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Our trade is the sum of human experiences and our tools are the skills to find pattern and sense in both the enormous mass of data and the finely focused details. At The Leys we expect History to be rigorous and fun and our historians to be self-starting, broad-minded and incisive. We aim to turn out clear thinkers, sharp debaters and convincing essayists.

The History department can be found on the first floor of the Clapham Building, where we have three large classrooms, a seminar room, a Sixth Form reading room and our School Archive. From Year 7 to Year 11 we aim to fire enthusiasm for the study of the past by presenting a broad picture of the medieval, early modern and 20th century societies in Britain and across the world.


Years 7-9

Pupils are introduced in Years 7 and 8 to mastering the historical skills for themselves; not doing History, but becoming historians.

All Year 9 complete a study of Old Lesyians in the Great War, culminating in a week’s field trip in Northern France.



History at GCSE is a way to sharpen the mind, to learn invaluable skills of analysis and to enrich the way we understand our present world. By Year 10 our GCSE historians are already learning to write crisp, lucid and entertaining answers whilst handling historical sources with the healthy cynicism and imagination of the historian and scholar. In studying an overview of British history and Global topics from the 20th century we aim to help explain issues that are in the news today. Those who want to broaden their mind and imagination gain most from studying History at The Leys.

For all age groups we offer our popular guided holiday reading projects which are led by Old Leysian undergraduates who return from university to run discussions with the groups. We also run field trips to sites of specific interest to the courses we offer. Whatever history pupils have studied before, such GCSE material is compelling and the classroom experience accessible and fun.

Course Content

  • Britain: Power & the People 1215 – present: the challenges to authority from Magna Carta, Simon de Montfort, the Peasants Revolt, Pilgrimage of Grace, The English Civil Wars, the American Revolution, Industrial Reformers, Trade Unionism, Suffragettes and Minority Rights.
  • Russia 1894-1945: Tsardom and the coming of the Russian Revolution; the Nicholas II’s disastrous last days, Lenin’s rule, Stalin’s takeover and the decade of transformation and terror he unleashed, victory in the Great Patriotic War.
  • The Cold War 1945-72: Not a war but a period of fast-moving international events in which the USA and Russia carved up their spheres of influence and very nearly blew up the world; the nuclear arms race, Berlin and the Iron Curtain, Mao’s communist revolution, Korean War and challenges to French colonial rule in Indo-China, the space race, the Cuba missile crisis, Kennedy, Vietnam, Nixon and Brezhnev, Détente.

There are two written papers, each worth 50% of the marks. There is no coursework.


A Level

In the new A Level there are only two exam papers, taken at the end of the Upper Sixth. We study courses on the themes of the Medieval World, Revolution and Modern Democracy. The first paper is a Breadth Study and the second is a Depth Study. The Breadth Study offers an opportunity to study broad developments over time, tackling big themes as seen through a long lens. In contrast, the Depth Study focuses on documents from particular periods of history that have fascinated historians and have been deliberately chosen to complement the Breadth Study.

Course Content

The Crusades and the Middle East, 1071-1204 Modern Britain, 1951-2007
Revolutions and civil wars in Britain, 1603-1702 Soviet Russia, 1917-1953

In addition, all historians in the Upper Sixth will write a 4500-word historical investigation, overseen by a specialist teacher of that period.

We aim to make all these periods come alive, not just in the narrative and dramatis personae, but in the ideas and themes that span the ages; kingship, religion, warfare, nationalism, socialism, liberalism and democracy. Whether you are studying Saladin or Churchill, Lenin or Henry II, Viking archaeology or the Swinging Sixties, the Blair years, Cold War Germany or the English Civil Wars you will become an independent learner; inquiring, researching and developing your own ideas about the past.

We strongly believe that all pupils thrive from a combination of good fun and tight method. Thus our Sixth Form historians learn to challenge accepted historical truths in class but can also hear visiting academic speakers in the evening, attend film nights in the department, and write articles for our own History magazine as part of the Barker Society. Ambitious historians can also tackle anything from prehistory to postmodernism in the Hellfire Club as part of their Oxbridge & Russell Group preparations.

  • Mr Nick Born – Head of History
  • Mr James Fawcett
  • Mr Robert Francis
  • Mrs Emma Mayo
  • Miss Katie Upton

Discover more at The Leys

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Curriculum Information

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