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Incas: Key Stage 3


John Simkin
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I took early retirement 2 years ago with the intention of writing textbooks on world history topics, beginning with the Incas, for Key Stage 3. Publishers not as yet being very encouraging, I am presently engaged in preparing free resources.

Please let me know if I can be of help in getting this material distributed.

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John, thank you very much for the offer.

I am in the process of producing some new materials, such as ‘how to make your own Inca quipu’. The quipu of course is the arrangement of knotted strings the Incas used to store information. I am producing a series of maps which set out the commonly accepted progression of the Inca conquests. I’m also beginning to adapt some double-page spreads, originally designed for my planned textbook, to be (fairly) standalone information sheets. They are very basic, but then as far as I know apart from Terry Deary’s ‘The Incredible Incas’ there is no school textbook. This is I think one of the main reasons why the topic has not yet ‘taken off.’ Heinemann had a stab at it by including it in one of their CD-Roms. I have seen odd bits of Incas in textbooks, clearly aimed at KS3. I get the feeling it’s edging towards being accepted as another World topic, to join the handful that exist already.

Actually there wasn’t any comprehensive book about the Incas – at least not one that linked the fairly well-known written sources with the many recent discoveries of archaeology - until the publication of ‘The Incas’ by Terence D’Altroy by Blackwell in 2002.

Sorry. Bit of a break there. I nearly missed Ben Fogle and his team trying to reach the lost city of the Incas! (BBC 2 6.30; and tomorrow, at the same time.) The Incas are increasingly a media topic. Last Thursday there was a brilliant account on BBC 2 of the Lambayeque Culture (one of the many groups the Incas took over) called ‘The Cursed Valley of the Pyramids’. A few years ago there were the frozen mummies: the Incas did have a thing about sacrificing maidens on mountaintops, and there is scope for a lesson here following the steps that the archaeologists took in making sense of this practice. Native American culture of South America has recently become very important politically. In some Andean countries this takes the form of an Inca cult.

Incas are an ideal topic for student Internet research. It is good for extended project work, or for a structured series of lessons. It is also suitable for many different approaches other than written work (eg the quipu-making referred to above.) Compared to some of the other World topics the content is very manageable. And using it to replace ‘The Black Peoples of the Americas’ Unit won’t stop a Department teaching Black History because a good deal of that material probably sits better within British History anyway.

If you ask Year 7’s what they enjoyed most about their KS2 History, my experience is that Ancient Civilizations score very high, including the Aztecs. Our Year 8’s loved doing Incas. My intention is to make the resources and some guidance notes available in a couple of months’ time.

However, I have little or no experience of how to do this.

The easiest way of doing this is by uploading the material on the Forum. However, this will not make you any money. To do that, you will need your own website. We have several members who will be willing to help you do this. The project can then be financed by advertising. It will probably take you several years before you go into profit.

The third option is to find a publisher for the book. It is virtually impossible to find a company willing to publish it like you want it (they will probably insist that it is rewritten to fit in with an existing series of books).

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My thanks to you, and to those who are willing to help set up websites. However, my aims in life have changed slightly since the early summer! I did submit work to two publishers in their own format. This increased my confidence I was on the right track, but confirmed my belief that preparing two sample pages is just too time-consuming. I am also more or less persuaded there is insufficient interest in Incas to persuade any publisher to invest in it at the moment. The ‘Incas’, and possibly even the concept of World History, needs to be ‘sold’ to History Departments first.

Over the summer two new ways of earning money presented themselves, which relieve me of any urgent need to make money writing a history book. What I now want to do is change the mindset of History teachers so they want to teach World History! (Is that all?) So I am interested in your first suggestion, option one, which is uploading the material to the Forum.

The stupid thing is that the would-be professional writer inside my head doesn’t always communicate with the ex-classroom teacher who wants to help his colleagues (also in there somewhere.) It has taken all summer for me to realise I have masses of draft chapters written over the last two years which, with a little tinkering, could become worksheets. Free! It’s like Christmas!

So basically my aim at this stage is to make available as wide a variety of Inca resources as possible, in a couple of months’ time, for free. And if the subject does take off I have another format in mind for a publisher ….

Incidentally, ideas that anyone has about the kind of resources that would tempt KS3 History Departments to take up Incas would be very gratefully received.

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