Mike Goddard, OCR History Subject Advisor
A few years ago, we in the History team here at OCR received an email from an A Level History student studying our popular US Civil Rights course. She was questioning the absence of the gay rights movement from our specification, and her email was everything you would hope for from a bright history student: well-argued, passionate, meaningful.
Looking back now, I’m not sure my answer to her at the time was good enough. The course covers the years 1865-1992, and, I suggested, there perhaps wasn’t enough of a movement before the 1960s (and Stonewall: the reason why we have a Pride month) to make it a viable addition to a course that has to encompass continuity and change over at least 100 years. Plus, I pointed out, there is already a lot to cover within the existing specified themes.
She could always do it for her coursework.
Pride month is about visibility, and the movement towards equality. LGBTQ+ history is not visible enough in our – or any – history specifications.
There has been some progress, and at OCR we have, to an extent, led the way. I’ve blogged about this before, for LGBT history month, and my comment above about coursework is not entirely flippant. As I outlined in that blog, coursework does provide genuine opportunities to research LGBTQ+ themes in depth.
I was reflecting on that in a brief presentation to the Historical Association conference in May this year. Afterwards I had the opportunity to chat to Marcus Collins, cultural historian at Loughborough University, who is doing some fascinating work in this area.
‘LGBTQ+ history throws light upon much more than the history of minorities, or even the history of sexuality,’ he says. ‘Studying how lesbians and gay men understood themselves, and how they were treated by straight society, allows us to compare past and present attitudes to gender roles, civil liberties, social change and political activism. Gay liberation has been instrumental in redefining the boundaries between masculinity and femininity, the public and the private and what is and is not tolerated by mainstream society.’
In short, then, more inclusive history is simply better history, and as such LGBTQ+ themes need to be more visible in our curriculums. We hope to publish more from Marcus soon, but also, we want to hear from you.
For example, if you teach Y113 (our Britain 1930-97 option), do you have ideas on possible improvements for future versions of the specification? Is there any more you would like to see from us in terms of support or resources for LGBTQ+ history? Have you had any success stories that you would be willing to share?
Do get in touch with us on email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @OCR_History. And if you haven’t already, sign up for our email updates.
Mike is a history subject advisor and has worked at OCR on the history portfolio since 2007. Previously he has held roles at Cambridge International Examinations and for an educational publisher. Mike has a degree in Economic and Social History from the University of York and a Masters in Modern History from UCL. In his spare time he enjoys crosswords and snooker.