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Music in History Lessons

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Using Music in History lessons

Music can be used in a variety of ways to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Music can be used to help develop a sense of period, may be written about an event, could be useful as a memory prompt to help students recall of knowledge or might simply be used to create a certain atmosphere in lessons.

This page is intended to be one that will develop over a period of time. Initially it consists of a simple list of songs and ideas for their use in the classroom. This will then be extended to incorporate resources where practical or possible. Suggestions about additions to this page are welcomed.

Number Topic Music Use
1 Norman Conquest William the conqueror - DMX Krew

The lyrics of this song tell the story of the Norman Conquest. I use the song alongside images from the Bayeux Tapestry to act as an introduction to the Norman Invasion. This video file can also be used alongside sequencing tasks.

Links to video:




2 Consequences of the Black Death Where have all the good times gone - The Kinks I use this alongside images and text to tell a story of a 'typical' family in the months after the Black Death has ravaged their village. Students use the resource to identify a range of consequences of the Black Death which leads into a classification exercise.
3 Dissolution of the Monasteries Gregorian Chants - various sources of these!

The Gregorian Chants are used to help instill a sense of period. I use the music with a range of photographs from Kirkstall Abbey to provide students with an awareness of what monasteries looked like. This is part of a build up to using Ian Dawson's excellent excellent exercise on the dissolution of the monasteries.

Video version of this on youtube.

4 King Henry VIII D-I-V-O-R-C-E - Tammy Wynette Backing track to a storyboard about Henry VIII's six wives and the split with Rome.
5 King Henry VIII I'm Henry the eight I am - Herman's Hermits

Used in a video montage outlining the life and times of Henry VIII. I often use the Simpson's episode in which Marge tells the story of Henry VIII as a follow up to the clip. This has provided to be highly engaging for pupils and is a rather 'different' way of getting students to consider the accuracy of sources.

Video version of this on youtube.

  Elizabeth I Tudor music 18 portraits of Elizabeth I with music typical of the age. An excellent introduction to a study of portraits and imagery in the Tudor era. Teachertube.
6 Life in Elizabethan times Dancing Queen - Abba Backing track to a powerpoint about courtly life in Elizabethan England.
7 Causes of the English Civil Wars Dedicated follower of fashion - The Kinks Backing track to a powerpoint that introduces some of the causes of the English Civil Wars. Pupils have a true / false checking task to complete whilst watching the slide show, which focuses on the excesses of Charles I.
8 The Diggers The World turned upside down - various artists have done this

Lyric analysis task.

Link to lyrics

9 Napoleonic Wars Waterloo - Abba

I use this as part of an audio-visual introduction in lessons about the significance of Napoleon.

New video version of this available on youtube.

10 Industrial Revolution Children of the Revolution - Marc Bolan and T Rex

Used as audio in a slide show about child labour in the Industrial Revolution.

New video version of this available on Youtube.

11 Industrial Revolution Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now - The Smiths I first used this as part of a training session I led on making audio-visual starter activities. It was devised to show delegates how to insert images and text 'in time' with lyrics. The results was quite a useful interpretation of the Industrial Revolution, so I've carried on using it!
12 British Empire Victoria - The Kinks

Played alongside a Google earth flyover that traces the expansion of the British Empire.

New - video covering expansion of the Empire during Victoria's life and reign. Youtube.

13 British Empire Rule Britannia John D Clare has used Rule Britannia to great effect in a presentation about the British Empire. A great introduction to any study of the British Empire.
14 Civil Rights Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday

Lyric analysis task. (Link to lyrics)

Also used as backing to a slide show

15 Civil Rights Get up, Stand up - Bob Marley Pupils use the song as backing to a powerpoint or movie they make about the Civil Rights movement.
16 Civil Rights Redemption Song - Bob Marley As above, though I use Redemption Song when demonstrating how to make the movie etc.
  Civil Rights The death of Emmett Till - Bob Dylan Tony Fox has created an excellent and extremely moving video about the death of Emmett Till, making use of the Dylan song. Youtube.
17 Causes of Russian Revolution Rasputin - Boney M

Used as backing to a powerpoint about the short term causes of the Russian Revolution.

Addition: I'm working on a video about Rasputin sing the same song. An early draft of this is on youtube, here. The final version will be rather different to this, less use of lyrics, fewer images but more relevance and a more specific classroom purpose.

