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.
Year 13 History visit to the National Portrait Gallery
At the end of September, Year 13 historians spent a day in London investigating some of the propaganda of the court of Charles I. We started by attending a fascinating talk on the visual language of power and conflict in Stuart portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and later went to see the elaborate ceiling of the Banqueting House, which was painted by Rubens at the request of Charles I. These remarkable works provide a very strong visual statement of divine right monarchy. Girls also saw the window through which Charles I was taken to the scaffold outside the Banqueting House before his execution on 30 January 1649.
Historical cake decorating competition, July 2013
Historical cake decorating has become a regular feature of the Year 12 post-AS History course, and this year’s competition was – as ever – incredibly fierce. The girls’ creations were well planned and incredibly elaborate, and included James I ‘slobbering at the mouth’, the excavation of a car park in Leicester and a rather gory recreation of the Somme battlefield. This year’s winner was Sophia Russell who produced a fantastically intricate and historically accurate Jacobean banquet.
Year 9 History trip to the First World War Battlefields
A group of Year 9 historians spent the first few days of the summer holidays in Northern France and Belgium to support their work on the First World War. Our base near St Omer enabled us to visit the battlefields of the Ypres Salient and the Somme, as well as a number of Commonwealth and German cemeteries and war memorials including Thiepval, Langemark and Tyne Cot. We also attended the Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres, where a couple of girls laid a wreath on behalf of the staff and students at Oxford High. It was an incredibly moving and memorable trip for girls and staff alike.
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!
Miss Rebecca Welsford (Head of Department)
Mrs Anne Brazel
Miss Eleanor Selway
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’.