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Show and Tell: Cubs (2006)
Introduction Citizenship Citizenship English History  
image from Cubs (2006)

At first glance Cubs has very little to do with the modern History curriculum and perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that it does. But (and bear with us here) it could be used as the springboard into an admittedly provocative discussion around change and continuity in politics and class in the UK. Why? Well, cock-fighting and bear-baiting were banned in the nineteenth century, but shooting and fox-hunting continued. After watching the film, why not challenge students to explore the arguments employed by reformers and legislators in the lead-up to the 1835 Cruelty to Animals Act before offering their views on why hunting and shooting escaped a ban. For this, of course, they will need to bring their understanding of the nature of the political system in the nineteenth century to bear.

Jump forward a century and a half – how has the political system changed in Britain and how might this help to explain the vote to ban fox-hunting? Ask students to list some of the most obvious ways in which the political system has changed – everything from the balance of power between the Houses of Commons and Lords to the electoral system and the nature of the electorate.

If this is too tangential, why not use the film as the basis for an analytical writing exercise to develop students’ argumentative style. Students often fail to see the connections between the writing skills they develop in English and those they need to employ in History. Why not give them a typical GCSE question to formulate an argument around: To what extent is Cubs is a film about teenage frustrations and the violent tendencies of gangs? Students are likely to find analysing this film less intimidating than the historical sources they are more used to. What’s more an exercise like this has the added value of emphasising film’s status as an original source; one that needs to be analysed and interrogated in the same way that historical documents and images are. Perhaps most helpfully, students should be able to draw on their own understanding of the context in which the film was made – not only the hunting ban but the ongoing debate around gang-culture and teenage violence – to develop their arguments.