History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

African history C1000-1900 focusing on Benin: SOW download

Written by Elena Stevens, this knowledge-rich wider world unit focuses on the history of Africa between circa 1000-1900.

7 of the enquiries take The Kingdom of Benin as a case study. They explore its history through a combination of primary evidence,  a keen focus on interesting historical interpretations and other second-order concepts such as change and continuity, causation and significance. Engagement, rigour and a focus on scholarship sit at the centre of these enquiries.


The SOW is based upon substantive knowledge that has been outlined for you in this knowledge take-away. You can download it here:


Each enquiry write up then links to this knowledge take-away and tells you what knowledge you are working on with your classes.

The lesson write-ups also link to HRC’s disciplinary take-aways which focus on different second-order concepts.  The disciplinary knowledge take-away can be downloaded here:


Recommended reading:

If, like me, you need to know more about this unit before teaching it, then here are a few recommendations from Elena, to whet your appetite and provide you with some important background knowledge:

-Toby Green, A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution


– Toby Green, African Kingdoms: A Guide to the Kingdoms of Songhay, Kongo, Benin, Oyo and Dahomey

c.1400-c.1800 (e-book available online: https://africankingdoms.co.uk/online-e-book/).

– John Parker and Richard Rathbone, African History: A Very Short Introduction (2007).

– Peter Roese and Dmitri Bondarenko, A Popular History of Benin: The Rise and Fall of a Mighty Forest

Kingdom (2003).

– Kate Ezra, Royal Art of Benin (1992).

Why it’s important to teach wider world histories

The teaching of wider world histories is really important for a whole host of reasons some of which have been outlined in this blog. 

If your school follows the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3 then here are at least 3 areas that this Wider World unit focuses on:

  • how people’s lives have shaped this nation and how Britain has influenced and been influenced by the wider world.
  • know and understand significant aspects of the history of the wider world: the nature of ancient civilisations; the expansion and dissolution of empires; characteristic features of past non-European societies; achievements and follies of mankind.
  • gain historical perspective by placing their growing knowledge into different contexts, understanding the connections between local, regional, national and international history; between cultural, economic, military, political, religious and social history; and between short- and long-term timescales. (DFE, 2014)

Free lesson download and  SOW overview

To download the overview lesson in which Hugh Trevor Roper’s view of African history is challenged simple visit this page.

Download the free SOW overview which outlines the entire unit: