Modern History atar course Year 11 syllabus important information

Representation of the cross-curriculum priorities

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Representation of the cross-curriculum priorities

The cross-curriculum priorities address contemporary issues which students face in a globalised world. Teachers may find opportunities to incorporate the priorities into the teaching and learning program for the Modern History ATAR course. The cross-curriculum priorities are not assessed unless they are identified within the specified unit content.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures includes study of the ideas that have influenced movements for change, the impact of government policies, the progress towards recognition and equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, and the focus of continued efforts.

Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia

Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia includes the paths of development taken by Asian nations (and how they differ from the European experience), the distinctive and changing character of Asia, the growing influence of Asia in the world, and how Australia’s engagement with Asia in the modern period has changed over time culturally, economically and politically.


Sustainability provides opportunities to study the effects of developments, such as the Industrial Revolution on the environment, the anti-nuclear movement, and movements for environmental sustainability in the modern period.

Unit 1 – Understanding the modern world

Unit description

This unit examines developments of significance in the modern era, including the ideas that inspired them and their far-reaching consequences. Students examine one development or turning point that has helped to define the modern world. Students explore crucial changes, for example, the application of reason to human affairs; the transformation of production, capitalism and consumption, transport and communications; the challenge to social hierarchy and hereditary privilege, and the assertion of inalienable rights; and the new principles of government by consent. Through their studies, students explore the nature of the sources for the study of modern history and build their skills in historical method through inquiry.
The key conceptual understandings covered in this unit are: what makes an historical development significant; the changing nature and usefulness of sources; the changing representations and interpretations of the past; and the historical legacy of these developments for the Western world and beyond.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, students:

  • understand key developments that have helped define the modern world, their causes, the different experiences of individuals and groups, and their short-term and long-term consequences

  • understand the ideas that both inspired and emerged from these key developments and their significance for the contemporary world

  • apply key concepts as part of an historical inquiry, including evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, significance, empathy, perspectives and contestability

  • use historical skills to investigate particular developments of the modern era and the nature of sources; determine the reliability and usefulness of sources and evidence; explore different perspectives and interpretations; and use a range of evidence to support and communicate an historical argument.

Unit content

This unit includes the knowledge, understandings and skills described below.

Historical Skills

The following skills will be developed during this unit.

Chronology, terms and concepts

identify links between events to understand the nature and significance of causation, continuity and change over time

use historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts to demonstrate historical knowledge and understanding

Historical questions and research

formulate, test and modify propositions to investigate historical issues

frame questions to guide inquiry and develop a coherent research plan for inquiry

identify, locate and organise relevant information from a range of primary and secondary sources

practise ethical scholarship when conducting research

Analysis and use of sources

identify the origin, purpose and context of historical sources

analyse, interpret and synthesise evidence from different types of sources to develop and sustain an historical argument

evaluate the reliability, usefulness and contestable nature of sources to develop informed judgements that support an historical argument

Perspectives and interpretations

analyse and account for the different perspectives of individuals and groups in the past

evaluate critically different historical interpretations of the past, how they evolved, and how they are shaped by the historian’s perspective

evaluate contested views about the past to understand the provisional nature of historical knowledge and to arrive at reasoned and supported conclusions

Explanation and communication

develop texts that integrate appropriate evidence from a range of sources to explain the past and to support and refute arguments

communicate historical understanding by selecting and using text forms appropriate to the purpose and audience

apply appropriate referencing techniques accurately and consistently

Historical Knowledge and Understanding

Students study one of the following electives, which is to be taught with the requisite historical skills described as part of this unit.

The Enlightenment 1750–1789

The American Revolution 1763–1812

The French Revolution 1774–1799

The Industrial Revolutions 1750–1890s

The Age of Imperialism 1848–1914

The Meiji Restoration – Japan 1853–1911

Capitalism – the American Experience 1907–1941

The impact of the following forces should be considered, where appropriate, throughout the unit:

  • economic

  • external forces/international relations

  • ideas

  • leadership

  • political

  • social/cultural.

Elective 1: The Enlightenment (1750–1789)

the main factors contributing to the emergence of the Enlightenment, including the decline in the power of both the Church and Absolute Monarchy; the Scientific Revolution; and the spread of Enlightenment ideas across Europe

the motivation and role of individuals in the development of the Enlightenment, and conflicting ideas, with particular reference to Locke, Voltaire, and Rousseau

the key ideas that emerged from the Enlightenment, including the belief in reason and opposition to superstition, the belief in the importance of free expression, the belief in the value of learning and education as reflected in the rise of universities and academies, and support for humanitarianism

the significant changes that occurred as a result of the Enlightenment, for example, movements for social and political reform; the rise of enlightened monarchies; increased interest in technological change; and belief in equal rights

the experiences and responses to the Enlightenment, for example, those of scientists, intellectuals, monarchs, church leaders and revolutionary leaders

the significance and impact of the Enlightenment beyond Europe in the 19th century


Elective 2: The American Revolution (1763–1812)

the main causes of the American Revolution, including the significance of the Seven Years War

(1756–1763); the influence of republican ideology; the imposition of taxes, repressive acts, and lack of American representation in British government; and the campaigns that were fought to achieve independence , for example, Saratoga and Philadelphia

the aims and contribution of significant individuals to the revolutionary movement, with particular reference to Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, John Hancock and John Adams

the key ideas of liberalism, democracy and republicanism that emerged from the American Revolution as illustrated by the 1776 Declaration of Independence; the creation of a national constitution and Bill of Rights; and the establishment of constitutional government

the different experiences of revolutionaries, royalists, neutrals, native Americans, slaves and women during the period and their response to the challenges in the formation of the United States of America

the significant political, social and constitutional changes brought about by the American Revolution, for example, the separation of powers; treatment of the opponents of the new republic; losses during the war; and the emergence of the Federal system

the significance of the American Revolution into the 19th century; its impact on other revolutionary movements; and the implications for Australia of the cessation of British convict transportation to the United States


