Digital artefacts bring The Age of Revolution to life

A new digital project hosts digital copies of artefacts from around the country, allowing schools anywhere to access historical teaching aids

Historians, museum educators and digital learning experts have joined together to launch a new web resource, which aims to reinvigorate young people’s interest in a turbulent period of revolution with stunning parallels to the present day.

The project, titled The Age of Revolution, covers global developments between 1775–1848 with a UK focus, and at the centre of this is a website that brings a plethora of historical objects from museums across the country, and digital resources relating to the period, into schools. 

The site reveals the era’s parallels with the modern age. Much like 2018, the wave of rebellion 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 early 19thcentury, this was in the form of the industrial and print revolutions, while the internet, social media and citizen journalism currently drive the political turbulence seen in Europe and the US.

Though underrepresented in schools, the period covers political, social, economic, and intellectual upheavals like the French Revolution, abolitionism and the Peterloo Massacre. Artefacts from these key events have been sourced from museums, cultural and heritage collections across the UK and digitised so that people can see them first hand. 

Dan Snow, historian and ambassador for Waterloo200, explained: “The issues that arose during The Age of Revolution have many parallels in the modern day – from waves of rebellion and startling elections, to questions about Britain’s place in the world and fears about war, migration, and economic decline. Now is the perfect time to shed some light on a part of history that is too often overlooked in classrooms. We hope that seeing these objects collected online is just a starting point to inspire schools to get out there and tap into the learning opportunities at local museums too.”

The site includes everything from objects and paintings to songs and texts. The astonishing artefacts from the era include:

  • Guillotine blade (1792) from the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
  • Banner from the “Peterloo Massacre” (1819) from the collection of Touchstones Rochdale.
  • Chloroform Inhaler (1847) from National Museums Scotland.

The objects and activities available on the website are linked directly to elements of curricula in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in History, Art & Design, Computing and SMSC (Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Development) in England.

New ideas for teaching this period are being explored in partnership with The Historical Association, through the sponsorship of 30 teacher fellows. Ranging from Key Stage 2 to A-level, they have been working with leading historians and experienced teacher educators to develop their subject knowledge and create resources to help deepen student understanding of the period.

An annual challenge for schools will also be launched as part of the Age of Revolution programme. Pupils will be tasked with using an object or historical theme and will encourage integration and use of tools and technologies such as animation, digital design, micro-computers and 3D printing. This will tap into The Maker Movement, which combines new technologies with traditional, physical making to solve problems and bring new ideas to life. 

The Age of Revolution will build on the existing Waterloo200 website, set up with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to celebrate the bicentenary of the famous battle. The expanded site will serve as a valuable asset for teachers looking to cover a wide range of topics and themes within the period and tap into its relevance and timeliness. Starting off with 50 new key artefacts from the era, there is plenty on offer to engage young minds on the subject. 

His Grace the 9th Duke of Wellington, OBE, DL, said: “I very much welcome the relaunch of the Waterloo 200 website on the 203rd anniversary of the Battle.  The Age of Revolution is an exciting free educational legacy programme for all ages that combines the nation’s wide-ranging cultural and heritage collections with the latest digital technologies, historical research and expertise in teaching and learning.  I hope that all visitors to this site will find it interesting and stimulating.”

The Age of Revolution programme was developed by Waterloo200 – a charity dedicated to advancing education on the timespan around the Battle of Waterloo – in partnership with the University of Kent, Culture24 and the Historical Association. A wide range of museums and galleries across the UK have given valuable access to artefacts, and wider support and funding has been received from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Initial funding for Waterloo200 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

To find out more, access resources and to see the first 50 objects visit

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