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DIFP and history for secondary schools

11 October 2018


PDF icon DIFP Treaty leaflet

Following on from the recent History Teachers Association of Ireland annual conference, we will be developing some new resources for second-level history over the next few months.

We recently accepted a generous invitation to attend the History Teachers Association of Ireland's annual conference in Athlone, which was a great opportunity to promote the DIFP archive and to get a sense of how it might be of value to teachers.  Given that the Anglo-Irish Treaty is one of the case studies for Leaving Cert history, we developed an e-book of the correspondence relating to the Treaty negotiations, from 1920 to 1922, which is free to download as a pdf here (and the National Archives of Ireland also have an extensive online exhibition on the Treaty). But there is much more in the archives that might be of interest to teachers and students.

Documents on Irish Foreign Policy is a public resource that publishes selected documents from the archives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 1919 onwards. Every two years we publish a hard-copy edition of documents (the next volume, covering 1957 to 1961, will be out in November), but we also place the contents of the volumes online. Our online archive currently runs from 1919 up to 1945 and is free to access; we are hoping to make more volumes available online soon, and to make the online archive more user-friendly for teachers and students as a resource for exploring and teaching history at second-level.

The contents of the archive are far more diverse then one might think. At the core of it are diplomatic despatches and reports from a wide range of countries – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the US – that contain accounts of what they heard and saw in their various postings, including the only English language diplomatic reports from Nazi Germany during the Second World War. There are accounts of meetings with key figures such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and the documents in the archives cover topics as diverse as the Irish revolution, the Versailles Peace Conference, the Boundary Commission, Anglo-Irish relations, the unravelling of the Treaty, the Economic War, the rise of fascism and Nazism in the 1930s, the Irish overseas, neutrality and the ‘Emergency’, and much more in the way of political, military and social history. All of the material in the online archive is open access and freely available to use.

1939The telegram from the Irish delegation in Berlin officially informing the Irish government of the outbreak of the Second World War (National Archives of Ireland: DFA 4/241/89)

The documents in the DIFP archive aren’t just about Ireland; they have a lot to say about the wider world, so could be used to teach international as well as Irish history, and there is plenty of material that could also be used for the Leaving Cert history Research Study Report.

So, if you are a history teacher at second level: watch this space! We will be updating our website over the next few months, and in the very near future will be developing a short guide on how to use the DIFP online for the RSR. We are also developing a document-based Transition Year module on the ‘Emergency’. This will be be ready for the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the war in 2019, but in the meantime, if there are any teachers who would be interested in helping us work on it (in the classroom or otherwise), we would love to hear from you; this module will be the first of its kind that we have developed, but if all goes to plan it won’t be the last.

In any case, thanks again to the HTAI for having us, and to all of the teachers who dropped by our stand for a chat. If you couldn’t make it or didn’t get a copy of our leaflet on the Treaty, you can download a copy of it here. And if you want to receive any updates, offer any suggestions, or learn more about our TY Emergency module, please get in touch; you can drop us a line at

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