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1916 in historical fiction
Fighting for whom? 1916 in Ireland & on the Western Front

Two historical novels also form the basis of a Year 9 study unit exploring conflicting loyalties in Ireland during the First World War through the eyes of two young people from very different backgrounds, Jimmy Conway, aged 12, and Amelia Pim, aged 15.


The unit poses the question why, in 1916,

a. did some Irish men and women (2,000, of whom 64 died along with 132 members of the Crown forces and 230 civilians) fight against the British army, appealing for German aid, during the Easter Rising in Ireland, while

b. other Irishmen (206,000, of whom 30,000 died) joined the British army to fight against Germany.

The novels
In The Guns of Easter by Gerard Whelan (O'Brien Press, 0-86278-449-2), Jimmy Conway lives in the Dublin slums and is caught up in the Easter Rising. While his father is away in France, fighting with the British army, his uncle Mick joins the Rising, fighting against the British army in Dublin. Jimmy feels he must be the provider for his mother and two younger sisters. Setting out to find food or money, he finds himself adrift in a nightmare version of the world he has known, questioning old loyalties.

On the other hand, in No Peace for Amelia by Siobhán Parkinson (O'Brien Press, 0-86278-378-X), Amelia Pim lives in a Quaker family in a well-off district of Dublin. One of her best friends is Mary-Ann Maloney, who works as cook-general. Amelia has a boyfriend called Frederick Goodbody, who volunteers to fight in World War I. Mary-Ann’s elder brother, Patrick, is a member of the Irish Volunteers, an army who fight during the Easter Rising for independence from Britain.

The study unit
The study unit consists of a workbook for students and notes for teachers.

Student's workbook

The workbook compares extracts from the novels with historical sources. It consists of 12 forty-minute lessons if both the stories (Jimmy’s and Amelia’s) are studied. Since the stories are very different, the use of both stories will draw out more issues and perspectives.

1. What warfare were Irish people involved in in 1916?
2. For whom would you fight?
3-8. Fighting for whom? - using historical novels to explore motives & experiences
(3-5 Jimmy Conway's experience of 1916 6-8 Amelia Pim's experience of 1916)
9. Why did people join up? - historical evidence
10. Linking history and fiction
11. Review
12. Remembering 1916


However, if time is limited, the workbook can be used with only one of the stories. This reduces the number of lessons to 9: lessons 1-5 and 9-12 in the case of Jimmy’s story; lessons 1-2 and 6-12 in the case of Amelia’s story.


Notes for teachers

1. About the Student Workbook
2. Historical novels & the Key Stage 3 English strategy
3. Thinking skills & citizenship
4. Recent writings on Ireland & World War
5. Ireland and World War I
6. The Easter Rising
7. Comparing accounts - Looting in Dublin during the Easter Rising
8. Map of Dublin in the Rising
9. Commemorations
10. Lesson plans
11. Key to card sorting exercises
12. Extension activity: 1916: were methods of waging war different?

Please click on the links below for pdf versions of the following:

Student Workbook
Notes for Teachers

Other resources & downloads

Images of 1916 is a PowerPoint presentation of the visual sources in the study units and notes for teachers, while 1916 in Irish Art is another PowerPoint presentation showing how the Easter Rising is remembered in Irish art.


1916 at Tuxford School draws upon the student workbook above as part of the school's Irish pathway through History at Key Stage 3.


For a more conventional historical approach to the Easter Rising, see the Key Stage 3 unit,The Easter Rising & beyond.

Marches & Murals - 1916 & Present shows how the events of 1916 continue to influence the present.