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Was Oliver Cromwell right to ban Christmas?

This is a one-off activity for Key Stage 3, perhaps to be used near to Christmas. You may not be studying Cromwell or the Civil War at that time but may be looking for something with a Christmas theme and this may fit the bill.

The idea is straightforward and there’s probably lots of ways to vary it. There are 14 statement cards which provide information about Cromwell – his interests, dislikes, enthusiasms, religious attitudes. Which of these hypotheses do they support?

A. Cromwell abolished Christmas because he wanted people to work harder.

B. Cromwell was a kill-joy who hated people enjoying themselves

C. Cromwell was a bigot who would not tolerate any religion except his own.

Note: You’ll need to provide a short timeline of Cromwell’s career but one PowerPoint screen of information would be enough.

[This activity is based, somewhat loosely, on pages in King Cromwell? by Andy Harmsworth and Ian Dawson, Hodder Education, now out of print]

Download the Cards

Download the statement cards [ here … ]

Using the Cards

You could:

Divide the hypotheses amongst the class and ask students to find evidence for and against their hypothesis. They could organize the 14 cards as if on a pair of scales – For and Against the hypothesis.

Report back on whether the evidence supports their hypothesis and the two strongest pieces of evidence for or against the hypothesis.

Revise the hypothesis so that it fits the evidence more effectively and again provide at least two pieces of evidence to support their hypothesis.

Choose three words they think most suitable for summing up Oliver Cromwell’s personality.
[Maybe ask what other hypotheses they would suggest after looking at the cards]

Vote as a class on whether they think Cromwell was right to support the ban on Christmas, given his own religious views. [You might wish to refer back to work done earlier, maybe in Y7, on Purgatory and hell!]

There’s all kinds of debriefing you could undertake here – about historical methodology, how reputations tend to be one-dimensional, how complex individuals can be etc etc]


Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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Download Cards

Using the Cards