|History Examination Syllabuses 1960s-present day
The main trends in O level and CSE (1965-1988)
Outline courses for O level were segmented into dated ‘chunks’ and students typically covered two or unusually three of these, so that they could find sufficient questions to answer. Students might cover 1485-1603 or say 1789-1914 (but might not get beyond 1870 in fact). Topics were largely English history and/or European history. Modern world history started to become popular in the 1970s – in 1971 it attracted 18% of all entries at O level, whereas the more conventional British and/or European outline syllabuses were taken by 54% of entrants, with 22% taking British social and economic history.1
Example of a modern world history syllabus – AEB Syllabus 146 ‘World Affairs from the Russian Revolutions to the Present’ 1983
Candidates will be expected to have an understanding of the interest and motives of the world’s great powers in their relations with each other. Questions may be set on the policies of great powers towards a particular region or a particular episode.
The establishment, growth and evolution of Communism. Russia: causes, main events and effects of the revolutions of March and November, 1917; the Civil War and its immediate results; Lenin’s New Economic Policy; Stalin’s policy towards government, agriculture, industry and opposition; the effects of Soviet Communism of the Second World War; Khrushchev’s domestic policy and his fall from power; opposition movements in the contemporary USSR.
China: the effects of the revolution of 1911; the aims of Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Tse-tung; causes, main events and effects of the Civil War between 1927 and 1949; Mao’s policy after 1949 towards government, agriculture, industry and ideology. Differences between Soviet and Chinese communism.
The rise and decline of Nazi Germany: The Weimar Republic and the causes of Hitler’s rise to power; Hitler’s policy towards government, industry, race, education , opposition and rearmament; Hitler’s foreign policy and the reaction to it of the other major powers.
International tension and attempts to solve it: the peace settlement of 1919-20; the origins, organisation, achievements and failure of the League of Nations; the breakdown of international relations in Europe and the Far East leading to the Second World War; the main events and effects of the Second World War in Europe and the Far East; the Cold War after 1945 in Europe, Korea, the Near and Middle East, Vietnam, Cuba and Africa; the origins, organisation, weaknesses, achievements and failures of the United Nations; the changing roles of the major powers in world affairs., with particular emphasis upon the policies of the USA after 1945.
Imperialism and the growth of nationalism: the significance of the Statute of Westminster, 1931, on Britain’s relations with the Commonwealth; India between 1918 and 1947; Nigeria from 1945 to the present day; the establishment of Israel, 1948, and its subsequent relations with its neighbours.
Economic and social developments
The growth of new industries and their economic and social effects: motor vehicle production; aviation; electricity.
The Great Depression of the nineteen thirties: its causes, its effects on the United States, Great Britain and international relations; policies towards the depression the US and Great Britain.
Government policies towards soc8ial services: welfare legislation in GB since 1917.
The effects of the two World Wars on economic and social life in GB: the loss of overseas markets; the loss of investments; life during the Second World War; the increasing opportunities for women; the development of new industries.
Problems of international trade since 1945: GB’s trade and balance of payments difficulties; energy problems since 1973.
International economic co-operation: the growth of the EEC; problems of the EEC; Britain’s relations with, and within, the EEC.
Race relations: the quest of the American negro population for social and civic equality since 1917; the racial policies pursued in South Africa since 1948 and reactions to them.
Social and environmental problems connected with modern industrial civilisation; Pollution; the reduction of wildlife; housing; inner city decay; increased crime.
The syllabus also had a paper two with in-depth studies of some of the topics, such as Nazi domestic policies 1933-9 or the Second World War in Europe 1939-45.
The Examiners’ report showed that schools struggled with the huge range of topics in this syllabus – but it was typical of modern world syllabuses at the time and since.
CSE Mode 1 syllabuses (set by the fourteen regional boards) – all included a ‘personal topic’, which was a form of coursework. There was great variety in syllabuses. ‘The general picture is certainly very different from one obtained by looking at various history ‘O’ level syllabuses, where bare chronological periods are often prescribed with little or no guidance on content or approach’.2 Even with one board, there could be many syllabuses (East Midland had 17 and East Anglian 16 different history syllabuses). The Yorkshire Board limited schools to three syllabuses (one of which was Civics). Mostly, the topics were modern history with a large element of social and/or cultural history – all boards for instance offered a syllabus on twentieth-century world history and one on British social and economic history since the 18thC. Surprisingly, only five of the fourteen boards offered syllabuses around historical themes like Southern Board’s ‘women’s role from the earliest times’. Only five boards offered medieval history, and only five Commonwealth history. Local history tended to be covered in Mode 2 (school-designed but externally marked) and Mode 3 (school-designed and school-marked) syllabuses.3 However, most children sat papers which followed O level-type syllabus content but with a different balance of entrants – 37% for modern world history, 30% for British and/or European and 27% for British social and economic.4
A level syllabuses were like O level outline syllabuses – with two papers English history and European history simply indicated by a set of dates. For instance London Board for Summer 1969 Advanced Level Paper – shows English History
Period (1) c. 450-1509 (30 questions follow and candidates must complete 4)
Period (2) 1399-1714 (30 questions as for the first period, etc.)
