History KS3: The Cuban Missile Crisis

This film looks at historical sources in The National Archives at Kew, relating to the Cuban Missile Crisis of the early 1960s.

Dr. Sam Caslin from Liverpool University explains how a collection of extraordinary documents can help us understand the mindsets and motivation of Harold Macmillan, the former British Prime Minister, and John F. Kennedy, the US president, when faced with the Soviet Union’s build up of medium range nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962.

Through studying an urgent telegram, a chilling map of the danger facing US cities and minutes of a late night conversation between the two Western leaders, the film shows how close the world came to World War 3 and how the two men worked together to try to avert the crisis.

This clip is from the series Hunting for History.

Teacher Notes

A typical question which historians debate is how serious the Cuban Missile Crisis was and whether nuclear war was a realistic possibility.

Students could be asked to tackle this question using ONLY the documents that Dr Caslin has available, to build up a working hypothesis.

They could then be asked to use more sources or possibly textbooks to see whether their view changes as they gather more source material.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching KS3 History in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 4th level People, past events and societies in Scotland.