Junior Cycle guide: Written and visual primary sources bring history alive for the student

Military Service (1916-23) Pensions Collection and Brigade Activity Reports a treasure trove for inquiring young minds

“Hearing and telling the stories of people who lived in the past helps students to understand more about how people live today; and can help students to learn from the past when thinking about how to address the problems of today.”

The above is one of the aims of the Junior Cycle History specification. The Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection and the brigade activity reports provide students with unique access to learn about IRA operations during the War of Independence and the Civil War through the stories of the people who took part.

The Junior Cycle history specification challenges students to develop the skills of the historian through the learning outcomes in Strand 1 (the Nature of History) and to apply these skills while developing their historical knowledge through the contextual strands: 2 (the History of Ireland) and 3 (the History of Europe and the Wider World).

Working with evidence: The digitalisation and collation of the Military Service (1916-1923) Pensions Collection and t

he brigade activity reports allows history students the opportunity to work with written and visual primary sources of evidence and debate their usefulness and limitations.


Through their engagement with these sources the student should be encouraged to develop their own informed historical judgments on the personalities, issues and events from 1916 to 1923 and increase their awareness of the historical significance of this era in Irish history.

The interactive map and the county-based search functionality incorporated into the repository provides students with an insight into both the national spread and the local context of the events archived.

The fact that there is not a single county in Ireland which does not feature supports the fostering of students' appreciation and awareness of their heritage and cultural inheritance.

Through engaging in local history research, the students’ application of their conceptual and contextual understanding of history to their own local settings is increased.

The Past in My Place Classroom-based Assessment: For some students, this opportunity may arise while engaging in the Past in My Place c

lassroom-based assessment which allows students to experience history at a personal level through the study of an issue, event, theme or person relating to their locality.

This assessment is completed in class over a three-week period and is supported by four stages of activity – investigating, discovering, displaying and reflecting.

To support teachers preparing their students for undertaking CBA 1: The Past In My Place, the NCCA have provided a list of possible themes or subjects for research in relation to local history to illustrate the broad range of potential research subjects (See History Assessment Guidelines, pages 16-17).

The brigade activity reports may offer potential to support the selection of themes or subjects such as :

– the contribution of a local person to an aspect of life in the locality, or to a specific episode or event or movement in the locality or elsewhere.

– a local manifestation of a national or international movement or phenomenon

– a local historical incident that was an important cause of change

– a study of an aspect of life in the locality at a given time in the past

– a study of a local place of historical interest, such as a church, school, factory, workhouse,

– place of work, stately home, round tower, monastery, abbey etc.

– the impact of a national or international event or issue on the locality


Access to the brigade activity reports, which may pertain to the local or family history of a student, may serve to ignite their historical curiosity and may generate ideas and the formulation of an enquiry question to steer and structure their research. The evidence identified in the brigade reports may lead the students to engage with older members of their community or local sources of history to further their investigation.


The rich primary sources of written and visual evidence contained in the brigade files are easily accessible to students via the web and the accounts contained in the repository are on the most part concise, factual and easy to read and are often supported by sketches and maps.

They provide facts such as names, dates and locations that can be verified by students using other available sources such as the maps and census reports. Students may need support in relation to the military language contained in the reports such as brigades, active service units, battalions and operations.

Displaying: Students are required to present their research in the form of a display of the type that they may see in a museum, heritage centre or library. The display should have a clear purpose, relate to evidence and make connections between their local investigation and a ‘big picture’ of the past. Junior Cycle History students through accessing the BAR as a source of evidence for Strand 1 and 2 learning outcomes will also encounter a professional historical display of an inspirational standard.

The work of the team who created the digital database of the brigade activity reports have clearly encapsulated historical consciousness of the importance of the materials. They model the use of evidence to a professional historian standard and illustrate connections to the ‘big picture’ of Ireland of the time.


The BARs through making available these rich sources of evidence to historians of all ages bring alive an era of Irish history by “providing a window into every parish and townland and thereby enhancing our understanding, and that of future generations, of the activities of those people whose courage and idealism inspired a nation during a defining period in Irish history”.

The Past in My Place History Classroom-based assessment aims to offer students an opportunity to contribute to the historical record. The BARs offer the potential for Junior Cycle history teachers to support the development of young Irish historians.


This guide was provided by the Junior Cycle for Teachers (JCT) History Team. For more information on the new Junior Cycle History Specification and supports available for teachers, visit www.jct.ie/History