In an interview with the Chicago Tribune on 25 May 1916, the American industrialist Henry Ford made the following observation: ‘I don't know much about history, and I wouldn't give a nickel for all the history in the world.  History is more or less bunk’.

While he may have known a great deal about motor cars, Ford obviously knew very little about formulating a convincing argument; it is never a good idea to confess your total ignorance of a subject before making a sweeping generalisation about it. A student of History would know better. Above all, this is a subject about developing the analytical skills required to reach a considered judgement, the communication skills needed to express it, and the debating skills necessary to defend it. This skill-set makes a History qualification highly valuable to employers and universities alike, regardless of their own specific area of employment or study.

Why Choose History

  • Rather than the traditional A Level, the department offers the Cambridge Pre-U, an entirely linear two-year qualification designed in partnership with universities and intended to help prepare students more effectively for higher education.
  • The study of History provides students with a number of transferable skills; the ability to research, analyse information, form coherent arguments and communicate effectively. 
  • History can lead into a wide range of careers and sectors, including Education, Politics, Journalism, Publishing, Law, Business and Finance. 

Exam Board

Further information on Pre-U History can be found on the CIE website. 

Course Content

British History, c.1914-1997: This module offers an exciting opportunity to study modern British social and economic history starting with Britain's role in the First World War and ends with a study of post-war culture up to the 1980s. We will look at the impact of the welfare state on post-war Britain and the trials and tribulations of post-war politics. Fundamentally, the scope of this course goes beyond its remit; it encourages students to draw conceptual and theoretical links between recent events in Britain's past which shape the country in which they live today.

Africa: A continent reborn? European powers made much of their mission to 'civilise' the so-called dark continent, yet the transition from colonial to post-colonial Africa betrayed the exploitative nature of Empire. This topic provides the opportunity to expand historical horizons beyond the largely European focus of previous studies and consider the rebirth of a continent that will determine the course of development in the 21st Century.

China under Mao. This Communist made Stalin look angelic – Mao was responsible for the deaths of more of his own countrymen than any other individual in history, yet in many ways he was the founder of the modern Chinese state. Documents form the heart of this topic, the exam paper at the end of Upper Sixth will test a student’s ability to analyse source material, and craft a good essay. Again, this will broaden historical horizons, making the study of History a truly global experience. 

Personal Investigation. Write a question, then answer it in between 3,500 and 4,000 words. This element of the History Pre-U is literally that simple; it offers the chance to choose an area of your Lower Sixth studies that fascinates you, and then lets you decide the question you will be asked about it. Not only does this strong coursework component provide the opportunity to show off the essay writing skills that have developed over Lower and Upper Sixth, it also give a taste of what study at a leading university might be like.


All examinations take place at the end of Upper Sixth. 

Unit 1 – British History Outlines – 25%

Examination – 2 hours 15 minutes.

Unit 2 – African History Outlines– 25%

Examination – 2 hours 15 minutes.

Unit 3 – Special Subject: China under Mao– 25%

Examination – 2 hours.

Unit 4 – Personal Investigation– 25%

3,500-4,000 words, candidate-devised research essay, externally marked.

Pre-U Grade Bandings 


Distinction D1 N/A    
  D2 145 A* 140
  D3 130 A 120
Merit M1 115    
  M2 101 B 100
  M3 87 C 80
Pass P1 73    
  P2 59 D 60
  P3 46 E 40

Trips, Activities and Extension


Washington DC and New York Trip

Lower and Upper Sixth students studying History are offered the opportunity to spend five days in Washington DC and New York where they visit a number of historic institutions such as the White House, the National Archives, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Lincoln Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and the Smithsonian Museum.