Churchill Archive for Schools - Themes_Key questions_help to make the

Did nuclear weapons help to make the world safer between 1945 and 1951?

These sources have been carefully selected from the Churchill Archive to explore the question of whether nuclear weapons made the world a safer place between 1945 and 1951. As a collection of six sources they can be used to build up a picture of thoughts and opinions on the international situation in this period. Teachers could ask students to work through the entire collection or get individuals or pairs or small groups to look at a smaller number of sources and then report back. However, it is probably better to try to get students to use the entire collection if possible, working through them in chronological order. This way they can move beyond the sources as a collection of individual documents and use them more in the way a historian would, as a series of documents which illustrate the past more effectively as a collection.

With this basis in mind, students who have looked at the collection might then be challenged with tasks which extend their thinking and understanding. For example:

Activity 1: Was Churchill a committed Cold Warrior, determined to stand up to Soviet power?

You might ask students if the sources provide an answer to the question posed by this enquiry.

Source Support the view AT FACE VALUE that Churchill was determined to stand up to Soviet Power Do not support the view AT FACE VALUE that Churchill was determined to stand up to Soviet Power Reasons why the source is strong or weak evidence about this particular issue (eg date of source, typicality, purpose)

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Activity 2: What kind of picture do we get about the significance of nuclear weapons in international relations between 1945 and 1951?

Students can sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that documents represent ‘the whole’ of the story rather than being part of the puzzle which historians have to piece together. It might be useful to ask them to discuss the following assertions in groups:

  • Letters, speeches and articles definitely tell you about what is happening at the time
  • We can’t learn anything about the Soviets from British sources
  • Political speeches are useful for revealing public opinion
  • Personal letters definitely tell you about what the letter writer thinks
  • The sources only tell us about the British point of view so offer an incomplete picture
  • Personal letters are weak as sources because they only tell you about one person

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