A-Level History

“How do you know who you are unless you know where you have come from?  How can you tell what is going to happen, unless you know what has happened before?  History is not just about the past.  It is about why we are who we are – and about what’s next.”

This is how Tony Robinson of ‘Blackadder’ and ‘Time Team’ fame explains the importance of History as a subject, not just at school and university, but also throughout our lives.  The History department at St. Olave’s is keen to help you further your study of History and thereby help in your continuing quest to make sense of the present by having a good undertaking of the past; to help you participate in changing the world by understanding how it has got into its present state; to help you participate in the system by showing you how it works; and to enable you to build up your own set of values by looking at how others have done so in the past.

Our students in previous years have also studied the full range of subjects from Economics, English and Geography to Biology, Mathematics and Chemistry.  In fact if you are studying other Arts subjects or Maths and the Sciences, History is a good complement.  Scientists have to communicate with others and develop the skills of critical analysis and of making sound judgements.  Employers and universities like to see that you have followed a balanced course at school.  Studying History is an important part of that balance! Students will confirm whether they will be sitting AS or continuing to A-Level in the first half of Year 12. At least a Grade 7 in GCSE English is required (either English Language or Literature accepted) is required by students wishing to study A-Level History. Students will confirm whether they will be sitting AS or continuing to A-Level in the first half of Year 12.

The AS/A-Level History course at St. Olave’s focuses on nineteenth and twentieth century British history alongside the birth of the United States of America in the eighteenth century. Both courses will be taught across Year 12 and 13 with approximately half the content being covered in each year.  In Year 12 we will explore Britain’s relationship with its colonies in North America and the way in which tension grew prior to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Year 13 will focus on the American War of Independence and will introduce many of the most iconic figures in US History including George Washington and his contemporaries as they first fought for their independence and then constructed a new nation. Our course on Britain focuses on such issues as the progressive extension of the right to vote to all adult men and women, the changing fortunes of the major political parties, the roles of Prime Ministers, the House of Commons and the House of Lords and the influence of trade unions and the mass media. The work and relationships of the great Prime Ministers of the latter half of the nineteenth century; Gladstone, Disraeli and Salisbury will be explored in Year 12 alongside the growth of the British Empire. Year 13 will focus on the effects of the two World Wars on Britain both at home and abroad.

The AS/A-Level course is assessed by means of written examinations (the questions are a mixture of source based exercises, essays and course work.  

AS/A-Level History is a very rewarding subject to study in Years 12 and 13.  It should appeal to the discerning, hard-working student who has a curiosity about the past, is prepared to think for him or herself, is willing to read widely and who enjoys arguing a case, both on paper and in the classroom.  Past students who have worked in a systematic, well-organised fashion have invariably gained high grades! Each year many of our students chose to study History at university (either by itself or in conjunction with other subjects) or a subject closely linked to History, like Politics.  History at AS/A-Level is also a popular subject for those who intend reading Law at university.  Most years one or more of our students go on to Oxford or Cambridge to study History.

Course summary

Overall course titles:

Democracy, Empire and War: Britain, 1851-1964

To be structured:

AS: Imperial Britain, 1851-1914: Reform and Empire and challenges to the status quo at home abroad

A-Level: The World Wars and their legacies: Britain, 1914-1964: The Great War and its impact and transformation and change

The Birth of the USA, 1760-1801

To be structured:

AS: The Origins of the American Revolution, 1760-1776

A-Level: Establishing the Nation, 1776-1801


Student’s Views:

“A course for those who are really committed – but it’s worth it!”

“I got a high grade – I had to work hard but the course was really enjoyable so this was no problem.”

“A bit of a shock at first – you have to take a lot of responsibility for reading and note making but it teaches you to stand on your own feet.”


  • TBC

Associated Careers

  • Many A level historians go onto study History, Politics, International Relations, Law and similar courses at university. 
  • Graduates with History degrees are to be found in a wide range of professions including the Civil Service, the Legal Profession, Business, Journalism, Teaching and in many other spheres.