18 Assassination in Sarajevo Take me out - Franz Ferdinand Can be used in a number of ways. My own use of it is simply to play it as an alternative timing device as pupils do a quick evidence finding exercise. I've had one trainee telling me about a lyric analysis task they've done with the song... but I wasn't all that convinced it worked!
19 Assassination in Sarajevo Bang bang - Franz Ferdinand

Used as the soundtrack for a short movie, 1914, that I've put together for Year 9 students. The movie provides a chronology of the events of 1914, showing how the assassination led to war.

Link to video



20 First World War Altogether Now - The Farm

I use Altogether Now as a backing track to a powerpoint presentation I've put together about the impact of the First World War on local sport. The presentation lists major honours won by local sportsmen, dates of their injuries and deaths and notes any sporting honours that they won prior to the war. Most of the information comes from the fantastic bantamspast website.

A video version of this is available from:


  Inter-War years Not for the First Time - Vin Garbutt Tony Fox has created an excellent video recounting the Jarrow Crusade with Vin Garbutt's song as backing. Youtube.
  Inter-War years Blackleg Miner - Steeleye Span Another excellent Foxburg production. Tony uses the Steeleye Span song to help tell the story of Blackleg miners. Youtube.
  Inter-War years Trimdon Grange Tony Fox has put together a short video about the Trimdon Grange disaster, using a local folk song as backing. Youtube.
21 Second World War Two Tribes - Frankie goes to Hollywood Used as backing music in part of an exercise on whether or not the dropping of the atomic bombs was justified.
22 20th Century conflict Masters of War - Bob Dylan

Tony Fox has created an excellent video with Masters of War as the soundtrack.


23 Appeasement God bless you Mr Chamberlain Song and lyrics used as part of an assessment of popular public attitudes towards the policy of appeasement at the time.
24 The Holocaust Theme from Schindler's List Used as part of Holocaust Memorial Day assemblies.
25 Atomic Bomb Enola Gay - OMD

Built into a powerpoint in which images, text and lyrics are intertwined to tell the story of the dropping of the first atomic bomb. Leads into further tasks of whether the dropping of the bomb was justified.

New video version of this available on youtube.

  Second World War Moby - Why does my heart

D Day video. Similar idea to the Brothers in arms presentation noted below - originally both tunes were used in one powerpoint - this vide is a development of that idea.

Available via youtube.

26 Second World War Brothers in Arms - Dire Straights

Used in a presentation about D Day.



27 Espionage in the Second World War Nobody does it better - Carly Simon Backing track to an introductory presentation about the role of espionage and counter espionage in the Second World War.
28 The Depression Ghost Town - The Specials Used alongside an image slide show illustrating the ill effects of the depression.
29 The Depression Dustbowl Blues - Woody Guthrie Played in the background whilst pupils work. It would work well alongside a slide show
30 The Depression I cried for you - Katie Melua Used as backing to a presentation about the homeless during the Depression.
31 Cold War Russians - Sting Used as part of an overview of the Cold War.
32 Cold War Leningrad - Billy Joel

Used as part of an overview of the Cold War.


33 Vietnam I feel like I'm fixing to Die Rag - Country Joe and the Fish

Music played and lyrics analysed when looking at changing attitudes towards the Vietnam War.

Link to lyrics

Country Joe performing the song at Woodstock (Youtube link)

34 Vietnam -Vietnam protest song (name?) Credence Clearwater Revival

I've put together a video montage that has this as the backing track. It starts off with JFK outlining the reasons why US involvement in Vietnam is necessary and goes on to show a range of images and clips from the war. Pupils complete a bingo sheet whilst watching and listening.



35 Vietnam Jefferson Airplane

Another video montage. This video is used as the starter activity in a lesson that looks at the ways in which the US addressed the problem of Guerilla warfare.



36 Vietnam War, what is it good for? Edwin Collins I found a great video on youtube that uses the music and lyrics alongside a range of photographs from Vietnam.
37 USA Post WW2 We didn't start the fire - Billy Joel

Scott Allsop has created a fantastic video that visualises every name / event noted in the song - quite an achievement! An excellent introduction to Post WW2 studies.

