Resources for Teachers

Since the WordPress archives are far from the easiest thing to navigate and it can be difficult to find what you are looking for even though it is, I am putting together a couple of ‘index’ posts linking to things I’ve written on this site on a given topic.

This one is Resources for Teachers. I’ve been absolutely delighted to hear that some of the material I put up here has been useful for teachers in either designing lesson plans or even as readings or additional resources. So I thought I would gather here links to the posts that I have been told were useful by K-12 and post-secondary educators.

Education and the Humanities

The Practical Case on Why We Need the Humanities presents a practical argument for both studying the humanities and for the continued funding of the humanities in education. While it is mostly focused on higher education, the argument is more broadly applicable.

How Your History Gets Made presents a schematic overview of an entire academic field (history) and how all sorts of kinds of historians (academic historians, public historians, history teachers) interact to both produce and disseminate historical knowledge throughout our society.

A Trip Through the Classics

A series of posts examining and explicating short passages from what I hope to be a wide range of authors from the pre-modern world. So far, we’ve discussed: Thucydides on foreign policy realism; Cicero on Natural Law Philosophy; Dhuoda on Carolingian views of piety and courtly behavior, and both ‘Antarah Ibn Shaddad and Bertran de Born on the martial values of mounted aristocrats.

Pre-Modern Economies

Lonely Cities (I and II): A look at the human terrain – that is, the landscape created by human activity – formed by agriculture outside of large pre-modern cities, and a chance to talk about the sort of people – farmers, pastoralists, laborers – who made up most of the people in the past, but often don’t show up very much in traditional textbooks!

Bread, How Did They Make it? (I, II, III, IV, A): A brief look at the pre-modern cereal farming, designed to be accessible to readers who have little background in any kind of farming or agriculture. Many of the main points here are adapted from my own lectures and try to set the focus on the people who lived in the pre-modern countryside, who made up the great majority of folks in society. Includes an addendum on rice production.

Ancient Societies

This. Isn’t. Sparta. (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII): My longest series so far, this set of posts delivers what I view as the indictment against Sparta. The argument here is a bit one-sided and intentionally so; I aimed for this to offset a lot of the rose-tinted visions of Sparta that one sees in most high school and even college textbooks. This series attempts to deal with nearly all aspects of Spartan society: men and women, slave and free, high class and low class, civilian and military, government and economy, adult and child. Note: Part I, Spartan School and Part III, Spartan Women both come with content warnings, the former because it discusses the abuse of children and the latter for frank discussions of historical systems of violence against women.

The Fremen Mirage (I, II, IIIa, IIIb, Interlude, IV): A long six-part look at what I term the ‘Fremen Mirage’ – a notion, still too common in pop-history and even in classrooms – that ‘hard times’ breed morally and militarily superior ‘hard men.’ In this series, I take that idea apart and also discuss the historical tradition that led to it being so pervasive in the first place, using the world’s best-selling science fiction novel, Dune, as a starting point. Note: Part IIIb discusses modern racist ideology, including Nazi ideology; the Interlude also includes some mature subject matter, as it deals directly with Dune. I don’t know that either rises to the level of a content warning, but be sure to check and make sure they are appropriate for your classes.

Religion

Practical Polytheism (I, II, III, IV): A discussion of the nuts-and-bolts of ancient polytheist practice, focused on practical knowledge, rather than moral belief. A good primer (I hope!) for students to understand how these religions viewed the world differently than we do and how that influenced their practice, hopefully to avoid the common student error of just assuming everyone in the past was an idiot.

Oaths! How Do They Work? A useful addition to the above, this looks at oaths and vows in both Christian and pagan practice in a bit more depth, discussing how such religious actions were taken very seriously by people in the past.

Class, Status and the Early Church. Written as a response to a particularly bald historical misstatement, this is a very brief round-up of the current scholarly consensus on the social make-up and growth of the Christian Church in its first four (or so) centuries.

Military History

The Siege of Gondor (I, II, III, IV, V, VI): This series aims to introduce a number of military/historical concepts in a fun, Lord of the Rings candy-coated package. It discusses the distinction between tactics, operations and strategy, presents some of the basic problems of logistics, introduces defense in depth, infantry cohesion, pre-modern siege and cavalry tactics, and most importantly the impact of morale on the battle.

The Battle of Helm’s Deep (I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII): A companion series to the Siege of Gondor, diving still deeper into a number of military/historical concepts in a fun, Lord of the Rings candy-coated package. It discusses operational coordination, the operational impact of castles, cavalry-on-cavalry battles, principles of army organization, even more pre-modern siege techniques, and the impact of cohesion, leadership and morale, concluding with a look at strategy and strategic errors.

The Preposterous Logistics of the Loot Train Battle and How Fast Do Armies Move? The second post is essentially a gloss on one element of the former, which discusses the logistics problems of armies in the age before railroads in greater depth, all in a Game of Thrones candy-coated package.

War Elephants! (I, II, III) A three-part discussion of war elephants and the role that they play both on the battlefield and off of it. Part I discusses the military advantages, Part II the liabilities and weaknesses, while Part III looks at the social role of elephants as signals of kingship and nobility in the societies that did make use of them.

Why Don’t We Use Chemical Weapons Anymore? A discussion of the modern use of chemical weapons and why the global push to abandon them may not be as symbolic of moral progress as my own teachers once thought. Also touches on the concept of doctrine and the modern system of combat.

Are you an educator (or a student)? Is there anything I’ve written here that you think ought to be on this list but isn’t? Is there something you’re dying for me to cover? Drop me a line on twitter @BretDevereaux!

(Updated, 5-20-2020)