History KS3: William Wallace

Dr Sam Caslin travels to Scotland to look at some sources about the great Scottish hero William Wallace.

In the film ‘Braveheart’, Wallace is associated with extraordinary powers. More generally Wallace has been accorded a significant role in Scottish history fighting for Scottish independence.

But does the man match the myth? Sources can be used to answer this question.

In Stirling, Caslin visits her first source, the National Wallace Monument, a stunning tribute to William Wallace.

She describes the church-like atmosphere of the building and huge sword that is attributed to Wallace himself, which Caslin discovers is a little unlikely.

She then looks at a poem by Blind Harry that again seems to exaggerate Wallace’s powers, claiming victories for him that are well known to be defeats.

Caslin decides to look at whether any English sources might shed further light on this question.

She visits The National Archives in Kew to look at another source - an Exchequer Pipe Rolls from King Edward’s reign.

The source outlines in Latin the costs of the execution.

It also reveals in gruesome detail how Wallace was hung, drawn and quartered, with parts of his body sent to four different towns.

The costs of this were huge and it’s quite evident that no expense was spared to make it clear that the English had finally disposed of Wallace.

This source allows Caslin to uncover the true relevance and importance of Wallace to his friends and enemies.

This clip is from the series Hunting for History.

Teacher Notes

This clip is excellent for getting pupils to think about how historians use sources, particularly about the weight they attach to sources when they use them as evidence.

Pupils could be asked to consider the possible issues with sources about any hero figure, past or present.

Then as they watch Sam analyse source 1 they could be asked whether they think Sam is convinced by it.

After source 1 they could be told which sources are coming next and which they think are likely to be the more convincing to Sam.

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.