Period (3) 1688-1955
Period (1) 800-1516
Period (2) 1516-1789
Period (3) 1763-1954
This pattern of papers and topics continued to dominate A level syllabuses until the late 1980s, although syllabuses such as the London Board’s World Affairs syllabus, which covered international relations from 1931-present day did offer some choice.
Document questions were not unknown even in the 1960s in A levels, but from the early 1980s, they became much more common and were used in O level exams as well.
SCHP had been made available to all schools in England from 1976 onwards – its unusual syllabus combined depth and themed syllabi with a local study and modern world history topics. It included document study from the beginning for CSE and O level versions.5
The introduction of GCSE prompted a rationalisation of syllabuses as CSE and O level boards were conjoined. Most of the obscure cultural history or themed CSE syllabuses were ditched immediately. At first, the long period English history syllabuses remained, but rapidly lost ground to the modern world and British social and economic history syllabuses. SHP (as it was by 1988) had already taken around a third of the market for CSE and O level and this continued for GCSE.
AEB had just five syllabuses in 1988:-
British Social and Economic History since 1750;
World Powers since 1917;
British History, 1485-1714;
British History, 1815-1983;
Britain, Europe, and the World, 1848-1980.
Following a merger with Southern Examining Group, AEB’s World Powers course became ‘Aspects of World History since 1914’. By the mid-1990s, the outline history courses had been dropped and SHP was included (this had come with SEG).
There were now three syllabuses offered by AEB:-
A – British Social and Economic History since 1750
B – Modern World History
C – Schools History Project
Example of a GCSE syllabus 1999 – Modern World History
Paper 1: Coursework = 25% of marks
One of the following:
Social and economic developments in Britain, 1900-39
The First World War, 1914-18
The USA, 1918-41
The Second World War, 1939-45
Race relations in the USA and South Africa since 1945
The centre’s own choice of a topic from Modern World History
Paper 2: Written paper = 37.5% of marks
Two Study Units from:
Peace to War, 1919-39
The USA and the USSR as World Superpowers, 1945-63
The USA and the USSR as World Superpowers, 1963-91
Paper 3: Written Paper = 37.5% of marks
Both of the following Depth Studies:
Detail from one of the Units:-
Peace to War, 1919-39
Focus: Changing international attitudes and relations between the two World Wars.
The Paris peace settlement of 1919-20:
The main personalities – Wilson, Clemenceau, Lloyd George – and their attitudes towards the defeated countries;
The main terms of the Treaty of Versailles – territorial changes, military restrictions, war-guilt and reparations;
The other treaties – the main territorial changes.
Problems associated with the peace settlement:
Reasons for resentment and bitterness in Germany;
The question of reparations payments and their revision in 1923-24 and 1929 (Dawes Plan and Young Plan).
The failure of the League of Nations:
The powers, membership and peace-keeping role of the League;
Japanese expansion in to Manchuria and China, the Italian conquest of Abyssinia and the response of the League to these events;
The reasons for and the implications of the League’s failure.
German actions and expansion:
Violations of the Treaty of Versailles, 1934-38 – rearmament, conscription, reoccupation of the Rhineland, Austria;
The role of Chamberlain, appeasement and the reasons for it;
The Sudetenland, 1938; Czechoslovakia, March 1939; the invasion of Poland;
The changing attitudes of Britain, France and the Soviet Union, 1938-9;
The role of Hitler.
The amount of content to be covered in a GCSE syllabus was less than in the comparable O level syllabus; however, the range and type of questions asked were more varied. Sources were always included.
