Sequencing causes on a human timeline

How can becoming the timeline help us to understand the change from peace to war in 1914?

Helen Snelson

Causes of WWI

This learning activity focuses upon enabling students to understand the chronology of the causation of World War 1. It involves students role playing as causes of the war. The causes of the war are sequenced on a human timeline, which is to scale. This enables students to see the pace of change, the gaps between the causes, and the relationship of events to each other across time. It makes the complex causation of World War 1 more accessible to the students by enabling them to see and be, as well as to read and hear, the chronology of change from war to peace. They can see July 1914 in context and that Europe was not, in many places and in many ways, at peace with itself long before 1914. It also gives an opportunity for them to practise using the language of change and causation. This version is designed for younger students and therefore uses major events from the period 1870-1914. It does not delve deeply into the complexities of the diplomacy in July 1914. It would be quite easy to adapt this activity for older students by writing a few more role play cards; or by focusing in on one particular period, such as the July Crisis. The structure of the lesson would be the same, the level of the debate and nuance of the argument would be more sophisticated.