A level History

Exam Board: Pearson Edexcel

What is the A level about?

A level is a deep dive into some of the most captivating events in History. Primarily A level History is about learning for learning’s sake, but you will gain a blue-riband qualification in the process because History is a facilitating subject, recognised by the best universities as the gold standard in knowledge-based critical thinking. Having a History A level on your CV allows you to emerge from the qualification soup.

History at A level is about being taught topics that are the passion of your teachers, whether that being the end of Roman Britain or the Napoleonic War and the Crusades. There is no agenda, no mewing to contemporary relevance, it is the simple pursuit of knowledge and understanding about what is fascinating. It’s also mostly about why Horatio Nelson was the Greatest Englishman who ever lived. A level History is a knowledge-rich curriculum that will enable you to build and weigh arguments based on the weight of what you know, combined with an understanding of the conceptual skills employed by historians. 
It is about listening to sea shanties, reading tales of daring-do and answering the eternal question: ‘why on earth did they think that was a good idea?’

What does the A level consist of? 

Paper 1: The crusades, c1095–1204
Paper 2: England and the Angevin Empire in the reign of Henry II, 1154–89
Paper 3: The British experience of warfare, c1790–1918
Paper 4: Late Roman Britain and Early Anglo-Saxon England

Do I need to have studied the subject at GCSE?

Ideally you should have achieved at least a grade 6 at GCSE to study History at A Level. However we have accepted pupils who did not take History at GCSE and they have done well.

Whom does the subject suit?

Everybody comes to history in the end, because everything you are interested in, or will be interested in, in the future, has a history. Whether it be the history of sport, or cooking or fashion, history is everywhere. So you might as well fall in love with history now and save yourself a lot of catching-up and regret later in life. History is a course that rewards those who go the extra mile, who are willing to chase up ideas in the library and follow strands of thought into new areas. If the thought of spending time reading non-fiction books for pleasure appalls you, then this is not the subject for you, nor is it the subject for those on an idle path of least resistance. If you are intellectually curious then you will have a great two years.

What skills should I have?

A level History is an essay subject, so having a gift for crafting prose is a definite benefit. It is also a subject that rewards knowledge- if you have a good memory then you will do well. History is also a subject that contains scope for creativity, often the best historians are those who think a little differently, you can introduce and debate a concept that others might not have considered. Ultimately it comes down to how good you are at arguing, if you can persuade others to your way of thinking by clever words and accurate facts, then you will succeed in this subject.

What might the subject lead to?

History is a key facilitating subject, highly respected by universities and employers. Any career that requires research, putting forward or weighing arguments, public speaking or writing will welcome a background in history. Historians find their way into all manner of jobs, from being researchers, journalists or authors, to being lawyers, investment bankers or prime ministers. Studying history makes you interesting, it gives you something to talk about when networking with important clients, it helps you build commonality with strangers, it provides myriad examples of soft skills that help you achieve your aims. It also makes you a popular teammate in pub quizzes.

What trips are involved?

In past years, pupils have visited Naples, had an overnight trip to explore the museums and galleries of London and a mystery road trip into deepest Wales in search of the hidden kingdom of Ergyng - recognised by its participants  as being the greatest school trip of all time. This year we are planning a trip to the battlefield of Waterloo.

What else should I consider before choosing?

“I wish I had studied history at school”, is a phrase I have heard dozens, possibly hundreds of times. I have never heard the phrase, “I wish I had studied business”.

What books should I read?

In preparation for Lower Sixth, the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell are a great introduction to the Napoleonic Wars. The Warlord Chronicles by the same author are a brilliant way of discovering the world of post Roman Britain that will be covered for coursework. The Aubrey-Maturin series about the navy during the time of Nelson by Patrick O’Brien is the greatest series of historical novels ever written in the English language.

Who will teach me?

The course has been selected to allow each teacher in the department to specialise in the areas of expertise they are most passionate about. Mr Bostwick teaches about early medieval Britain, Mr Ferrero teaches about high medieval Europe and Mr Fox teaches about the French Revolution.