History: Fifth Form Lecture Brings Cold War To Life

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1989 was a momentous year in the history of Europe – it opened with the Cold War seemingly firmly in place and ended with the dawn of a new world where in one heady moment, Francis Fukuyama declared ‘the end of history’.

How wrong he was, of course. It is still alive and kicking as we seek to understand our difficult present and it continues to fascinate our Fifth Formers as they seek to make connections and provide different perspective on the collective and individual historical human experience.

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This was embodied recently by a visit from the Head of German, Mr Rohmer, to the History Department where he talked of the year 1989 from an altogether personal experience.

Mr Rohmer was, like countless other East and West Germans, caught up in the movement of the historical tectonic plates that would witness the fall of the symbol of the Cold War – the Berlin Wall.

Our students in GCSE learn how Berlin was the epicentre of both the National Socialist (Nazi) state and the superpower rivalry of the Cold War, resulting in a forty year standoff between the Russians and the Americans. Its origins go back to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the collapse of the Grand Alliance after the Second World War.

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Whilst we historians do not perform brain surgery nor do we design motorways, what we love doing is explaining the past – it’s in our lifeblood. So when, in our own School we have a teacher who lived through arguably the biggest sea change in a generation, we are hypnotised by his story and we want to hear it and understand it!

History in the fifth form looks at other social and political changes that took place after the Great War, the various solutions and international institutions to devise better ways to keep the peace (and their catastrophic failure), the rise of Hitler and the impact he had on Germany, providing an important warning to us all.

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We look at the darker side of the decade of the Roaring Twenties in the USA by looking at poverty and gangsters, studying the poster boy villain, Al Capone. It was, we learn, not only about jazz, moonshine and speakeasies.

Hearing Mr Rohmer’s personal account helped the students to tap into their historical imaginations and make sure that the Cold War past is available to this generation of students. We thank him very much!

 

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