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Should Richard Arkwright be in the National Portrait Gallery?

Richard ArkwrightDoes Richard Arkwright deserve his place on the walls of the National Portrait Gallery?

This enquiry makes for an engaging approach to historical significance.

Taking a portrait of Richard Arkwright as its focal point, the enquiry asks whether the National Portrait Gallery should have helped raise half a million pounds for a portrait of Richard Arkwright – the so-called father of the factory system? Or was it a waste of money?

The class work out for themselves who Richard Arkwright was using a short film clip and website summary.

They then go on to create their own criteria for significance. (This could build on the thinking promoted in the Hastings, and Black Death enquiries).

Next they use this criteria to analyse a number of sources which help them decide whether Arkwright deserves his place in the National Portrait Gallery hall of fame. They then look to see whether Arkwright really was the inventor he led everyone to believe he before deciding on his significance.

This ties into the tea approach as you can ask your class why factory owners like Arkwright wanted tea drinking workers.

Find out more about teaching significance by going to our Wider Teaching Issues section.

Download lesson

  • Lesson presentation: PDF
  • Lesson write-up: PDF
  • Source 1: PDF
  • Source 2: PDF
  • Source 3 and 4: PDF
  • Source 5: PDF
  • Worksheet 1: PDF

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