On 12th October, Margot Tudor (WFTA Postdoc) and Lottie Titcombe (WFTA Research Assistant) visited Saint Benedict’s School in Bury St Edmunds to trial some educational resources based on the archival material hosted on our website. Mrs Titcombe kindly invited us to take-over the 2-hour session and turn her classroom into a press conference set in 2003!
The sixth form students took part in a 2-hour roleplay activity, titled: ‘Lead-up to the Iraq invasion 2003: Blair and Bush’s policy teams take on a media conference’. We began by taking the students through a brief overview of the West’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, introducing the key political figures and providing a map of the country. Students broke into four small groups and discussed some archival documents – letters from Blair to Bush in the run up to the invasion. As the class came back together to talk through their analysis of these documents, Margot explained the FOI process and how the WFTA project acquired these declassified memos from the National Archives.
After a short break, the students returned to their group and were assigned a political perspective or political figure to bring to life in the roleplay: left-wing and liberal journalists; right-wing journalists; Blair and policy advisor; and Bush and policy advisor. Using the declassified documents and the advice of Margot, Lottie and Mrs Titcombe, the students worked together to prepare questions and responses for a press conference.
This activity encouraged the students to engage in close documentary analysis as well as reflecting on the significance of the national media in shaping the public knowledge and understanding of politics and foreign policy.
The press conference was lively and the journalists really pushed the politicians for answers to their questions on the validity of the intervention into Iraq.
Journalists interrogated ‘Blair’ and ‘Bush’ on their justifications for the war, challenging their humanitarian motivations and drawing attention to the history of Western invasions – especially the Vietnam War.
The students filled in anonymous feedback forms after the session and here are some quotes:
I enjoyed the variation on how we used our knowledge (questions). I also enjoyed analysing the secretive sources.
What skills did you feel like you learned/improved upon during the session?
[I learned about] analysing texts and thinking of questions that people with different political views than mine would have.
Thinking about things from another point of view and scrutinising others.
Developed critical thinking.
It’s important to use archival sources because…
… it provides information that, otherwise we wouldn’t of seen, which allowed us to form a better understanding of the events and why they happened.
Because it provides a first hand explanation for events which can involve a greater scrunity of the government. Also, archival documents are specific to a time -> so direct information.
They give you a huge insight on the thought process of key individuals e.g. looking at my documents I was able to gain key insight into the thoughts and perspective of Blair.
When researching a particular topic the archival documents gave us valuable insight into what really happened.
What did you most enjoy about the session?
The interactive nature and the ability to take on roles specific to an interesting part of history. Fascinating reading the declassified documents.
The roleplaying was very engaging! It was easy to get very invested and involved with it.
If you are an instructor/teacher and would like to try out one of our educational sessions to introduce your students to our archival documents and the context of the Iraq War, please click on the ‘Resources’ tab and download our activities. Get in touch for further information!