Elective 3: The French Revolution (1774–1799)

the main causes of the French Revolution, including the influence of the Enlightenment; the increasingly prosperous elite of wealthy commoners who resented their exclusion from political power; and the financial crisis of the government

the motivation and role of significant individuals in the struggles of the Revolution, with particular reference to Danton, Marat, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, and Saint-Just, and of significant groups, including the sans-culottes, the bourgeoisie and the peasants

the key ideas and their significance in the French Revolution, including liberty, equality, fraternity, citizenship, and inalienable rights

the significant changes that occurred during the French Revolution, including the overturning of the ‘ancien regime’; changes to the social structure of France; foreign policy; and the revolutionary wars

the consequences of the French Revolution, including the difficulties and crises that were faced by revolutionary groups and government as the new state was consolidated; the counter-revolution and the ‘Reign of Terror’; the abolition of monarchy, the advent of democracy and the rise of the middle class

the significance of the French Revolution into the 19th century, including, the rise and influence of Napoleonic France, and the growth of nationalism as an outcome of the French Revolution


Elective 4: The Industrial Revolutions (1750–1890s)

the main causes of the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 18th century, including the invention of new technologies and use of coal and iron; population increase; European imperialism; and the capital accumulated from trade

the role and significance of key individuals involved in the period of the Industrial Revolution, with particular reference to Watt, Darby, Thoreau and Smith

the impact of new processes and ideas on economic life, for example, the development of mining; the mechanisation of the textile industry; the rise of the factory system and production lines; the development of a steel-based second Industrial Revolution; and new forms of transport and communications (such as canals, roads, and trains)

the emergence of key ideas and ideologies that supported or challenged the Industrial Revolution,
for example, capitalism, liberalism, laissez–faire, Chartism, socialism, the commodification of labour, and the Protestant work ethic

the experiences of factory owners, workers, women and children in the Industrial Revolution; and responses to the Industrial Revolution of Luddites, Chartists and trade unionists

the effectiveness of official responses to the challenges of the Industrial Revolution, including Royal Commissions, Factory Acts (1802–1850), ‘Peterloo Massacre’, and the Factory Act 1833

the significance of the Industrial Revolution in Britain up to the 1890s for the organisation and use of labour as a commodity; for living and working conditions; for the environment, urbanisation and transportation


Elective 5: The Age of Imperialism (1848–1914)

the main causes of imperial expansion, including the emergence of market economies in Europe; industrialisation; the competing naval powers of Britain, Germany and Russia; and the competition to establish colonies and markets in Africa, Asia and the Pacific

the different forms of imperialism, including trade, exploitation of resources, and strategic considerations

an overview of the extent of imperial expansion by 1914 in Africa, Asia and the Pacific

the key ideas of the ‘imperial age’, including nationalism, the glorification of ‘empire’, and the ‘Christian mission’

with particular reference to one or more colonies, the methods and motivations of the colonisers; the experiences and responses of the colonised people; and the changes that occurred within the colony/colonies as part of imperial expansion

the significance of imperialism in this period, including the spread of Christianity; the growth of world trade and capitalism; and the growth of imperial rivalry and militarism


Elective 6: The Meiji Restoration – Japan (1853–1911)

the main causes of the Meiji Restoration, including the changed role of the Samurai during the extended period of peace; the decline of the bakufu; the increased wealth of the merchants; peasant uprisings; the spread of Western ideas from Nagasaki; and the arrival of Commodore Perry and the ‘Black Ships’

the role and impact of significant individuals and groups, with particular reference to the Shogun, the Samurai, the bakufu, Commodore Perry, Townsend Harris, the shi-shi, Emperor Meiji, the genro, Saigo Takamori, Kido Takayoshi, Okubo Toshimichi, Ito Hirobumi, Fukuzawa Yukichi, the zaibatsu

key ideas, including feudalism, constitutional government, militarism, modernisation/westernisation

the significant events which resulted in the restoration of the emperor and the establishment of constitutional government, including the Satsuma-Choshu alliance and the unequal treaties

significant changes that occurred after the Meiji Restoration, including modernisation of the navy, the military and industry; the constitutional and political reforms; legal reforms; education; and social/cultural changes

consequences of change on international relations, including the various treaties, the Sino-Japanese War, the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, and the Russo-Japanese War

the significance of the Meiji Restoration, including long-term impact on other Asian nations


Elective 7: Capitalism – the American experience (1907–1941)

the main causes of the rise of capitalism in the USA, including the expansion of the railways;

post-Civil War reconstruction; immigrant labour; discovery of oil; and mass production

the role and impact of significant individuals in the period, with particular reference to Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, F D Roosevelt, J D Rockefeller, Henry Ford

key ideas of: theories of capitalism, laissez-faire, consumerism, individualism (including ‘rugged individualism’), limited government, economic liberty, and the American Dream

the impact of WWI, the 1920s, and WWII until 1941, on American capitalism; the growth of consumerism; and the shaping of American values, for example, film and fashion, prohibition and the ‘Jazz Age’

the causes of the Great Depression, the consequences for different groups and the effectiveness of political responses, including the New Deal, and the impact on capitalism

the impact of capitalism on different groups within American society and the aims and beliefs of different groups, for example, African Americans, urban workers, rural workers, immigrants, industrialists, and members of Indian Nations; and the consequences of divisions

the significance of capitalism in this period, including a comparison with other key economic ideologies, in particular, communism

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