Previous section
Accidents and Dangers

Using historical evidence

Evidence from the past comes in many forms, including written and printed material, illustrations, photographs and artefacts.


Written sources can be primary (first-hand accounts written at the time) or secondary (written by historians after the period being studied).


To piece together a picture of the past, all evidence needs to be looked at very carefully. Some questions that you might want to ask when looking at a piece of evidence are:

  • Where did it come from?
  • Is it a personal or official source?
  • Who recorded it and why?
  • Is the information given correct or accurate? Can this be checked?
  • Can we tell if information has been left out?
  • What did the person who recorded this want us to know, feel or think?
  • Are facts or opinions included?
  • Is the evidence useful, reliable or biased?
  • Is the evidence exaggerated in any way?

Activity idea:

Royal Commission 1842 report on investigating children’s employment in mines provides us with important information about what it was like to work in a mine as a child in Victorian times.


The reports contain various types of primary evidence including quotes, illustrations and statistical information.


Look at the examples of evidence from the report in the images within this resource and the downloads below, using the questions above as a guide.


View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 


Scroll down for links and additional resources on this topic.

An account from the 1842 Commissioners' Report showing health issues of miners
An illustration from 1842 Commissioners' Report showing woman lowering two children down a mine shaft
A table from the 1842 Commissioners' Report showing average wages and food consumption of mining families
A table from the 1842 Commissioners' Report showing average wages and food consumption of mining families