History Teaching Unit: On Picture Sources

Teaching unit on PICTURE SOURCES
This is for use in KS 3 history.

Why use this unit?

This website contains a large number of fabulous images from the Barings Archives, many of which have never been seen in public before. They offer a wealth of opportunities for pupils to act as young historians in handling picture sources, and developing real historical skills whilst doing so.

What does this unit do?

This unit consists of a range of different activities. Each asks pupils to look carefully at a particular set of images, and answer questions on them. In tackling these questions, pupils have to think critically about what they're looking at.


In most cases, there are no right or wrong answers - the idea is to stimulate thought and discussion, plus, of course, knowledge of the period.

A. The Baring portraits

  1. Look at the portraits of the Baring family members from c.1740 to c. 1830
    • What do these portraits tell us about Georgian and Regency England?(What would we know about the times if portraits like these did not exist?)
  2. What do the different portraits seek to tell the viewer about their subjects?
    • What is it about these pictures that indicates that this is a high-status family?
    • Do these portraits bring us closer to the men (and woman) being painted, do you think? Do they help us understand them a little better?
  3. Comparing the portrait of 1830 and any of the portraits from 1926, what does this tell us about changes in painting styles between these two dates?
    • Does this tell us anything about changes in society at large, do you think?

B. Historical images

Look at the History section of the sources section

If all that we knew about Barings bank was the information held in the images and the brief descriptions accompanying them, what would we know, and what could we infer?

  1. The Partnership Agreement
    • Why is this document so important in the history of Barings bank?
    • It is a long document - what sort of things do you think it's saying?
    • What would a modern partnership agreement look like, do you think? What would be the differences from this one?
    • What are those red blobs at the bottom of the page?
  2. The Punch Cartoon - Look carefully at the Punch cartoon.
    • What is it saying - does it have more than one message?
    • How is it saying it? What imagery is it using? Why is this effective?
    • How would members of the Barings family have reacted to seeing this image, do you think?
  3. The photographs from 1903 and 1920 - Look carefully at these photos.
    • What similarities and differences are there between offices then and offices today?
    • Is there anything else that these photos tell us about the times?
  4. The Norman Court
    • Does the painting of the Norman Court (and the accompanying information) tell us anything about international trade in the mid-19th century?
    • Find out about the date of the opening of the Suez Canal. Bearing in mind that this could only be used by steamships, what does this tell us about the futures of the Norman Court and other ships like it (including the famous Cutty Sark)?
  5. Number 8 Bishopsgate - There are three images of No 8 Bishopsgate, dated 1913, 1961 and 1974.
    • What are the similarities and differences in these images?
    • Which tells us most about the building?
    • Is there a different purpose behind each image?
    • Which is the most accurate? Which the least? Why?
    • Which do you think is the most attractive? Which the least? Why?
  6. Bond and Share certificates - Look carefully at the bond and share certificates.
    • What is the purpose of the pictures on them, do you think? What are they trying to say/achieve? Or are they just for fun?
    • Which Why, do you think, do some loans from the city and company, NOT have these pictures on?
  7. Prepare a Presentation
  8. Go through all the picture sources and put a selection of them together into a picture presentation either about: The History of Barings OR Late 18th to early 20th century economic history Why not use E2BN's tool Picture Teller to do this? It's easy and fun to use!

To find out more about Picture Teller