by Charlotte Rochez
"Above all, documentary must reflect the problems and realities of the present. It cannot regret the past; it is dangerous to prophesy the future. It can, and does, draw on the past in its use of existing heritages but it only does so to give point to a modern argument. In no sense is documentary a historical reconstruction and attempts to make it so are destined to failure. Rather it is contemporary fact and event expressed in relation to human associations."
- Paul Rotha (1935)
While some might question their academic value, documentaries provide an accessible, relatively popular, window through which to look at the history of education. For many of us a relevant documentary provides an opportunity for a moment of tea, toast and 'guilt-free' TV. Sometimes a documentary sparks a lively debate or new line of academic interest.
Discussing documentaries with friends of the History of Education Society, produced the following sample of ten thought-provoking film recommendations. What would you add? Please share your favourites with us on Twitter and Facebook.
The Ladybird Books Story: How Britain Got the Reading Bug (BBC4 - Timeshift)
Documentary on the creation and popularity of the Ladybird books, provides insights into literacy, learning of the world, and childhood culture of the second half of the twentieth century. Most interesting are the illustrations capturing the 1950s idealisation of childhood.
Hitler's Children (Guido Knopp & ZDF Contemporary History Department)Five-part documentary on Hitler's harnessing of children in the Third Reich, and their experiences through the Jungvolk, Hitler Youth to the Wehrmacht, SA or SS.
British Children at War and Play (The British Council Film Collection)1940s footage of children at school and at play and during evacuation. The film provides a window into contemporary educational ideals, including gendered education, a concern for charater development and a high valuation of progressive play-based pedagogy in the early years.
'The Wall' itself.
é Collection returns engaging footage from the mid twentieth century.