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If the past is what happened before, in an earlier time, History may be considered the investigation, study and explanation of the past. This study of people, origins of cultures and religions, past events, both triumphs and disasters, gives the context of our lives today. The name History comes from the Latin Historia, which also means stories. This is quite apt, since the earliest form of History was the telling and passing down through the generations of stories about the past. Historians use written documents and artefacts to reinforce their knowledge and understanding.
History at GCSE is a linear qualification, meaning students take their exams at the end of the course, usually the end of Year 11. Typically, they will sit two 2 hour papers or three 90 minute papers. These assess topics from British, European and World history over varying time periods, with 40% of the topics covering British History. These could be an in-depth study of a relatively short time period such as Norman or Elizabethan England. A medium time period such as Germany from 1890 to 1945 or America from 1920 to 1973. A longer thematic study of health or warfare or migration in the last 1000 years.
History at A-Level develops Critical Thinking and Essay Writing skills. It requires students to evaluate events and source material and present a reasoned logical argument based on these evaluations. History at A-Level will often have three main areas of study. A Breadth Study across a wider period of time such as The British Empire, Tsarist and Communist Russia or The Tudors. A depth Study across a shorter period of time such as The War of The Roses, The Birth of the USA or The French Revolution. A Historical Investigation on a topic of the student's choice, across a period of around 100 years. For the Depth and Breadth Studies one should be a British History option and the other a non-British History option. The Historical Investigation must be on a different topic area and overall the student must cover a range of at least 200 years in their studies. History A-Level can lead to degree studies in History or other subjects including Philosophy, Politics, Economics, Classics and Archaeology. These in turn may lead to careers in Education, Law, Banking and Publishing amongst others.