Kent historian chooses key historical objects for The Age of Revolution project

The skeleton of Napoleon’s favourite horse, a Jacquard loom, and a bust of Haiti’s first emperor Jean-Jacque Dessalines are among the 50 key historical objects selected by the University’s Dr Ben Marsh for a national project that aims to spark young people’s interest in The Age of Revolution.

Launched on 18 June, The Age of Revolution project covers global developments between 1775 and 1848, a turbulent period of revolution with stunning parallels to the present day. Bringing together historians, museum educators and digital learning experts it will have a particular focus on the UK.

Dr Marsh, from the University’s School of History, has been responsible for identifying the historical objects from museums across the country that will form the basis of an online resource for schools. These include the original ‘Wellington Boots’, designed by the Duke of Wellington, and bagpipes played at the Battle of Waterloo.

At the centre of the project is a website that brings together the historical objects, as well as other digital resources relating to the period. The website builds on the existing Waterloo 200 website, set up with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate the bicentenary of the famous battle.

The expanded site will grow in the months to come, as more work by teachers and students comes online. Visitors to the site will be introduced to the era’s parallels with the modern age.

Dr Marsh explained that, much like 2018, the wave of rebellions and challenges to power structures during the Age of Revolution were driven in part by rapid progress in technology and the ability to exchange ideas. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, political upheavals fed off the industrial and print revolutions, whereas now the internet, social media and citizen journalism ‘currently drive the political turbulence seen in Europe and the US’.

Dr Marsh’s book Understanding and Teaching the Age of Revolutions, co-authored with Mike Rapport and published last year, has formed a key text in the planning of this ambitious educational project. He is working with colleagues and students from Kent’s School of History and School of Arts.