Link to file


38 Women's Rights Power of the Equality - Red Hot Chilli Peppers Used as backing track to a powerpoint that lists a 'first' for women in every one of the last 100 years.
39 Women's Rights Sister Suffragette - Mary Poppins soundtrack I use a video with the song as backing that was put together by Tony Fox. Available on youtube.
40 Women's Rights Sufferin' til suffrage - from Schoolhouse rocks Found on Youtube. Used as a starter activity.
41 Women's Rights Baby I'm yours (Not sure!) and Smack your ***ch up (Prodigy) These are in a video I found on Youtube. The video shows traditional roles of women in the 40's / 50's with 'Baby I'm yours' as backing then asks whether things have got any better. This section of the video has Smack you ***ch up as backing and looks at modern portrayals of women. An excellent video that really gets students thinking about changes in the role of women.
42 Women's Rights Suffragette City - David Bowie Used as a timing device as students complete a classification task.
43 Bloody Sunday Sunday Bloody Sunday - U2 Used as part of an interpretations lesson.
44 Troubles in Northern Ireland Belfast Child - Simple Minds Played alongside an image slide show
46 Discovery of DNA Jean Genie - David Bowie Used in a powerpoint presentation about the work of Crick and Watson.
47 Medicine through time A Spoonful of Sugar - Mary Poppins soundtrack Used in a revision presentation.
48 Medicine through time Changes - David Bowie Used as the backing track to a video that shows a range of changes in surgical techniques, from Trephining to modern Open Heart Surgery. Chorus of the song is combined with visual re enforcement of the main factors that have led to change.
49 Various possibilities The Refugee - U2 Used as a backing track when showing a slide show of images relating to the advance of the Wehrmacht in the Second World War. Easily transferable to pretty much any conflict or natural disaster that has created a refugee crisis.
50 Various possibilities No Bravery - James Blunt I've seen / heard this used several times. The best was as backing to a slide show about the consequences of modern warfare. Youtube has lots of videos making use of this tune, mostly critical of the war on Iraq. For example.
51 Rise of Nazism Get it on - Marc Bolan and T Rex  
52 Demobilisation of troops Super Trooper - Abba  
53   Blowing in the wind - Joan Baez  
54 Cold War All along the watchtower - Jimi Hendrix  
55   One tin soldier - Joan Baez  
56 Vietnam Hurt - Johnny Cash Video compiled by one of my students. Available on youtube.
57 Vietnam Vietnam - Johnny Cash  
58 Vietnam Give Peace a Chance - John lennon  
59 Vietnam War is Over (Merry Christmas) JOhn Lennon  
60 Vietnam Flight of the Valkryies - Wagner  
61 Vietnam Paint it Black - Rolling Stones  
62 Vietnam 12 months in Vietnam - Sgt Barry Sadler  
63 Vietnam Unknown Soldier - The Doors  
64 Vietnam The End - The Doors  
65 Blitzkrieg / Dunkirk Blitzkrieg Bop - The Ramones Video on youtube.
66 Beliefs about the cause of Disease - flaggelation Crucify - Tori Amos  
67 Iraq War Let's bomb Iraq - Weird Al Yankovich  
68 Modern Medicine Rehab - Amy Winehouse  
69 Women at work in the War Working 9 til 5 - erm, can't remember!  
70 Impact of war on children You are so beautiful to me - Joe Cocker  
71 Protest movements of the 19th century I predict a riot - kaiser Chiefs  
72 The Depression Castles Burning - Neil Young  
73 The British Empire Jerusalem  
74 Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell - Monty Python  
75 Industrial Revolution Gresford Miners Hymn  
76 Life in Tudor England Tudor courtly dances  
77 The Manhattan Project The Scientist - Coldplay  
78 Norman Conquest The Battle of Hastings - The Art of the Monologue  
79 King John / Magna Carta / Power of Medieval monarchs The Magna Charter - The Art of the Monologue  
80 American Independence Battle Hymn of the Republic  
  Slavery One Love - Johnny Cash This video is based on one that I found a few months ago. Tony Fox spotted a few improvements that could be made - the result is excellent! Youtube.
81 Slavery Bos Man cut my chains  
82 USA in the 1920's KKK Blues  
83 Slavery No more auction block  
84 Slavery The man who sold his own - Chris Rea Tony Fox's excellent video. See it on youtube.
85 Slavery White Man Coming  
86 First World War It's a long way to Tipperary  
87 The Depression Hooverville - The Christians  
88 Espionage in the Second World War Licence to kill - Gladys Knight  
