BFI logo











Screenonline banner
KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 2 (1941)

2 of 2: British values past and present

Main image of KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 2 (1941)
AuthorJames Townsend
TopicWWII Commonwealth troops
Key WordsEmpire, Commonwealth, colony, propaganda
Show full lesson spec

Troops from the four corners of the British Empire meet by chance in London during WWII and discuss their shared history, common values and reasons for joining the allied forces in this British propaganda film produced in 1941.

A useful film for looking at government propaganda during WWII as well as a starting point for considering the contribution of the Commonwealth troops in WWII. There is also scope to explore the interpretation of 'British values' that the film promotes and this offers a nice way into a comparison of what are perceived as British values today.

This lesson idea encourages students to think about what we understand by 'British values' and to consider the links between these values and British history.

Lesson Objective

  • Pupils will identify the 'British values' promoted in the film, consider their historical importance and reflect on how 'British values' are imagined and communicated today.


To make a link with the previous lesson, give pupils anagrams of the following words to solve: Commonwealth; British Empire; Australia; New Zealand; Canada.


Main Attraction

Review what students remember from the film: how did the filmmakers represent Britain in the film? What about London? Why did the film focus on Britain's shared history with the Commonwealth nations? Remind students about the previous lesson's work on the reliability of the film. Why might the government want to promote a sense of shared British and Commonwealth history?

Now, replay the section of the film that takes place on top of St. Paul's, asking pupils to note down the key 'British values' mentioned. As students feed back their ideas, ask: do pupils recognise these values as intrinsically 'British'? Given the film's origin, how likely is it that Britain and the Commonwealth nations shared these ideals and common sense of history?

Challenge students to think about what they understand as British 'values' today. Ask them to work in pairs to come up with a list of four 'British values' - they will need to argue in support of their choices.

It might be a good idea to show students a contemporary article or speech about values - perhaps Gordon Brown on 'Britishness' (the BBC also has a range of useful pieces). Do they agree with the values suggested in these resources? How do they compare to the values in 'From the Four Corners'? Can one set of values apply to a whole people?

Once students ideas have been collected on the board, have a look at the role of history and heritage in the values they have chosen. Are there values that are linked to our understanding of Britain's past - ie. democracy? Perhaps students don't feel that Britain's past is very important in defining 'British values' today?


End Credits

Finish with a big question. How important is our past in defining what it means to be British today? Ask students to choose between three options - very important, quite important, not important at all - and write no more than two sentences explaining their reasons. Round off the class by hearing a selection of students' ideas.


External Links

Video Clips
1. Pub chat (3:16)
2. Typically English (1:03)
3. Hearts and minds (1:40)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of From the Four Corners (1941)From the Four Corners (1941)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 1 (1940)KS3/4 History: From the Four Corners 1 (1940)

1 of 2: Why did Commonwealth troops sign up to fight?

Thumbnail image of Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)Essentially British?: From the Four Corners (1940)

Material to accompany the BFI Mediatheque 'Essentially British' DVD.