Bringing History to Life
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Activity Ten - Trial

Questions of guilt and innocence can provoke a great amount of curiosity, passion and interest. In the case of Captain Bligh, there were two trials for mutiny, though most folks only know about the mutiny on the Bounty. There was yet another when Bligh tried to cut off the lucrative rum trade in Sydney when he was Governor there and the troops rebelled in what is now called the Rum Rebellion. Bligh was acquitted of charges in both of these cases, but he has the distinction for setting a record of sorts. A class might put him back on trial, or even more fascinating potentially, they might retry the officers and seamen recovered once the mutineers were caught and returned to Britain.

There are so many characters from history we might put on trial, whether it be Custer or Sitting Bull, the early settlers, the native people guilty of massacre or the merchants who exploited their customers. When soldiers were guilty of massacre or torture, should the officers be on trial or just the enlisted troops?

Make a list with your partner of 5-10 characters from history who might deserve a trial for the actions even though they never had to face one. Which of these could be staged in a history class with good results? Which, if any, might prove too controversial?

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