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History Department News – November 2014

14 November 2014

In this History Department update you can find news of how our next cohort of IB students have been finding out about Czechoslovak history and also how our younger students in Year 7 have begun their Secondary School history studies. There is also a report from Year 9’s trip to the Vienna Military Museum where we saw the car in which Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated.

We began the year celebrating an excellent set of exam results in which our students performed significantly better than the World Average in both the IGCSE and IB exams. Particular congratulations go to Alex Tham, Daniel Gough and Minseog Choi who all achieved perfect A* grades at IGCSE and to Barbora Breckova who achieved top grade 7 at IB and has won a place at Kings College London.

We would like to thank Mrs Mercan and Mrs Mignolet for their help in accompanying us on recent History trips.

Mr  Keys



IB History students learn about life in communist Czechoslovakia


IB students had two opportunities recently to hear first-hand about life in Communist Czechoslovakia and the Velvet Revolution. The first came from members of our school staff – Ms Pallova and Ms Oravcova - who talked to students about their personal experiences. Ms Pallova discussed with students what it was like to grow up in a communist country, whilst Ms Oravcova told students about the events of the Velvet Revolution and how she, a student at the time, participated in the protests in Bratislava. We would like to thank Ms. Pallova and Ms. Oravcova, not only for their generosity in giving up their time in this way, but for opening up and sharing their personal, family stories with students and allowing them to ask questions. It was a great experience for students to have the opportunity to listen to eye-witness accounts of an era they have only experienced through text book and video.

The second opportunity arose from the generosity of the International Women’s Club of Bratislava in opening up one of their Cultural Evenings to our students. On November 6th Mr Keys accompanied a group of our IB students to Crown Plaza Hotel to listen to Mrs. Simeckova discuss the events around the Velvet Revolution. Again this was a valuable opportunity for students to meet, question and discuss historical events with those who participated in them. These opportunities greatly enhance the learning experience and really help ‘bring the curriculum to life’. We would like to offer our sincere thanks to the IWC and, in particular to Mrs Scharpf, for enabling this event.


The Velvet Revolution 1989-2014


2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the collapse of Communism in Europe, the end of the Cold War and, very significantly for us, the Czechoslovak Velvet Revolution of November 17th.


During their recent visit to Devin to learn about Medieval Castles, Year 7 were able to visit the Devin Memorial to the Victims of the Communist Terror. History classes throughout KS3 are currently learning about the events of 1989 in a series of special lessons. This has sparked many discussions where students have shared their family’s personal stories about life before and during the Revolution. If any of our parents would like to come and visit our Year 7-9 classes between now and the end of term to share their personal stories, please contact either Mr Keys or Ms Conway to arrange a mutually suitable time.


Thank you. 






Remembrance Day Assembly

This is, of course, the centenary year marking the outbreak of the First World War.

November 11th is Remembrance Day (also known as Veterans Day); a day when people around the world stop to remember those who have lost their lives (and continue to lose their lives) in conflict.

The date is significant as it coincides with the ending of the First World War – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.

On November 11th IB History students Alex Tham, Sakshi Rai and Daniel Gough led secondary school students in a thought provoking and moving assembly explaining the significance of the date and the events which it commemorates. Through readings, poetry and video, they led the school in a two minute silence and helped students to reflect on why an act of remembrance is considered important. 



Our Year 7 students went to the Devin Castle. Here are some of their thoughts about the castle.

On Wednesday the 15th of October, Year 7 went on a trip to Devin Castle. We learnt about the defensive features of the castle and how it was strategically placed so that enemies would have a hard time attacking.

At the start of our trip, we explored the different areas in the castle whilst the second group were given a guided tour through a room with a few interesting exhibits. In our time outside, we counted how many seconds it took for water to fall down a 55 metre well! We were all amazed that the water took 6 seconds to fall down the well.

After we had finished exploring the castle, the rest of the second group and I were given the tour through the room. We found out about the lifestyle of people in medieval times. For example, we were told about the clothes that these people wore and we were shown what the living conditions were in a medieval persons hut. 


This is the skeleton of a person who lived in medieval times.





This is the hut of a medieval person. As you can see, it would be a tight squeeze for a large family.





Tom Keys, Year 7


On the 15th of October, the year 7s went on to a History trip to Devin Castle in order to improve our understanding of medieval castles and their importance during that period of time.

We had the opportunity to visit an exhibition on the castle grounds and took notes and pictures in order to write a report about it along the tour.

Devin Castle was built a very long time ago - to be accurate in the 13th century; it is over 800 years old and it’s very stunning that some of the oldest parts of the Castle are still standing. There are three parts of the Castle; upper part, middle part and lower part. The oldest part of the castle is the upper castle which was built first. The upper castle has a cave entrance which is quite small. Close to the upper castle there is the Virgin Tower. 

The castle is in a very good position because it is on a hill, a high position which gives the opportunity to watch out for any enemy approaching. Also there are 2 rivers, the Morava and the Danube, protecting the West and South of the castle.

This is the entrance to the 11 caves which run through the entire castle




Susan Toptas, year 7


Year 9 Trip to the Vienna War History Museum

In History Year 9 are learning about the Twentieth Century and in particular, this term we are studying the First World War. On the 26th of September we went to the Military Museum in Vienna for a study trip to find out more about this event.

My group first visited exhibits in the museum showing artefacts from other eras which mostly consisted of paintings and a hot-air balloon that was the first hot-air balloon ever. There were also newspapers from the Ottoman Empire. When we had finished with that era, we moved across the museum to the First World War wing.

This was the most interesting wing. It was full of old guns and uniforms, and there was a modern walkway that zigzagged around the largest gun ever. It was 82 tonnes and definitely could not fit in the school gym!  We also saw the very car that Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in. This event, in Sarajevo on June 28th 1914 sparked the First World War! I think everyone took a selfie with that car! As the museum was marking the centenary of the First World War the museum had obviously displayed the best exhibits of the era.

There was one gigantic painting about ten metres across of a Russian battle. It was a very interesting experience for most people as there was a huge range of exhibits, ranging from newspapers, tanks, paintings, bunkers and shells. There were also dolls arranged so they looked scary. One doll actually had teeth.

Overall I think we understood the era much better, and were more culturally aware of the differences in the War and to quote my best friend, “we got to see some awesomely awesome tanks!” The whole experience was unforgettable and I personally feel more enriched about my understanding of the First World War.

A whole lot more selfies later we got back on the buses and went back to BISB.  This trip was really valuable because we understood the war and the eras around it a whole lot more.


By Nadine Pheby, 9C


You can follow all the History department news on twitter: BisbHistory @Lindsay__Conway