History offers us stories that are so weird and unexpected that they would not be believed if they appeared in a novel or a film. For its entertainment value alone, therefore, history is a richly rewarding and engrossing subject. However, the main point in studying it is to help us understand ourselves by coming to terms with the past. Essentially, History allows us to test the truth of what we are told about the world. It educates our judgement and gives us a better defence against charlatans of all kinds. Most people want to understand the world a little better and to have a better grasp of the great issues of the day. If we are not to rely on myth, hearsay or received wisdoms of dubious value, we need to be able to bring a critical judgement to bear.

At Leweston, we give girls the opportunity to learn about a diverse range of key historical turning points and help them to acquire the intellectual tools with which to understand them. This is not just a means to gain qualifications, but also a vital life skill. To this end a very broad educational experience is offered that brings together aspects of a range of different disciplines and which will better enable girls to face the challenges of the real world.

Years 7 - 9

In Year 7 we look at English History from the Norman Conquest to the advent of the Tudors . Girls are expected to gain an understanding of key aspects of the history of this country in the period 1066-1485 and to begin to gain an understanding of the issues involved in source evaluation through which the past can speak directly to us. We also address some of the issues that linked this country to the wider world such as religion and crusading.

In Year 8, the main topics are the Tudor dynasty, the reformation and the causes course and consequences of the English Civil War. The extent to which the legacy of these events is with us still, is also considered.

In Year 9, we study the period from the Industrial Revolution to the World Wars. This involves the assessment of Britain and its Empire when this country was the greatest power on earth but also of the price paid for this greatness, including slavery and the slave trade. There is a great deal of material that can be studied but there is no requirement rigidly to “plough through” a set number of topics at the risk of killing off enthusiasm and curiosity. The timetable can be tailored to respond to the interests of the girls and more time can be allocated to those topics that generate the most enthusiasm.

GCSE

This programme of study is based around three components; England in the Elizabethan Age, the History of Medicine from pre-history to the twenty-first century and a study of Hampton court Palace in the first half of the sixteenth Century. The Elizabethan age saw England’s emergence as a power of global significance but also as a cultural force especially concerning literature and the theatre. The nature of English society and its beliefs in this period is examined as is the role of a female ruler of a country which was still essentially patriarchal.

The history of medicine gives an overview of human development including scientific and technological progress as well as social, political and religious upheavals. The interrelationship of different civilisations is a crucial aspect of this.

The study of Hampton Court Palace brings home to the girls the key importance of surviving structures and artefacts of the past and how best to interpret them. The use of a site for political theatre as well as a means by which aspects of the past are preserved is key to this component of the course.

Sixth Form

We follow the Cambridge Pre-u syllabus in the sixth Form which offers a very open ended and stimulating programme of study. One quarter of the course involves a free choice of any historical topic that is of particular interest to each of the girls who are required to produce an extended essay in response. This requires extended supported independent study and is excellent preparation for university. In effect each girl writes 25% of her own syllabus. We also study a range of topics from the Early Modern period, American History and The crusades. The early Modern topics (c. 1400-1700) include witchcraft, the start of the European overseas empires, the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the Rise of the ottomans, Philip ll and the Spanish “Golden Age” and the Dutch Revolt. For American History, we focus on the Nineteenth Century and study slavery, the origins and impact of the American Civil War, the West and the extension of the united States from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the fate of the American Indians and the role of the American novel in this period. Finally, we examine the first three Crusades and the establishment of the Crusader states in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The power of religious beliefs, political imperatives, the desire for glory and materialism are all central to this topic as is the troubled relationship between Christianity and Islam.