The History Department offers three periods of history, as well as Archaeology, Politics, Classical Civilisation and an element of the College’s IB provision. In deciding upon which subject to take, it does not matter which particular time period students have studied before, but students can only study one period of history. They can, however, combine History AS Level with other subject areas such as Archaeology, Classical Civilisations or Politics. Students will be mentored through the university admissions process for Historical subjects. The Department has a number of links with Higher Education providers, which gives up-to-date information about admissions procedure. Students from the Department are admitted to a wide range of HE institutions including Oxbridge.

Courses Offered

Early Modern History

The course explores the early modern era during a time of great conflict, power, patronage and politics.

The course looks at Early Modern History from the 15th to the 18th century. One half of the course focuses on the Tudor era and you will find out about Britain’s most infamous royal family from its shaky beginnings as Henry VII seized the crown by force all the way through to the achievements of Elizabeth I, considered one of the greatest British monarchs of all time. The other half of the course investigates the reign of the “Sun King” Louis XIV; an era famously known for its musketeers, frequent wars and the impressive palace of Versailles. The coursework extends the opportunities for exploring the early modern world through topics such as the phenomenon of witchcraft and the witch hunting of the 17th century; the dynamic Wars of the Roses and the European Reformation which turned the early modern world on its head. Early Modern History provides students with the opportunity to study an era which offers a great contrast to the 21st century and benefits from having some of the most dynamic personalities you will find anywhere in history.

The AQA syllabus consists of two units for the AS qualification and three for the A Level qualification:

  • Component 1C: (Breadth Study) The Tudors 1485 - 1603
    AS Level: 1485 - 1547: The course covers the first two Tudor monarchs; Henry VII who established the dynasty against all odds and Henry VIII, a man motivated by war, women and the desperate need for a male heir who steered England away from the Catholic Church plunging the country into religious and political turmoil – the so-called ‘mid-Tudor crisis.
    A Level: 1547 - 1603 Students continue the course with a study of the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. How did England survive the turbulence created by Henry VIII? How successful were his three children in taking on the reins of government? Rebellion, war and instability plague this course, before finding some peace with Elizabeth I who finds a middle ground from which to rule in order to create stability.

  • Component 2F: (Depth Study) The Sun King: Louis XIV, France and Europe, 1643–1715
    AS Level: The Sun King, 1643 – 85. The course covers the first half of Louis XIV’s reign. He inherited the throne as a boy and its beginnings are troubled by a major rebellion on the scale of a civil war. Once Louis comes of age he works tirelessly to achieve absolute power at home and abroad as Louis strives to make France the dominant power in Europe.
    A Level: Louis XIV in decline, 1685 – 1715. Students continue the course with a study of Louis XIV’s wars with the major European powers. 1685 also marks the expulsion of the French Protestants from France and the gradual realisation for Louis that his absolutist ambitions have created problems for himself both at home and abroad.

  • Component 3: Coursework
    Coursework is chosen from a range of topics such as the Wars of the Roses, 17th century witchcraft and the European Reformation (A level only)

  • Component 1 AS Exam: 1 hour 30 minutes, A Level Exam: 2 hours 30 minutes (one compulsory question based on historians’ interpretations & an essay (AS) or two essays (A level)

  • Component 2 AS Exam: 1 hour 30 minutes, A Level Exam : 2 hours 30 minutes (one compulsory question based on primary source material & an essay (AS) or two essays (A level)

  • Component 3 Independent study. An essay of approx. 3500 words (A level only)

Medieval History

The course explores the Crusades 1071-1204 and the Angevins 1154-1216, looking at various aspects of the Medieval world. The Crusades were events of great magnitude in the Middle Ages with repercussions for the 21st century. The Angevins, the ‘Devil’s Brood’, brought vast tracts of modern France under the control of the kings of England, from Henry II to his sons Richard the Lionheart and King John.

In the first year, the breadth study side of the course covers the idea of crusading, the First Crusade, establishment of the Crusader States and the Second Crusade. Crusading was a combination of the medieval pilgrimage and a war to ‘free’ Jerusalem from Muslim Seljuk control. The unprecedented success of the First Crusade in 1099 saw four Latin States develop in Outremer (the ‘land beyond the sea’), and the course looks at how these Frankish societies developed. The Second Crusade came about when the Muslim Counter-Crusade began with the fall of Edessa in 1144, but the failure of this crusade in 1148 severely dented Western European enthusiasm for crusading. This side of the course introduces students to the different interpretations of historians. The other side of the course, the depth study, looks at Henry II from his origins and accession to the throne in 1154, to his death in 1189 surrounded by a rebellious family. Henry II became the most powerful monarch in Western Europe, ruler of an Angevin ‘empire’ which stretched from Scotland to the Pyrenees. Yet his relations with family and friends were to seriously threaten his throne, from rebellious sons Richard and John, to the murder of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury and Henry’s one time greatest friend. This side of the course introduces the students to work with original source documents.

