Glorious Revolution playing cards

Teaching ideas

Choose one of the cards in For the classroom and discuss it in detail with the students, identifying the event it refers to and what impression is intended to give of the sides involved. Provide students with information about that event from other sources and then review the card. Give the students a selection of cards and ask them to do the same exercise. After they have presented their findings ask them to identify the main ways in which the cards attack James and bolster William’s cause. Students could be challenged to put the cards in the right order and create a timeline of the events leading up to the Revolution.

Ask students to carry out their own survey of events leading up to 1688 1689. Are there any key events or people that the cards omitted? Why might this be so? Tell them that the seven of clubs is missing. What do they think might have been on it? Ask them to describe in detail how they think the card would have represented that event.

After discussing a selection of the cards and reviewing the outline of the events of the Glorious Revolution, ask students to design some cards in support of James II. If they were to produce their own pack of propaganda playing cards, which five scenes would they choose to depict and why? For ideas, select images of the political playing cards from the link in For the classroom.

Watch the two videos from For the classroom. Remind students that James II was the father of Mary II. Ask them to imagine how Mary would feel if she saw these playing cards. Select a small number of cards and ask students to discuss what Mary’s response might be. Mary is absent from the cards. Why do the students think she does not feature?

Ask the students what makes the playing cards good as propaganda tools. Discuss the imagery used and the short captions – consider this in relation to literacy levels in 17th-century England. Discuss in what circumstances the cards might have been used and how this would affect their impact as propaganda. You could link this with one of the activities using the objects in A bigger picture – see below.

The Eight, Nine and Ten of Hearts depict events around the death of Arthur Capel, Earl of Essex, in the Tower of London in 1683, a cause celèbre of the period. Information about the death can be obtained easily from the Internet. Provide students with the basics of what happened and ask them to analyse how the three cards treat the case. Why do they think this incident lent itself to being used to attack James?

Show students images of the playing cards in For the classroom. Draw their attention to the quality of the cards and the clarity of the images. Discuss with students who they think would have owned a pack of playing cards like this. Students might do some research into the history of playing cards: how they came to Europe and how they went from being an upper-class leisure activity to something that was popular with all social classes.

Look at the Jacobite side of the silver box in For the classroom and decode the symbols, dates and names – students could have a go at using the actual manuscript to help. Who do the students think probably owned this box? Then analyse the other side. How does this change their view? Do they think a Jacobite or a supporter of William owned this? What is the purpose and effect of having the two allegories rather than just one?

The following activities focus on the use of everyday objects as propaganda tools and use the objects in A bigger picture.

Investigate the British board game Bomber Command – students could even have a go at playing it. Compare it with the German board game Hunt the Coal Thief. Can they work out what this game is about? What does it tell them about the situation in Germany in the AD 1930 40s? After they have made guesses supported by evidence, explain that it was part of a campaign to promote energy conservation as a means to save the country’s dwindling resources for the war effort; anyone wasting energy was considered a ‘coal thief’. How similar are the games? What methods do they use for communicating their respective messages? Who were the target audiences? Why were they produced?

Show students images of the handkerchief, badge, and t-shirt in A bigger picture. Ask students to point out the features on each object that identify it as a propaganda tool. Discuss whether they think clothes and fashion accessories make for effective propaganda. Do they take slogans and messages seriously when they see someone wearing something that contains a political, religious or social message?

Next section: For the classroom

Glorious Revolution playing cards