In the past decade, the range of choice has decreased even further because of the decline of British social and economic history, which is not now offered by any of the boards. However, a new pilot GCSE course was introduced in 100 schools in 2007 for which the main curriculum content is a unit of medieval history representing 25% of the marks. Pupils study one of two topics:-
Raiders and Invaders: the British Isles c.400 - c.1100
Power and Control: Kingship in the Middle Ages c.1100 - c.1500.
The rest of the content relates to heritage sites, archaeology and migration.6
Recent changes in GCSE history (2009) have introduced a compulsory British history element and replaced coursework with a ‘controlled assignment’ completed in school under exam conditions.
A level syllabuses
By the late 1980s, most boards were starting to include source-based questions in A level papers. AEB offered the following range of syllabuses for the 1990 examinations:-
Economic and Social History (620)
History:- Paper One – choice of four syllabuses
English and /or European History, 1450 – c.1760 [sub-divided into 1450-1559, 1559-1660, 1660-c.1760 – students covered only one of these]
British and/or European History, c.1760 – 1980 [sub-divided into c.1760-1871, 1871-1929, 1929-1980 students covered only one of these]
History of the USA. 1783-1974
Aspects of World History since 1945
Paper Two was a Depth Study from within the outline range using source document and essay questions, e.g. England during the Henrician Reformation, 1525-1547, The Civil Wars and Interregnum, 1637-1660.
As well as AEB 673 (see notes on examinations). Coursework accounted for 25% of the marks. The subject content was laid out in detail for each syllabus option.
This relates only to AEB – other boards introduced more thematic approaches, such as the JMB’s syllabus on Totalitarian Dictators (Stalin, Hitler and less commonly, Mussolini) which was popular.
The major change to A level syllabuses came with Curriculum 2000 which introduced modular A levels (AS/A2) in 6 units of study (3 in each year – one of these was a coursework unit). Linearity and coherence could be maintained by a judicious choice of units. In 2003 AQA (the successor body to AEB and JMB) offered units including the following selection (from a long list):-
Advanced Subsidiary (AS) year 1
B Religious change and its consequences in sixteenth-century Europe
E Germany and Russia before the First World War, 1870-1914
F Tsarist and Revolutionary Russia, 1855-1917
G Imperial and Weimar Germany, 1866-1925
N Henry VII and the Establishment of a Secure Monarchy, 1483-1515
U Britain, 1929 – 1951
A2 year two
N Reformation, Reaction and the Age of Elizabeth, c.1525-1603
Q Britain, 1841-1914
A Medieval Heresy, 1160-1242
F The End of the Soviet Union, c.1968-91
G The Re-unification of Germany, c.1969-1990
J The Holocaust, 1938-1945
In 2007, for instance, one could choose from Edexcel’s units and construct a course in twentieth century British history by taking the following units:-
1C Poverty and the British State, c. 1815-50
2C Health, Welfare and Constitution in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Britain
3C Depression, Opportunity and the Expansion of Welfare in Britain, 1919-64
4C Keeping the Peace and Fighting a War, Britain 1919-45
5C Representation and Democracy in Britain, 1830-1931
6C Decline of the Liberal Party, c.1900-29
The change to 4 units (2 for AS and 2 for A2) in 2008 has reduced the amount of content in the A level and arguably made it more difficult to construct a coherent or linear history course. All courses must now include a British history unit.
Edexcel categorise their four units as:-
Unit 1 – Historical Themes in Breadth
Option A – England in the Middle Ages and the Transition to the Early Modern World
Option B – Power, Belief and Conflict in Early Modern Europe
Option C – The British Empire: Colonisation and Decolonisation
Option D – A World Divided: Communism and Democracy in the 20th century (schools/colleges can choose and combine two studies of China, Russia and the USA including civil rights)
Options E/F – The Expansion and Challenge of Nationalism (this unit offers options on Spain, Italy and Germany, Israel and Arab Nationalism – two options must be studied)
Unit 2 – British History Depth Studies
Option A – Early Modern British History, Crown and Authority
Option B – British Political History in the Nineteenth Century
Option C – Conflict and Change in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Britain (includes an option on Britain at War – Crimea, Boer and WW1, women and suffrage or Britain and Ireland)
Unit 3 – Depth Studies and Associated Historical Controversies
Option A Revolution and Conflict in England
Option B Politics, Protest and Revolution
Option C The United States: Challenged and Transformed
Option D The Challenge of Fascism
Option E War and Peace: 20th Century International Relations
Unit 4 – Historical Enquiry (coursework)7
This syllabus is based on thematic studies not linear chronological ones.
7 June 2011
Share with your friends: