The ever eager and enthusiastic historians Samuel, Ben, William and Zac were lucky enough to take part in a number of tasks at Haileybury’s History’s Mysteries extravaganza against other prep school pupils in Years 5 and 6. The day was designed to get the boys to think about history as a discipline: how we know what we know from the past and to use different sources of information as evidence to build up a picture of the past. This enquiry-based learning opportunity allowed the boys to develop their historical skills. The mysteries spanned over 800 years of British history, starting in 1066 at the Battle of Hastings and ending in 1888 with Jack the Ripper. The boys were also treated to a history tour of Haileybury itself in a day full of engagement and interaction.
The competition started with the boys having to solve the mystery of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, to answer how King Harold Godwinson actually died. Having examined seven sources to test the two hypotheses of whether Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye or hacked to death, the boys articulated their argument well to the rest of the competition.
Jumping almost 600 years later, to the reign of James I, mystery two comprised of having to ascertain whether or not Guy Fawkes was set up in a conspiracy or posed an actual terror threat to the Houses of Parliament. This time, the boys got hands on with 12 pieces of evidence ranging from letters to signatures, to argue that in fact they thought Guy Fawkes was caught up in a conspiracy.
The final mystery of the morning, from Victorian times in 1888, looked at the famous Jack the Ripper and his crimes within the Evil Square Mile through a series of letters as the group set about trying to identify the killer. Having read numerous statements from a number of witnesses, the boys were tasked with producing a wanted poster and beware file to aid detectives.
After a delectable lunch, the competitors were treated to a walking historical tour of Haileybury itself where they learnt about the extravagant quadrangles, prestigious chapel and the fate of many former pupils in past wars, which was very topical and moving given Remembrance this month.
William, Ben, Zac and Samuel were an absolute credit to Davenies throughout and have learnt the invaluable skills of questioning sources and evidence to determine what happened in the past – although, they are now aware that history is not always as it seems and this is the difficult dilemma in which historians are faced with over reliability. This will serve them well in their educational careers. The boys had an inspiring and wonderful day, and were thoroughly deserving of their second place in the competition.
Thank you to Haileybury for an exceptional competition and one that we look forward to returning.
Mr Fryer, Head of History