Learning objective

To use the history of a single artefact in comparing how two different cultures interacted, expanded and declined in power over a specific time period.

Learning outcomes

  1. To understand the history of the Koh-i-noor diamond between 1739 and the present.
  2. To discuss how much British power expanded and declined in the Indian subcontinent and worldwide between 1830 and 1902.
  3. To discuss how much Sikh power expanded and declined in the Indian subcontinent and worldwide between 1830 and 1902.
  4. To have compared how British and Sikh power expanded and declined between 1830 and 1902.

Note: summaries of background knowledge on aspects of British and Indian history can be found in the resources listed at the bottom of this page.

PREPARE the teaching area for storytelling in one part and working at tables in small groups in another. To encourage the storytelling, this part of the area could be given a South Asian feel, with colourful cushions scattered across the floor and lengths of sari material spread widely from a central point in the ceiling to create the effect of a tent. (The whiteboard will still need to be visible throughout the storytelling however.)

ASSEMBLE the children in the storytelling area and explain that they are going to hear a story from the Indian subcontinent or South Asia.

LOCATE this geographical area on a globe and give pairs of talking partners a limited amount of time to discuss what they all might already know about it. In taking suggestions from pupils ensure that they understand that the area includes:

  • modern India
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Nepal
  • Sri Lanka

Note: this could be done by also referring to a modern Atlas.

SHOW pupils a box as much like a small treasure chest or jewel casket as can be found.

INVITE suggestions as to what it might contain. With dramatic care open the box to reveal a large fake diamond. (These can be an inexpensively purchased.)

DISPLAY Resource A: Slide 1 and explain that while the diamond in the box is plastic and the one on the slide is made from glass, the story that will now be told is based on the history of a large real diamond that was found in India long ago.

EXPLAIN that the image on Resource A: Slide 1 is the original size of that diamond. The story of the Koh-i-noor diamond (told from the diamond’s perspective) is designed to be read from Resource B in four sections, with an indication given in the text when the appropriate slide from Resource A should be displayed.

FIRST read Resource B: Section 1, which deals with the history of the jewel to 1830, in the voice of the diamond – it has been characterised as vain and unsympathetic.

Note: when coming out of role as the voice of the jewel the reader should make sure there is a clear difference in tone between their teacher’s voice and that of the jewel. Any pauses for discussion should not digress from the main story line.

PAUSE & DISCUSS details with pupils (as and when necessary) during and after reading each section of the story, going back over particular dates and events to ensure that they understand the narrative. Key dates could be written up to form a timeline and parallels drawn with other historical periods during which an empire expanded, for example the Roman Empire. Where Sikhism has already been studied in Religious Education reference could be made to prior learning about it and artefacts could be displayed. Contrasts could be drawn between the climates of Britain and Punjab, especially if South Asia has been studied in Geography.

AFTER reading Resource B: Section 1 split the class into small groups.

GIVE each group a large piece of paper with a graph drawn on it. On the horizontal axis mark the following dates:

  • 1830
  • 1852
  • 1857
  • 1902

On the vertical axis mark ‘Very Powerful’ at the top and ‘Very Weak’ at the bottom.

ASK each group, within a set time limit, to place a cross on the graph for how powerful or how weak they think the British sounded in 1830.

THEN ASK them to do the same for Sikhs. If necessary refer to the slides to reinforce details about the power of the British and Ranjit Singh at the time.

ASK groups to present their graphs to the class in the term, probing pupil reasoning as to the relative position of their crosses. Then continue the story from Resource B: Section 2, which takes the narrative on to 1852.

REPEAT the previous activity in small groups to judge the extent of British and Sikh power for the year 1852 and, in addition, ask pupils to join at the crosses across the graph. Part of the discussion will then focus not only on the distance between the British and Sikh crosses but also the comparison in positions of relative power between 1830 and 1852.

THEN continue from Resource B: Section 3, which covers 1857, the year of the Sepoy Uprising (sometimes also called the Great Indian Rebellion or the Indian Mutiny) that really threatened British rule in India.

REPEAT the previous activity in small groups for the year 1857.

ASK people to join at the crosses across the graph and include the trend across graphs in discussion. Pupils may well debate any extent to which Sikh power has made a recovery by 1857. Their kingdom of Punjab may have been conquered but Sikh soldiers were now being paid by the British, treated with respect and being trusted with defending British interests when the British were in danger of losing control of India itself. This might imply that Sikh power is stronger than it was after the Anglo-Sikh Wars of the 1840’s.

THEN conclude the narrative covering the years 1857 to 1902 in Resource B: Section 4.

REPEAT the small-group activity for the last time, asking pupils to put both crosses above the date 1902 and join up the crosses across to complete the graphs. Pupils may well decide that while British power has grown in India it has declined over all because of American and German competition, while Sikh power has grown a bit because of the regular use of Sikh soldiers worldwide.

LASTLY reveal that the Koh-i-noor diamond is still in a British crown (display Resource A: Slide 45, the crown of the late Queen Mother) and that the modern Indian government has asked for it back.

LEAD a discussion and take a vote on whether pupils think that the diamond should be returned.

Background knowledge on aspects of British and Indian history: