Section 4: Understanding timelines

Key Focus Question: How can you use timelines and other sources to develop understanding of cause and effect?

Keywords: timelines; historical change; chronology; history; historical sources; debate

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, you will have:

  • used timelines to represent historical change over time;
  • helped pupils to identify the key events in a particular historical process;
  • encouraged pupils to view history not just as a series of dates to be learned but as a process to be investigated;
  • used a variety of sources to help pupils see that one event may have many causes.


When developing an understanding of time past and passing, it is important to be able to sequence events into the order in which they happened.

Pupils often struggle with the concept of time. In this section, you will first help your pupils to divide time into periods that are more manageable and then, once they are able to do this, think about the order of events and why this is important. (With young pupils, this might be as simple as helping them order how they do certain tasks, leading on to more complex activities as their understanding grows.) You will then help your pupils identify the most important events in a particular passage of time. This can lead, with older pupils, into an analysis of cause and effect, and the understanding that there is usually more than one cause of an event.

Resource 5: The role of cattle – past and present

1. Building a timeline