So what images should we use to help give our kids the keys to this particular kingdom?
The answer to what works is: anything that is interesting to you and relevant to the topic. A couple of my favourites are from the Industrial period, J. M. W. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up and his Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway.
Both of these paintings are visually beautiful and really atmospheric. They appear to show that Turner was really interested in historical change. After all they both show how the 'old' is being replaced by the 'new'. They also seem to hint to us how he felt about the massive changes that were going on during the Industrial period.
If you want more ideas about how to use these two images to create an overview then read this article at History Resource Cupboard.
Another favourite of mine is Ford Madox Brown. His work is so full of British society in the mid-nineteenth century it is really worth a look. There is a great web resource (designed for Key Stage 2 but I don't think that matters) developed by the Manchester Art Gallery which is worth checking out.
Madox Brown's painting The Last of England is equally brilliant. I was lucky enough to attend an inset where Michael Riley helped us look really closely at this image and suggested that it could be used as a starting point for a depth study on migration to and from the UK. Michael even got us to notice the cabbages hanging on the front of the boat as well as the baby being kept warm underneath the wife's coat. We noticed how the two main characters in the image might be feeling as they left Britain.
For the French Revolution I simply love David's The Death of Marat. A very talented colleague of mine created an amazing enquiry which compared this painting with Renaissance works depicting Jesus being taken from the cross – he then went on to get the kids to see if the David's painting of the scene was an accurate depiction. The class compared the work with different sources. Finally they summed up their understanding by creating and recording their own audio guide – brilliant!
The great thing about nearly all of these images is that they are just a couple of mouse clicks away …