Is History for me?
This course will appeal to you if you: –
• Have an enquiring mind, enjoy investigation and like to make up your own mind
• Want to develop your analytical skills
• Enjoy studying people – as individuals, finding out why they have had such an influence, and as members of society
• Have an interest in how the modern world has developed
Awarding body: Pearson/Edexcel
What will I study?
Communist States in the Twentieth Century
In the Lower Sixth you will study two Twentieth Century Communist states – the USSR and China. Communism was one of the most significant ideologies of the Twentieth Century. It directly affected the lives of millions of people who lived under communist rule, but it also had indirect effects on countless others around the world.
The world’s first Communist state was the Soviet Union. You will learn about the ways in which the Soviet Union controlled the people, the politics and the economic life of the country, from Lenin’s creation of a communist state, to Stalin’s purges, Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin’s ‘excesses’ and the stagnation of the Cold War era. You will also make a special study of why the USSR collapsed in 1991.
Another country rapidly growing in importance today is Communist China. You will discover how a Communist regime was established in China seventy years ago and what impact it had on Chinese people – from the unbinding of women’s feet and the attempt to make steel in every backyard, to the crackdown on dissent and opposition.
Studying two different countries allows you to develop a greater understanding of the nature of communist, and totalitarian, rule and to see similarities and differences between them.
Protest, Agitation and Popular Reform in Britain, 1780-1928
In contrast to your Lower Sixth studies, the Upper Sixth History course focuses on the quest for democracy in Britain. You will look at the roles of ordinary people and popular protest in bringing about political change, including studying the Chartists’ campaign in the 1830s and 1840s for votes for all, the Suffragettes’ increasingly violent attempts to gain votes for women and what motivated Trade Unions to declare a General Strike in 1926.
Your own enquiry
In the Upper Sixth you will carry out your own enquiry into an issue arising from your other A Level work in History, which will enable you to develop skills of investigation and enquiry that will provide an excellent foundation for university work in any subject. The focus of this is on understanding the nature of the historian’s work. You will investigate one controversy or debate between historians.
Controversies and debates
In both years you will be able to dig deeper as historians, looking at issues that are hotly debated between history professionals to understand how these writers can hold such different views about the same events and to decide what you think.
What will I gain from studying History?
History is useful because it involves you in: –
• Learning to locate and weigh up information, to recognise propaganda and myth and to make informed judgements – useful in any walk of life.
• Communicating what you’ve learnt clearly and effectively and having the confidence to defend your conclusions – most jobs involve presenting information.
• Learning about some of the key events, personalities and issues that have shaped the modern world.
• Understanding the past in order to make sense of the present. To participate in society and to exercise your political rights you need to understand how they work.
How will I learn?
• A Level History builds well on your GCSE studies, developing your source skills and analytical writing skills further.
• It will be an active learning experience – there will be lots of opportunities for discussion and debate, exchanging opinions, listening to others and developing your own ideas.
• You will be able to make your own short presentations. Written work is varied – by no means just essay writing – although you will learn how to write a good essay!
• You may be able to hear noted authorities speak about their special subjects at sixth form conferences.
History offers you:
• a subject that has variety, interest and relevance,
• an active and stimulating learning experience
• a whole range of skills that employers and higher education value
• preparation for many top jobs
Summary of assessment
Russia, 1917–1991: From Lenin to Yeltsin
Written examination: two essays and one question assessing the ability to analyse and evaluate historical interpretations. 30% of the A Level grade.
Mao’s China, 1949 – 1976
Written examination: one question assessing source analysis and evaluation skills and a choice of essays. 20% of the A Level grade.
Protest, agitation and parliamentary reform in Britain, c1780 – 1928
Written examination: one question assessing source analysis and evaluation skills and a choice of essays. 30% of the A Level grade.
Coursework – assessing skills of historical enquiry, analysing and evaluating historical interpretations and organising and communicating the findings
Coursework essay. 20% of the A Level grade.
Preparatory work for studying History in the Sixth Form
There is no set preparatory task for A Level History; you need to recharge after GCSEs and we recommend your reading in the subject is for pleasure, to stimulate your intellectual curiosity, rather than for a specific outcome. Historical fiction and memoirs allow you to get a feel for a period and, although clearly dramatised and sometimes a little selective with the truth, can provide very human insights into events, personalities and life in the past.
• Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Based on the author’s experiences in a Stalinist labour camp.
• Simon Sebag Montefiore, Sashenka, One Night in Winter & Red Sky at Noon (these are loosely a trilogy set in Russia in the last century.
• Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow. Gentler observations of the changing USSR.
• Julian Barnes, The Noise of Time. Composer Dmitri Shostakovich worries about living through the Stalin era.
• Jung Chang, Wild Swans. The story of Communist China told through the author’s family history.
• Ha Jin, Waiting. A doctor’s quest for happiness against the odds during the Cultural Revolution.
• Dai Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. The story of life in a re-education camp. Also a film.
• Tim Marshall, Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Tell You Everything You Need To Know About Global Politics. Fascinating chapters here on how both Russian and Chinese culture, politics and society have been shaped by more than human factors.