History is a popular and successful subject at Oxford High School, with large numbers of students opting to study it at both GCSE and A Level. A significant number of students chose to study the subject at university and recently have been extremely successful in their applications to top universities.
We believe that History has the power to inspire students’ interest in all aspects of the past, as well as allow them to develop a wide range of useful skills. Our curriculum covers a very broad range of history – from the Middle Ages to the present day, and from local studies of Oxfordshire to key periods of Asian, American and world history. We aim to bring the past to life and encourage students to think critically for themselves and develop their own views about the past.
History trip to Berlin August 2012
This summer the History Department and a group of 30 girls from Years 11 to 13 embarked on a trip to Berlin. We spent a fantastic five days visiting a variety of fascinating historical sites. We started the trip with a tour around several key sites that gave us a flavour of the history of Berlin in the days of the Nazis – we visited the site of the famous Nazi book burnings (Bebelplatz), and toured the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and the impressive Olympic Stadium. We were also able to get an excellent sense of the wartime experience for ordinary Berliners with an insightful and revealing tour of intact bomb shelters. In the second half of our visit we concentrated on the history of Berlin as a divided city, and looked at the impact of the Cold War and the Berlin Wall. The city has retained many of the features of this period in order to commemorate these difficult years, and we spent a fascinating morning at the Stasi Prison – a shockingly intact example of the treatment of prisoners and attempted defectors in East Germany – as well as visiting the famous (and very crowded!) Checkpoint Charlie, and the far less crowded but no less interesting Nordbahnoff ‘ghost station’.
While the subject matter of the sites visited during the trip was not exactly light hearted, it wasn’t all serious study, and we had an excellent time. We enjoyed weather that was almost too fantastic, and spent a lovely afternoon taking a boat trip along the Spree.
It was an excellent trip, and we hope to hold it again in the future!
Year 8 Connected Curriculum D-Day
I am speaking to you from S3 in the maths block. This morning Mr Nicholl handed Year 8 the final note stating that unless he heard from them by registration this morning, that they were prepared at once to join him in his code breaking quest, a state of war would exist between the houses. I have to tell you now that no such undertaking was received and that consequently this year group is at war.
Tension was high as Year 8 battled ferociously with encryptions. Houses clashed as rivals attempted to gain entrance to our secret lairs where mathematicians worked furiously, solving complicated Python problems. We plotted and planned and double bluffed, reliving the dilemmas that Britain would have faced when deciding where to invade occupied France. We endeavoured to produce fully functioning radios, with some people claiming to have succeeded in hearing Hitler’s broadcasts…
As D-Day loomed, we furiously crammed our brains with the knowledge we would need for the ultimate test. The test of all the skills we had amassed on this intensive training course. We could almost hear the bombs ringing out as we tramped back inside, our brains aching. Our suffering was insignificant in comparison to what the Allies would have endured when crossing the channel, knowing full well that they might never return.
Line upon line of soldiers dressed in real RAF suits, headscarves and bomber jackets marched proudly into the Lecture theatre for a speech from our General, Chris. He was very impressed with our war efforts and told us all about what it’s like to be more involved in code breaking at a higher level of expertise.
We fought valiantly and were victorious, a state of peace has now returned to Year 8. Never was so much owed by so many to so few, so thank you to all the teachers involved for making it such a memorable day!
Year 9 History Trip to the Black Country Museum, Dudley
It was a cold but – luckily! – sunny day in Dudley for our trip to the open air Black Country Museum, which celebrates the industrial heritage of the Black Country.
The museum staff greeted us attired in authentic 19th century garb, and proceeded to lead us through a well-organised day, giving a really good taste of the different aspects of life and work in the Industrial Revolution. Girls were able to experience life in the coal mines, with the slightly alarming but authentic touch of carrying torches set to give the exact dimness of candle-light. We were also given a taste of the difficulties and dangers involved in canal work, including girls attempting to move a 40 ton barge with only the power of their legs, and saw the difficulties and injustices of life for female chain-makers, learning the life story of an 89 year old woman calling for a pension so that she could stop working. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, of course, in the sooty industrial world – girls were also able to get a literal taste of life in the 19th Century, with genuine beef-dripping chips, candyfloss and sweets eaten at the Victorian fair.
