A level

Aim of the course

History contributes richly to our students’ understanding of the world; it expands horizons and explodes assumptions. For many, the study of the past has its own inherent fascination, yet its value for all is that history opens our minds to new, and often challenging, human encounters. History reveals the interdependence of people’s actions and ideas. History informs us of humanity’s failings and prejudices, its achievements and aspirations.

By engaging with history, students understand and appreciate not only the characteristic features and diversity of British society, but of a range of societies, political and social structures, cultures and beliefs. We aim to cultivate students’ ability to construct an argument, both orally and on paper, and to write and think analytically.

Students develop their research, writing, debating and presenting skills as they work independently and in groups. All students are encouraged to participate actively in lessons and to think critically. Alongside the qualities of intellectual curiosity and endeavour, these skills and dispositions are useful not just in the Sixth Form but in higher education and beyond.

Course outline

A Level historians will learn to:

Students will study the following periods of history.

Lower Sixth: 

Unit Group 1: British Period Study, the Stuarts and the Interregnum 1603-1660

Assessment: 50 marks, 1hr 30min exam, 25% of total A level (assessed at the end of the Upper Sixth).

Unit Group 2: Non-British Period Study, either the Crusades 1095-1192 or Liberal and Fascist Italy 1896-1943.

Assessment: 30 marks, 1hr exam, 15% of total A level (assessed at the end of the Upper Sixth).

Upper Sixth:

Unit Group 3: Thematic study and Historical Interpretations, either Popular Culture and the Witchcraze 1500-1750 or Civil Rights in the USA 1865-1992.

Assessment: 80 marks, 2hr 30min exam, 40% total A level.

Topic-Based Essay Coursework: Non-exam assessment, 4,000-word essay/coursework, 40 marks, 20% total A level.

Be inspired

We offer trips for Sixth Form students to broaden their outlook and knowledge. On a previous Paris tour, for example, we sampled French culture and learned about key events in French history such as French Absolutism, the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era, the Paris Commune, theBelle Epoque and the occupation of Paris during World War II.

We have also run a joint trip with the politics and economics departments to Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York. Sixth formers tour Congress and visit the US Supreme Court for a fascinating insight into policy and law-making.

Students listen to leading historians at meetings of the Cambridge branch of the Historical Association, the Cambridge History Forum and in public lectures at the University of Cambridge. We encourage them to go to exhibitions at the Fitzwilliam Museum, the British Library and the British Museum. We regularly organise day trips to historical sites and lecture events in Cambridge and London.

Students are encouraged to enter national essay competitions. In the last three years, Perse historians have either won or been highly commended for the Cromwell Association Essay Prize, the Robson History Prize, and the New College of the Humanities essay competition. 

Assessment details

Students will sit three exams in the Summer term of the Upper Sixth.

Examining board



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