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History matters at St Paul’s. The fact that the vast majority of students choose to take history to IGCSE and that many continue with history to A level means that the subject makes a really significant contribution to the school’s academic culture.
Historical study at St Paul’s is founded on a common purpose of building an intelligent understanding of the past. We are, above all, enthusiasts for the many different branches of this enormous subject. This leads, we hope, to students appreciating the diversity and complexity of the past in such a way as to enrich and inform their understanding of the world in which they live and will live.
Across their first three years, students follow a chronological framework from the Middle Ages to the modern day, which explores the changing nature of society throughout the world. We consider history through a global lens; students will study not only Britain and Europe, but also a variety of non-European topics including Song China, the Abbasid Empire, Tokugawa Japan and pre-colonial west African kingdoms. Students will grapple with a range of challenging concepts such as feudalism, colonialism, and nationalism. They will study history from both ‘above and below’, arming them with the knowledge and understanding to confront contemporary social and political issues from an informed position. Lessons are designed to nurture disciplinary thinking skills such as interpreting sources, making historical connections, chronological reasoning, and argumentation.
History is a very popular subject at IGCSE, partly perhaps because the twentieth-century material that we study is so compelling. New and challenging takes on the modern world are at the heart of what we study. Russia, before and during its revolution, and a long period of international relations all help our students to acquire an informed perspective on the modern world.
In the Senior School we follow the OCR syllabus. Its breadth and depth enable students to make the most of the subject at this level. Its flexibility allows us to offer parallel options of earlier (medieval and early modern) and later (early modern and late modern) periods of study. The richness of multi-topic period studies is a unique feature of the course and gives students a much better general historical awareness, as well as being a stronger foundation for historical study at university. The coursework element has a global focus, ensuring that our students are exposed to histories beyond Europe.
A healthy number of students choose history as an undergraduate subject and we pool our resources to prepare them for the challenges of admissions tests and interviews. There is a weekly History Society that gives students both the opportunity to be addressed by distinguished historians and political figures and the chance to speak to their own historical interests. A history magazine, Clio, is published annually and the students’ appreciation of the past has been enhanced by visits to Berlin and Paris.