The History Department offers three periods of history, as well as 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. 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 by the Department

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.

The breadth study side of the course covers the idea of crusading, the First Crusade, the Crusader States, the Second Crusade, the Third Crusade, and the Fourth 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. The Islamic Counter-Crusade and the establishment of jihad was a reaction to these events, through the rise of Nur al Din and Saladin, culminating in the 1187 capture of Jerusalem. The Third Crusade, with Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, ended ended in a stalemate. The Fourth Crusade was an aberration, as the crusaders sacked Orthodox Christian Constantinople in 1204. This side of the course introduces students to the different interpretations of historians.

The depth study side of the course 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. Richard, apart from being a great crusader, was less sure as King of England, spending most of his reign outside the country. Apart from crusading, he fought many wars against the French. It is with his brother, the infamous John, however, can be seen as England’s worst king. John fell out with almost everyone, whether his wife or his mother, to his nobles and the king of France, Philip Augustus. A massive quarrel with the Pope led to the churches shutting down for years, and his bad behaviour led, eventually, to Runnymede and Magna Carta in 1215. John lied to the barons, and England was engulfed in civil war again. This side of the course introduces the students to work with original source documents.

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 questions on the Vikings, Charlemagne, the Fall of Rome, Medieval warfare, and 5th century BC Athens.

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.

Modern History

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, is focussed on Germany from 1870 to 1991 and students can choose a series of questions which include social, political, religious, economic, and military aspects of Germany.

Classical Civilisation

Classical Civilisation offers a dynamic insight into the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome, the two civilisations which lie at the root of Western culture and influenced it like no other. The course is uniquely interdisciplinary, incorporating elements of literature, art, history, philosophy and several other subject areas. As a wide-ranging and rigorous course, Classical Civilisation can be combined very effectively with other subject choices to provide students with a strong academic portfolio.

The course consists of three modules, studied over two years:

  • The World of the Hero This module explores The Iliad, the earliest text in Western literature and undoubtedly one of the greatest. Its central theme is the anger of Achilles, a mighty warrior whose refusal to fight in the legendary Trojan War threatens the Greek army with humiliating defeat. As a companion text, students study The Aeneid, the grand and eloquent Roman response to the The Iliad and a powerful statement of Roman glory and achievements.
  • Greeks and Barbarians At the core of this module (Invention of the Barbarian) is the study of the process by which the Greeks created the concept of the barbarian. Few other concepts have had such a deep and devastating influence on the course of Western history. The topic has very powerful resonances with some of the deepest issues in society today.
  • Gods, Cults and Religion The course’s third module (Greek Religion) explores one of the most famous and enduring concepts developed by the Ancient Greeks: their pantheon of gods. The module offers a thoroughgoing evaluation of the place of religion in Ancient Greece, as well as an effective introduction to Greek philosophical thought, which has a great history of its own.

Students of Classical Civilisation often look to study associated subjects at university. There are many degrees with classical content, including Classics (which is offered in a range of forms), Ancient History and Archaeology.

Politics

Government and Politics has been an established subject of academic enquiry across the world for thousands of years. It remains so today with a large number of A Level students throughout Britain.

You will not need any prior knowledge of the subject but an interest in current affairs will prove an advantage. In addition, the ability to write fluently will definitely help.

A Level Politics blends in well with most other subjects at A Level especially Law, History, English, Media Studies, Sociology, Geography and Economics all of which look to develop similar skills. Students studying a Science or Maths have also had considerable success in this subject as it provides an interesting contrast in their studies.

A qualification in Politics is valuable to anyone aiming to enter Higher Education, whatever the course for which they apply. It is also very useful for those interested in a career in journalism, marketing, law, public relations or the civil service. Indeed each year, of the 2000 people or so who graduated in Politics, nine out of ten were at work in jobs such as advertising, public administration or in the media within six months of picking up their degree.

Last, but not least, Politics is an exciting subject in its own right. The workings of Parliament, political parties and pressure groups, how we vote and why, and the background to issues from education to the environment are questions which affect us all. They are far too important, as a former French President said, "to be left to politicians".

Students will cover the following when studying Government and Politics over the 2 years:

  • UK Politics
  • UK Government
  • Core Ideologies: Socialism, Liberalism and Conservatism
  • Non-core Ideology: Nationalism
  • Comparative Politics: Global Politics

Trips and Visits

There tend to be 2 trips for Politics students, one in the first year of study to the Houses of Parliament and a foreign residential trip covering the Global Politics aspect of the course.

IB 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 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, and the Korean War. Students will consider the impact of technology, as well as such issues as manpower or strategy on the outcome of each conflict.

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 our Courses page for full details of all the courses offered by the college.