Julia Wood History Prize, 2010
Olivia entered an essay on the events leading up to the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 – a subject she had also written about for a staff-performed pantomime assembly earlier in the year to mark the 350th anniversary of the return of the Stuarts. This is a fantastic achievement for Olivia, and is the second year running that an OHS historian has won this prize. Olivia is about to start a degree in Ancient and Modern History at Corpus Christi, Oxford.
Let them eat cake: Sixth-form historical cake decorating competition
It is a fact universally acknowledged that OHS girls are very good at making and decorating cakes. In recognition of the Year 12′s enthusiasm for this traditional art, the History department organised a historical cake-decorating competition at the end of the summer term.
All of the entries – which included a spectacular Viking long boat, a beautifully-painted Mao cake, a recreation of Stalin’s industrial city of Magnitogorsk (complete with mud huts, Stalinist propaganda posters and Siberian snow) and a 3D recreation of the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I – were very impressive. After much contemplation and serious cake eating, the prize was shared between Ellen Judson for her DItchley cake and Miriam Zegeye for Magnitogorsk.
Miss Rebecca Welsford (Head of Department)
Mrs Anne Brazel
Miss Alex Martin
The History curriculum is diverse and offers students the opportunity not only to understand more about the history of the country in which they live but that of many other cultures across wide time periods. A brief summary follows:
Medieval England; the development of castles in the medieval world; Imperial China.
The Renaissance; Tudor and Stuart England.
The British Empire and the slave trade; social and political change from the 18th to the 20th centuries; the First World War.
Year 10 & 11 GCSE:
Since September 2009, we have been studying the new Edexcel History (A) Making of the Modern World course and students complete four modules:
Unit 1: International Relations, 1943-91
Unit 2: Germany, 1919-39
Unit 3: War and the transformation of British society, c.1931-51
Unit 4: Government and protest in the USA, 1945-70 (controlled assessment).
At AS/A2, we follow the Edexcel course, studying the following topics:
AS Unit 1: Stalin’s Russia, 1924-53 and Mao’s China, 1949-76.
AS Unit 2: Crown and Parliament, 1588-1629
A2 Unit 3: Revolution, Republic and Restoration: England, 1629-67
A2 Unit 4: Britain and India, 1845-1947 (Coursework)
Between them, these papers allow students to study a number of periods of dramatic and revolutionary change in Britain, Europe and the wider world. Students explore the workings of a variety of contrasting systems of government as well as fundamental issues such as the different ways in which these governments impinged upon the freedoms and liberties of their people and the ways in which opposition and dissent were expressed to them. In the process, students encounter a number of compelling, complex and colourful characters, about whom they draw their own conclusions.
Given that one of our aims as a department is to encourage students to develop a wider interest in the world around them, and to see the imprints left by the past, we organize a number of trips throughout the year. As part of their study of the development of castles throughout the Middle Ages, Year 7 students visit Windsor or Kenilworth Castle, Year 8s visit Hampton Court Palace and Year 9 spend a day at the Black Country Museum in Dudley. To support their studies of the Second-World-War era, Year 10 historians enjoy a study day at the Cabinet War Rooms or Imperial War Museum, and sixth form students regularly attend lectures and gallery visits locally or in London.
We also have an active History Society, under the leadership of sixth form students. In addition to organizing school History events, such as assemblies, trips to see relevant historical films and house quizzes, the Society runs an impressive lecture programme with talks on topics relevant to the GCSE and A Level courses, as well as more general topics. We have recently welcomed Professor Christopher McCrudden (Lincoln College, Oxford) who spoke to Year 11 and 12 students about the ‘Good Friday Agreement and its aftermath’, Professor John Morrill (Selwyn College, Cambridge) who spoke to A level historians on ‘Terrorism and Counter-terrorism in Ireland, 1641-1660′ and Dr Clive Holmes (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford) who spoke about ‘The Execution of Charles II’.