Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Teachers' Notes

Resource created by M&S Archive.


Aim of resource

This resource is part of an 'M&S History' theme intended to provide a broad picture of the development of the Company, and how this links to social history and world events.

Curriculum Links

  • KS3/4 Citizenship
  • KS3 History: Ideas, political power, industry and empire, Britain 1745 - 1901
  • KS3 History: The study of an aspect of social history: Migration
  • KS3 PHSE:  Health and wellbeing, Living in the wider world
  • KS4 Business

Learning Objectives

  • To learn about the history of M&S
  • To find out what life was like in the past
  • To think about what makes a situation fair or unfair
  • To think about how to make positive changes in your community
  • To be able to use archive documents to understand life in the past

The  Michael Marks timeline follows his life from his birth in Russian Poland in 1863 to his death in Manchester in 1907. The life of Michael Marks was relatively short but one with many achievements.

Discussion Ideas

KS3/4 Citizenship

  • Talk about the experiences you think Michael Marks might have had from the time he decided to leave Poland to arriving in England.
  • Which countries are people fleeing from today to escape persecution and how might their experiences be similar to those of Michael Marks? 
  • Do you know about the funerals of any famous people? Why would they be remembered?
  • In what ways are funerals different today from the time of Michael Marks' funeral?
  • The letters of Mrs Davies and Mrs Ashton Hill show how fondly Michael Marks was remembered. How would you like to be remembered?

KS4 Business

  • What motivated Marks to succeed - firstly in getting to a new country, and secondly in setting up a business there?
  • Which people do you most respect for their achievements and why?
  • What would you like to achieve in your life?
  • What sort of business would you start?
  • What would you need to do to get started? Make a list of things you think you'd need to do, and then put the list in order of priority.
  • The 'unique selling point' (or USP) of Marks' Penny Bazaar was that everything cost a penny. What would your USP be?
  • Most businesses need 'capital' to get started, find out what this means.
  • How would you monitor the quality of your goods and make sure that your customers were happy?
  • Look at the  M&S Penny Bazaar and  First Department Stores resources to find out more. What was shopping like before browsing became a normal part of buying things?
  • There are photographs of Brixton and Manchester M&S stores in the Resources section. Why were these cities good locations to open up new stores?

KS3 History

  • Where have people emigrated from in the past and why? For example in 1880 a painter called Joseph Staniland painted a picture called The Emigrant Ship, (see Supporting Links in 'Resources') showing people leaving England to go to America. How different is that to today?
  • Use the Supporting Links (in 'Resources) to find out what life was like, and what else was happening, at the turn of the 20th Century?

Activity Ideas


  • Make a list of the personal qualities you think you would need to (a) survive a journey to a foreign country not speaking the language, and (b) set up your own business.
  • An obituary is something written about a person after they have died. Write an obituary about a known or imaginary person to describe their life, qualities and characteristics. 
  • Find out about what happens in other cultures when a person dies. There are several stories on My Learning about death customs that will help you find out more.

KS3 History

  • In the 1880s there were anti-Jewish 'pogroms' in Russia. Find out what a pogrom is and make a list of reasons why Michael Marks might have emigrated to England.
  • Refer to the Michael Marks timeline and work out how old he was when he arrived in England. Talk about what it might have been like for him to leave his country of birth at that age.

KS4 Business

  • Find out what an 1884 penny would be worth in today's money
  • Make a business plan for your own company. You might want to think about:
    - its aim
    - what will your business achieve?
    - what will its name be?
    - who will your competitors be, do your 'market research'
    - what will your USP be?
    - what will it cost to 'start up'?
    - how long it will take you to 'break even' and how much profit will you make in your first year? 
  • Then do a SWOT analysis - think about your business in terms of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. 
  • Imagine you are working for Michael Marks in the 1900s and he asks you to promote his new shops - how would you go about that? Remember it's the 1900s - there's no internet or television! 
  • What sort of technology could you use to make a new shop different and exciting. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using lots of technology in stores?