Cause and consequence: Analysis

The causes and consequences (effects, impacts) of historical events are of primary interest for historians, and this relationship is an important part of the History curriculum. Therefore, it is important to think about effective ways of teaching these concepts.

Figuring out why a historical event happened can be complicated, as there are often a range of different causes. Similarly, there are always multiple consequences of an event.

One way of understanding causes and consequences is through categorising them. Here are three categories students can use to support their understanding.

Chronologynature/typesignificance

Long-term

Short-term

 

Underlying (specific to causes)

Catalyst/trigger (specific to causes)

 

Ongoing (specific to consequences)

Ideological

Political

Social

Economic

 

Positive

Negative

 

 

 

This can be analysed using Christine Counsell’s criteria:

 

Remembered

Resulting in change

Remarkable

Revealing

Resonant

 

 

  • These categories can be used by students to craft topic sentences when they are writing essays. For example: A significant long-term political cause of [event] was…

Vocabulary: Encourage students to play around with words as they seek to develop their understanding of causation. The following are synonyms that students could use to describe different types of causes.

  • Encourage creative descriptions.
  • In groups they could be asked to select descriptions they think relate strongly to the event they are studying.

exacerbate

encourage

This led to…

underpin

drive

allow

further

develop

In addition

discourage

influence

latent

foundation

This nurtured

prevent

preceding

deter

origins

incite

beginning

element

This was the source

This bred

underlying

nevertheless

support

permit

trigger

reflect

birth

contribute

subsequently

motivate

however

fundamentally

spark

consequently

impede

erupt

significantly

This compelled

The root of

bring about

principally

 

When analysing consequences, it’s good to bring in ideas relating to change and continuity. This is particularly the case for the 3.6 Achievement Standard that uses the broad term ‘impacts’ and asks students to consider meaningfully the changes and / or continuities that resulted from a trend. See Analysing change and continuity guide.

Causation Activity One:

Alphonse the camel

Kaupapa/Purpose:

→ This activity helps students understand that there are often multiple causes for any one event. In this case the event is the death of a camel named Alphonse.

After reading the story students

  • try to identify and describe the different kinds of causes that resulted in Alphonse’s death.
  • They may like to create a table and categorise the causes by chronology, type and significance.
  • Have a debate about which causes were more/less significant.

Story:

Once upon a time there was a camel (called Alphonse). For various reasons (relating to an unfortunate accident during his birth) the camel had severe back problems. This was not the end of his misfortune, however, because he also had an evil, exploitative owner (called Frank, the Camel Killer). Frank had hated camels ever since he experienced a nasty incident in his childhood involving a camel’s hoof and his rear end. He was very bitter and hadn’t trusted camels since.

Frank regularly overloaded his camels before taking them on gruelling and totally unnecessary round trips up and down mountains on his way to deliver goods to his customers. These customers, shockingly, were completely indifferent to these frequent and gross violations of the rights of camels, and even found Frank and his antics vaguely endearing. On top of it, Alphonse was sometimes his own worst enemy. Camels are very proud creatures, and he would act tough in front of his camel friends, and on his rare breaks he would show off how much he could carry.

Plenty of camels had died doing similar work to that of Alphonse and his friends. After a particularly nasty few weeks when camels were keeling over left, right, and centre, the camels decided to form a union to defend their rights and protect them from evil owners. However, when it comes down to it, camels are selfish creatures who don’t trust each other. They were more worried about looking after themselves than about working together, and the union soon fizzled out.

One Friday, Frank loaded up Alphonse and his poor exploited fellow creatures for yet another gruelling and totally unnecessary round trip up and down the mountains. He had piled and piled and piled up the goods onto Alphonse’s back and was taking a break and reflecting smugly on his handiwork, chewing a straw. On a whim he decided to add the straw he had been chewing to Alphonse’s load. Alphonse groaned obligingly and eyed his owner with disgust. He keeled over and died of radical and irreversible back collapse.

Causation Activity Two:

Jenga

Kaupapa/Purpose:

→ Jenga is a great game to play to get students excited about causation and the idea of perspectives in historiography. A Giant Jenga set works best, but if you don’t have one of these the classic Jenga set works fine.

  • Explain to the class that you will be playing Jenga in order to examine the idea of causation.
  • Students take turns to remove a piece from the tower and place it at the top.
  • When the tower falls, ask them to write a short paragraph that explains why they think the tower fell. If you have already covered ideas relating to causation, encourage them to write about long-term/short-term/significant causes (e.g., Jane knocked one of the lower pieces early on and this made the tower really unstable, so that when Tia took a piece it came down. Jane’s move was significant for the tower’s eventual fall).
  • While students write their summary you as the teacher write one as well. It’s a good idea to make this unique/dramatic. For example, “Grace’s placement of one of the blocks made the tower structurally unsound and this was the underlying and most significant cause of it falling.”
  • Take in all their written summaries, rip them up and then read out your summary. Explain to them that this is the written account – the history that will be put forward. From here you can draw out conversation around historiography, power, perspective, evidence, and the role of the historian.
How to cite this page

'Cause and consequence', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/classroom/historical-concepts/cause-consequence-analysis, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-Jul-2020

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