Who decides how the past was?


It is often the view that pre-War Dartmoor was rooted in Victorian ways of farming. Novels and pictures often suggested that most labourers lived in quite run-down and often insanitary cottages and used virtually medieval methods to farm.


How true or accurate is this notion? This exercise sets out to explore how historical myths are created and whether the accepted view is simply myth.


Firstly, students are invited to look at sources 1-4. Consider how far this selection supports or challenges the view that pre-War rural Dartmoor reflects a Victorian standard of living and working. Collect together ideas on whiteboards or stick-on notes.

Next, take a look at an alternative view from sources 5-8. Add David Parker’s research extract, also found in the resource section, for both contemporary and secondary evidence.

Take some time to note the differences and offer suggestions for possible explanations for the differences.

The discussion to follow should focus on the changes in view, the issues of selection and how myths are created in the first place.

Teacher Notes

This can be used as a home learning task or a class-led task which is intended to delve into the way we define how the past is often a construct dependent upon the evidence selected.


David Parker’s Article on Farming