting for those of you doing 20th Century War or Medieval War with your students.

Below are some of the questions that students could answer while listening to the podcasts of these lectures. The transcripts of the lectures can be downloaded from the BBC site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b8d340

  1. Impact of war on society
  • Give examples of how wars have brought about social and political change
  • How have wars brought benefits – what MacMillan calls ‘the paradoxes of war’?
  • How did the American and French Revolutions impact on the nature of war?
  • How did the Industrial Revolution impact on war?
  • What does she mean by ‘cabinet wars to people’s wars’?
  1. Making sense of the warrior
  • For what reasons have people joined fighting forces?
  • Why did the French Revolution change the type of solider that was fighting? And how did this affect military tactics?
  1. Civilians and war
  • What roles have women played in war? What examples does MacMillan give?
  • How has the relationship between civilians and war changed? Why is this?
  • What happens when civilians take up arms?
  • Why are civil wars so cruel according to MacMillan?
  • What examples are given?
  • How have civilians been used as ‘weapons of war’?
  • How has war benefitted some groups?
  • Do you agree that war is embedded in human society? What is the importance of understanding war better?
  1. Managing the unmanageable
  • How have we tried to control or limit war over the ages? Why have many of these failed?
  • Do you agree that we are in a similar situation to that which existed before 1914?
  • Is MacMillan's conclusion more optimistic or pessimistic regarding the future?

Another anniversary

This month also sees the centenary of Mandela’s birth. There are thus some interesting articles about Mandela in the press which may be useful to those of you doing the Rights and Protest for Paper 1. 

Here is the link to Obama's speech to commemorate this anniversary:


Also a link to a less positive view of Mandela's legacy:


Site update

The following resources have been added in the last month:


To post comments you need to log in. If it is your first time you will need to subscribe.