while it has little to do with IB history, I couldn’t resist commemorating Guy Fawkes Day. Even in places where the day does not contain burnt effigies or fireworks, the Gunpowder plot has become known, due largely to the sci-fi film V for Vendetta, which brings me to something that does relate to IB history: the use of film to convey history.

Most of us make use of documentary film footage where available to give students visual portrayals of what we study to complement lectures, readings and class exercises. Fewer of us make use of cinema, although we may reference it in our classes. However, fiction is often an excellent vehicle for giving students a real sense of the way in which people lived. “Lives of others’ or ‘Dr. Zhivago’ may not have really happened but they are truly reflective of both the times in which they were created and the times that they recall. This makes them doubly valuable – but students need to understand how and why.

Spending some time on the values and limitations of cinema is not just useful for the IB – it gives them an excellent tool for life. When they watch ‘Casablanca’ (and let’s hope it’s in black and white), they can see it as a historical document in itself.