89 Vietnam Bullet the blue sky - U2  
90 American Civil War Yankee Doodle Dandy  
91 The Development of Nursing Let it be - The Beatles  
92 Civil Rights Knocking on Heaven's door - Clapton version  
93 The six wives of Henry VIII It ain't over til it's over - Lenny Kravitz  
94 Education in Nazi Germany Another brick in the wall - Pink Floyd  
95 Medicine in the Renaissance If I ever lose my faith in you - Sting  
96 Holocaust Angels among us - Alabama  
97 Crime and Punishment Rebel Rebel - David Bowie  
98 Norman Conquest Tears in Heaven - Eric Clapton  
99 Wall Street Crash Money - Pink Floyd  
100 Jack the Ripper Psycho Killer - Talking Heads  
101 Welfare State Gimme Shelter - Rolling Stones  
102 Rebellion and protest movements Men they couldn't hang - The Colours  
103 Napoleonic Wars 1812 Overture  
104 Nazi Germany Riders on the Storm - The Doors  
105 Cuban Missile Crisis Hanging on the telephone - Blondie  
106 American in the 1920's Gansters Paradise - Coolio  
107 Nazi Germany Swastika Eyes - primal Scream (Chemical Brothers remix)  
108 Nazi Germany The Intense Humming of Evil - Manic Street Preachers  
109 Ireland The rebellion of 1916 - irish folk song  
110 Ireland Sea chanties - Irish folk song  
111 Ireland Prisoners anthem - Irish folk song  
112 Ireland I am a catholic lad and true - irish folk song  
113 Ireland Irish republican jail song - the Wolfetones  
114 Ireland Give ireland back to the irish - Paul McCartney and Wings  
115 Ireland New Years Day - U2  
116 Ireland Irish Blood, English Heart - Morrissey  
117 Ireland Under pressure - Queen and David Bowie  
118 Jacobite Rebellion Syke Boat Song  
119 English Civil Wars The English Civil War - The Clash  
120 Cold War Oliver's Army - Elvis Costello  
121 King John Oo-de-lally - Robin Hood (Disney)  
122 Medicine through time Spirit in the sky - Dr Hook and the Medicine Show  
123 Medicine through time Theme tune to ER  
124 King John The Phony King of England - Robin Hood (Disney)  
125 King John Not in Nottingham - Robin Hood (Disney)  
126 Medieval warfare Chainmail - James  
127 Anglo-Scottish wars Braveheart theme - Enya  
128 Medieval crime and punishment The Gallows Pole - leadbely  
129 Medieval church Cantos Gregorianos - Enigma  
130 Modern Warfare Miss Sarajevo - U2  
131 Various The Muppett Show theme tune  
132 Political systems and structures Imagine - John Lennon  
133 Vietnam The bartender and the thief - Stereophonics  
134 Warfare in 20th century Theme from MASH - Manic Street Preachers version  
135 First World War I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier - Morton Harvey  
136 First World War Ballad of the soldiers Wife - Coldplay  
137 Second World War The Great Escape  
138 Second World War The guns of Navarone - Band of the Royal marines  
139 D Day Saving Private Ryan theme - John Wiliams  
140 Second World War The Gunners Dream - Pink Floyd  
141 Persecution If you tolerate this - Manic Street Preachers  
142 Warfare - Iraq Happy Birthday War! John D Clare's video on youtube.
143 Armistice Mad World - Gary Jules Remembrance Day video compiled by one of my students for use in assembly.
144 Wall Street Crash The Wall Street shuffle - 10CC  
  Global Terrorism Living on the edge(?) Neil McDonald has put this video together as a prompt for students beginning a coursework study of global terrorism in the modern world. The coursework unit looks at 9/11 and its aftermath. Teachertube.






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Recommended Books related to teaching history highly recommends these sites: - new site aiming to provide an accessible narrative for GCSE History pupils. - fantastic range of interactive games, revision materials and links. - outstanding use of ICT to engage pupils. - a brilliant range of learning activities from Ian Dawson - simply the best for Modern World GCSE students - resources and CPD materials from the Historical Association. - make your lessons 'real' with artefacts and living history provided by experts - same author as this site, just put together in a slightly different way! - all new resources for teachers and pupils of the SHP Medicine course - A new site providing resources for teachers and pupils of the Crime and Punishment unit Militaria - a range of interesting pieces of militaria is available via tihs site
The Turkey Inn, Goose Eye, Oakworth - great historical public house with loads of great beer and a lovely atmosphere