Importance of Historical Context
At our school History is regarded as an essential part of every student’s education. If we have any hope of understanding the great issues of our time we must study historical causation, the context of the key events, personalities and belief systems that dominate the news. Our modern world is the effect. History is the cause. As information becomes ever more democratic and universal it is easy to lose ourselves in a seemingly bewildering array of opinions. The key to navigating our way through these increasingly divisive and contradictory viewpoints lies in developing an historical perspective that enables us to see the bigger picture. The need for a rational, balanced perspective grounded in an understanding of historical context is as important as ever.
'Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.'
Teaching History Chronologically
To understand history it is essential that children are given a chronological view of humanity’s extraordinary story. If we teach history in random chunks, for example jumping from Victorians to Tudors to World War 1 and 2, pupils will not be able to understand the accumulation of factors that gave rise to these events and periods. It is like reading random passages from a novel and expecting to understand the plot, characters and themes.
Engaging with History
Throughout all of their studies in History students are taught to view events from different perspectives, from the viewpoint of the winners and losers, from the context and restraints of the time but also from our 21st century ethical perspective. History should never be taught with cold dispassion, but with enthusiasm, ethical engagement and at times incredulity.
'History is the greatest story ever told. Astonishing plots and twists, stunning settings, an extraordinary cast of characters and all the great themes of human existence. It allows for a multitude of interpretations and perspectives. It has a mysterious beginning and a yet to be written ending. It explains the present and hints at the future. And to cap it all, this is a story in which each one of us makes an appearance.'
School Trips to Historical Sites
History classes are regularly taken on educational trips to key local historical sites. In the past these have included trips to Stonehenge, Maiden Castle, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Southampton and the New Forest. This year we will be taking two classes on our first school trip abroad when we visit Normandy to see the Bayeux Tapestry, William the Conqueror’s Castle and the historical city of Rouen. We plan to make historical trips abroad on an annual basis from now on, so watch this space for further destinations and site visits.
In the Lower Primary Class the children learn all about our pre-history, from Australopithecus to the rise of homo-sapiens leading to the Stone Age, before moving onto the early civilisations of Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China and South America.
The Primary History Course, for students aged from 8 to 12, is designed around four basic themes which have affected the global development and organisation of individuals/groups and societies throughout history :
The human need to acquire, and the ability to use, NATURAL RESOURCES in the development of societies/hierarchies and control of environments.
The development of TECHNOLOGIES whether in farming, building, warfare, metallurgy, information processing and resulting impacts.
The on-going impact of CLIMATE and ENVIRONMENT on human civilisation through thousands of years.
The human quest for understanding of ‘Life’ and ‘Death’, ‘SELF’ and ‘OTHER’, expressed through behaviours associated with SPIRITUALITY and the development of ideologies/organised religions.
This course considers these themes, as they relate to key periods of History studied, to provide a holistic consideration of how and why events occurred, the ebb and flow of power and control by individuals and groups and the mechanisms which caused ‘change’ at any key point. There is an emphasis on encouraging students to perceive ‘History’ as a very wide area of study and as such, the course incorporates elements of, for instance: geography, archaeology, philosophy, history of art, geology and science.
There is a further emphasis on discussion around evidence. The definition of ‘evidence’, how it is collected and interpreted, and an encouragement to question historical interpretation of ‘fact’. Finally, the course seeks to give students a greater connection between their lives and the past by providing opportunities for them to explore the links between past and present and to consider how different periods of history still resonate in the twenty first century. It aims to provide a coherence regarding historical timelines and to provide students with a historical language to describe their knowledge and insights.
Students begin their Primary History studies by investigating the nature of history, considering their own personal history, current events and historical structures. We then move onto reconsidering prehistorical periods before studying the great ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and Rome.
History in the upper school begins from around 1000 AD so Lower Secondary students at first study the Middle Ages in Britain and Europe, focusing on the Normans, the Crusades, and the Plantagenets. We then take in a more global perspective again and study the Incas, native Americans and the Song and Ming dynasties of China. In their second year we focus on social history in the Middle Ages, the War of the Roses and the Tudors. This is followed by learning about the European’s ‘discovery’ of America, the devastation of the Mesoamerican cultures and the Atlantic Slave Trade. Lower Secondary complete the year by studying the religious wars which developed out of the Reformation, such as the English Civil War and the rise of Oliver Cromwell and Parliamentarianism.
In their last year in Lower secondary students study the beginnings of the modern world as we look at the great ideas of the Enlightenment and the key events that it inspired such as the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.
Upper Secondary students begin by studying the key events of the 19th century across the world, focusing especially on Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the US. We look at the clash between the emerging ideologies of liberalism, socialism, nationalism and conservatism, which lead to the revolutions in Europe in 1830 and 1848. We then focus on how European expansion and aggression led to the development of the Age of Empire, incorporating the obscene scramble for Africa and the carving up of much of Asia. The year ends with an in-depth study of World War One.
The history for the GCSE Class is of course determined by OCR exam board, but the topics we have chosen continue the chronological study of history as much as possible. The new History course begins with a 1,000 year overview focusing on immigration to and from Britain, before we return to an in depth study of the Elizabethan Age. In their final year the students study the rise of Nazi Germany in depth and complete their course with the Cold War.
History Curriculum Outline
Here is a general outline of the topics and historical eras studied at our school. Please note that this is principally a guide and is subject to change.