History gives us a perspective on human lives that were lived in conditions very different from our own. Studying the way that men and women, institutions and nations have behaved in the past can challenge our assumption that our present circumstances and culture are somehow natural or that they will last forever.

Course Overview

A Level History at CCSS comprises three units.

  • Unit 1: The British Empire from 1857 to 1967
  • Unit 2: The Cold War from 1945 to 1991
  • Unit 3: The Historical Enquiry

The British Empire

This unit is a ‘breadth study’ that provides students with the opportunity to study the interaction between Britain and the wider world across an extended period of time. Students consider a range of features related to British imperialism in this period:

  • The reasons for the growth and contraction of the empire
  • The relationship between Britain and the indigenous peoples
  • The relationship between the government at Westminster and ‘the periphery’
  • The role of individuals, such as administrators and missionaries
  • The economic aspects of the empire
  • The importance of international relations
  • The role of the empire in British popular culture
  • The impact of major events, such as the world wars

A fascinating and challenging feature of the breadth study is to consider the extent of and reasons for change and continuity over an extended period.

The Cold War

This unit is a ‘depth study’ that provides students with the opportunity to study international relations from the end of the Second World War until the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was much more to the Cold War than just the relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union, and students are required to develop an in depth understanding of all of its aspects. These include:

  • The importance of ideology
  • The importance of nuclear weapons
  • The importance of relations of each ‘superpower’ with the wider world
  • Periods of heightened tension and periods of détente
  • The importance of key individuals

The unit is aptly named a ‘depth study’. Students should find that they develop a detailed understanding of international relations that provides them with important insights into the world we inhabit today.

The ‘Historical Enquiry’

This is an opportunity for students to choose a topic of their own and to devise an historical question that will lead to a final essay of around 3500 words. The final essay needs to display an excellent understanding of 80 to 120 years of history. It also needs to incorporate a discussion of some primary source material and to consider the ‘differing views’ of at least two historians on the topic under discussion. The research and organisation skills that History A Level students acquire and develop while completing this piece are an absolutely invaluable preparation for higher education.


Unit 1: One exam of 2 and a half hours taken in the summer term at the end of the upper sixth (40%)

Unit 2: One exam of 2 and a half hours taken in the summer term at the end of the upper sixth (40%)

Unit 3: An essay of around 3500 words submitted in the spring term of the upper sixth (20%)

Special Features

As a student of A Level History you will develop a range of intellectual skills and qualities that will be an advantage to you in higher education and any subsequent career. You will practise the art of the historian as you draw inferences from primary source material and learn to appreciate how much it is reasonable to conclude from these. You will also develop an understanding of why historians, sometimes using similar sources, can come to very different conclusions about the same events.

The key skill that you will develop is that of being able to absorb large bodies of detailed information from a range of sources, writing selectively and logically in order to develop historical arguments.


After A Level you can, of course, study for a degree in history at university, alone or in combination with a wide range of subjects. The analytical skills and background you will acquire make it an excellent subject choice if you intend to take a law or politics degree.

Last year, A Level History students progressed onto a wide range of degree programmes including –

University Degree
University of Kent English & American Literature
Leicester University History
Queen Mary, University of London Law with History
Royal Holloway, University of London Politics and International Relations
University of Surrey Accounting and Finance
University of York Politics

Exam Board