Why History? Why Me?

Student Guides

Melanie Jones, last updated: 20th June 2010

What is History?

History, the study of the past, is all around us; we are continually making history through our thoughts, words and actions. History is personal and global; it is everyday life and momentous occasions. History is about people.

Through our study of the past, we can understand how our own world works. We can also understand how and why things happen to us. For example, had you ever wondered why the polar ice caps are melting? The answer partially lies in history. The Industrial Revolution caused the birth of industrial towns and factories, belching out smoke and pollution. It also caused the mechanisation of society, adding to the pollution. Could this partially explain the pollution problems that we face today? History is not just about the past!


What is A-Level History all about?

At A-Level, the topics you study will very much depend on your school and the examination board you study with, but there are a great range of really interesting courses to get your teeth into.

There are some things that are common to all A-Level courses, no matter which school you are at or which board your study with. In most cases the course will involve 4 different units, 2 at AS level, and then another 2 at A-Level. One course will always be a coursework piece, usually done at A-Level rather than at AS.

You will also develop certain common skills. You will be asked to use sources, you will be asked to argue how significant a person or event was, you will be asked to examine change over time and reasons for change or lack of change.

So how do we find our way through history? A good historian will use the skills that they develop in the subject to sort out fact from fiction, opinion from fact, to use the evidence to piece the jigsaw together. We will never truly know what happened in the past, or why,  because for the majority of it, we were not there, but the good historian will be able to argue that by looking at the evidence and making decisions  - a skill that employers value highly.

Good luck!