Causation in History

chess piece for causation raising aspirations post

The second session.

This reading resource is designed to be used alongside my Collapse of the Tsarist Empire Game (published in the journal Teaching History, Number 149). The game serves as an introduction to the concept of causation in History, and asks pupils to grapple with E.H. Carr’s seminal work on historical causation (Chapter 4 in his book ‘What is History’ (1961)).  It  provides an opportunity for pupils to discuss controversies such as historical determinism and the ‘Cleopatra’s Nose’ idea of History as a chapter of accidents.

After playing the game, pupils are asked to brainstorm all of the causes that they can think of for why the Russian Empire collapsed into revolution in 1917. They are then provided with a cardsort of nine pre-prepared causes of revolution.

Pupils then begin reading  E.H. Carr. Where there is a ‘*’ in the Causation Reader document, pupils are asked to:

  1. Identify multiple causes of revolution.
  2. Categorise causes of revolution into: economic, social and political; long and short term.
  3. Place the causes into a hierarchy (I use a diamond 9).
  4. Justify their most important cause (or ‘interpretation’).
  5. Engage in counter-factual thinking: take the cause cards to do with ‘World War I’ away. Would the revolution in Russia still have happened? Is this a useful exercise?

Reading Resource: EH Carr Causation in History Reader

Activity: Causation Cardsort – Russian Revolution

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