In the second year, students will continue with these two units. The Crusades breadth study begins with the Islamic Counter-Crusade, the establishment of jihad, and rise of Nur al Din and Saladin. It looks at the Third Crusade, the clash between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, and the aberration of the Fourth Crusade, where Catholic crusaders sacked Constantinople in 1204, the greatest city in the Christian world. The depth study looks at the period 1189-1216, which saw Richard’s ten year reign as an absentee king, and John, arguably the worst monarch England ever had.

The Non-Exam Assessment (coursework) is completed in the second year. It offers students the chance to explore themes in history with a choice of the Vikings, Charlemagne, the Normans or Medieval warfare.

Modern History: Revolutions and Dictators

The course explores the creation of the Modern World through Revolution and Dictatorships. Revolutions and Dictatorships gives students a framework from which to understand the democratic society in which we live today through studying the political and cultural developments in nations such as Russia or Germany in the 20th century, and earlier British history. There are three components to the A level, two of which are assessed through written examinations and the other is a piece of coursework.

The first year follows the theme of revolution, looking at the overthrow of absolute monarchies. Students begin the breadth study which covers the hundred years that saw the transformation of Russia from an empire ruled by Tsars, who had absolute power, to the USSR, the first Marxist state, ruled by the Communist Party. The first part of the course looks at the reigns of the last three tsars and explores the reasons for the collapse of Tsardom, as well as the origins and consequences of the two Revolutions of 1917. The course will also introduce students to the various debates that exist between historians. The other half of the course is a depth study which explores the origins of Modern Britain through the English Revolution. In the first year, students learn about the attempt by Charles 1st to rule without Parliament and the series of crises which this provoked. The course looks at the social and cultural evolution of England, and examines the factors which would lead to war against the Scots and then a civil war. This part of the course makes use of original documents, so students will develop the skills needed to evaluate primary source material.

The second year of the course follows the theme of dictatorship and students continue both topics. The breadth study examines the dictatorships of Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev, and raises the question of how much Russia was changed in the process of becoming the USSR. Was life for the soviet citizen so very different from life under the Tsars? The depth study investigates the reasons for the execution of Charles 1, the outbreak of the Civil War and the subsequent dictatorship of Oliver Cromwell. The focus is on understanding the relationship between government and people.

The coursework, which is completed in the second year, extends the opportunities for exploring modern history through topics such as Germany from 1870 to 1991, India from 1857 to 1947, or Anglo British relations in Ireland.

IBO History

Higher Level History is intended for students wishing to understand the key factors that shaped world history during the 20th century. It is aimed not only at students who intend to pursue history at university, but also at those who want to broaden their knowledge of the last 100 years and improve the skills required in research and writing analytical essays.

  • Paper One This is a source based exam in which students evaluate a series of documents on the effect of military expansion by Japan, Italy and Germany in the 1930s. The focus of this topic is the relationship between domestic developments, ideological issues and the international context created by such factors as the Great Depression.
  • Paper Two This is an essay based exam in which the students study two topic areas. One topic looks at the origins and development of authoritarian states and single-party states. Students study how individuals such as Hitler, Stalin or Mao achieved power, how they maintained power and evaluate the impact of their domestic policies on their respective nations. The other topic focuses on warfare in the 20th century. Students will study the causes, as well as the way in which warfare was conducted using a range of conflicts, including the two World Wars, the Spanish Civil War, the Korean War and the Afghanistan War.
  • Paper Three This is an essay based exam in which students study European history in the 20th Century. The course begins with such events as the Russian Revolution and the Paris Peace Treaties, and then explores the rise of fascism and communism in the interwar years. Students will explore the failure of peacekeeping and the causes of World War Two. There is in-depth study of the USSR from Stalin to Gorbachev, the nature of fascist Italy and the reasons for the failure of the Weimar Republic and subsequent creation of the Third Reich. The course takes as its theme the growing conflict between democracy and dictatorship, as seen in the Spanish Civil War.
  • The Historical Investigation This is coursework and takes the form of an investigation for which the student submits an assignment of 2200 words. The student chooses a topic and sets their own question, which then must be answered by an analytical argument which includes evaluation of at least two of the sources that have been used in the course of the research.

Please see the Course Details box on this page for links to downloadable subject information sheets.