A Level History


What is it about at sixth-form level?

History is fundamentally the study of the past. It examines past individuals, societies, cities and other structures, as well as the causes that shaped their development and demise. The A Level History course focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century Europe. The themes of ideology and imperialism are considered during this tumultuous period. Focus will also be given to social and cultural aspects, so that students acquire a comprehensive understanding of these pivotal years. The course will also concentrate on source-evaluation and the importance of presenting clear and defined arguments in a coherent and concise fashion.

The study of these topics will allow students to understand Mark Twain’s famous comment that “History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” History allows us to understand the context in which events happened, and – through knowledge of the historiography of the era – to analyse how interpretations have been subsequently altered or validated.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will study two units. In Unit 1 (Liberalism and Nationalism in Italy and Germany, 1815-1871) you will begin with the post-Vienna Settlement of Germany and Italy, and examine how the outcomes added to regional difficulties. You will then consider how and why unification occurred in both Germany and Italy. In Unit 2 (the Industrial Revolution and the Origins of WWI) you will start by looking at the causes of the Industrial Revolution and its effects. You will also consider why the alliance system developed, the complex history of the Balkans and the decline of the Ottoman Empire. This will allow you to investigate why war broke out in 1914.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will study two more units. In Unit 3 (The Causes and Impact of British Imperialism, c.1850-1939), you will focus on the varying interpretations and approaches employed by different historians. In particular, you will address the overarching question of what motives explain British Imperialism in this period. In Unit 4 (Europe of the Dictators, 1918- 1941), you will look at Lenin and Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, asking why these dictators gained power. What were their aims, how far did they achieve them, to what extent were they totalitarian rulers and what were their socio-economic aims and policies towards their opponents.

Why study it and what Why study it and what skills does it develop

History is a venerable and rigorous academic subject that is respected by every university. It will develop your analytic and evaluative skills through confrontation with both source material and the competing historical explanations it has led to. It will teach you how to articulate coherent arguments in a clear written form. These are skills that will benefit you across a range of subjects and beyond.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

A GCSE in History is not a prerequisite. You will need the ability to read substantial quantities of text with a critical eye and to write clearly and concisely. It is important to bear in mind that at this level it is not a matter of retaining and deploying a lot of information but rather a matter of drawing upon it selectively to construct a persuasive argument.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are two exams on Units 1 and 2 respectively. The Unit 1 exam will contain a series of two-part questions. In the (a) part, you will consider two sources on one aspect of the material. In the (b) part, you will use all the sources and your knowledge of the period to address how far the sources support a given statement. The Unit 2 exam will likewise contain a series of two-part questions. The (a) part question will ask for a causal explanation and the (b) part will require consideration of significance and weighing the relative importance of factors. The Unit 1 exam is worth 40% of the AS and lasts 1 hour. The Unit 2 exam is worth 60% of the AS and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes. Students may carry forward their unit 1 and 2 results to the second year. They are worth 50% of the A level.

A level

For the A level, there are four exams on Units 1-4 respectively. The Unit 1 and Unit 2 exams are as specified above, though they are now worth 20% and 30% of the A level respectively. In the Unit 3 exam, you will be given an extract from an unidentified historian’s writing. One extract will be set on each of the topics. The question will ask what can be learned about the interpretation and approach of the historian who wrote it. The Unit 4 exam will require you to complete two essays covering the years 1918-1941. The questions will focus on how far a particular dictator had achieved their aims, why they were able to do so and how far they can be described as totalitarian. The Unit 3 exam is worth 20% of the A level and lasts 1 hour. The Unit 4 exam is worth 30% of the A level and lasts 1 hour 30 minutes.


European History, 1789-1914
By R. Williams
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-1107613249

British Imperialism 1750-1970 (Cambridge Perspectives in History)
By S. Smith
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521599306

The European Dictatorships: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini
By A. Todd
Published by CUP, ISBN 978-0521776059

Unit 2 textbook, to be confirmed.


Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: Cambridge International AS 9389, A level: Cambridge International A level 9389



Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Exeter University (International Relations)

I have really enjoyed my time MPW and would recommend this college to anyone. I learnt how to work more efficiently and revise more effectively thanks to the tutorials and weekly Timed Assignments, which also allowed me to prepare myself mentally for the exams from the first day. My history teacher was phenomenal. He managed to get me to reengage with the subject, as well as giving me all the support and help I asked for and more, giving me the knowledge and exams technique needed to achieve an A*."


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Southampton University (Business Innovation)

The small class sizes proved invaluable for a number of reasons, some of which I did not anticipate. Aside from the obvious individual attention, the size of the class allowed for a lot of students’ questions to turn into a fruitful academic discussion. I have found the atmosphere at the college far more friendly and supportive than I expected. The support I had from my Personal Tutor was very helpful during the application process for university. I could tell that he really did care about my future and wanted to do everything he could in order to help me secure my place at my chosen university. Overall, I am pleased to say that my high expectations of MPW were fully met.


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Warwick University (Chemistry)

“I have definitely made the right decision to come to MPW - my grades have gone from averaging Es to straight As. Teaching at MPW is much more personal and I felt like talking to teachers. They are very good and give you lots of support if you do not understand something. My Personal Tutor took me through the UCAS process step by step. We went through my Personal Statement many times to make sure it was completely perfect. I am very excited about my firm choice.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
Nottingham University (Philosophy)

As a dyslexic student who initially got CCEE for my AS, I was convinced that I could not achieve any higher. My time at MPW proved me wrong. Initially I was reluctant to move from my local school in York to a college so far away from home, my parents, and friends. At the end of my first year I was overjoyed to find that many hours of hard work and renewed revision techniques had resulted in me achieving three A's in my subjects. I wanted to continue at A2 as I knew it would greatly improve my university prospects and encourage me to work even harder. After two fantastic years at MPW I can emphatically say that going to MPW was the best decision I ever made. 


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University of York (Law) 

“Having a Personal Tutor to discuss ANYTHING with, from my UCAS application to organising my life in general, really did make life at the college more streamlined and in general less stressful.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Economics) 

“Honestly, I could not imagine when I joined MPW that, due to language and adaptation barriers, I would achieve top grades in my first A-level exam sittings. This view changed completely after only a few weeks in the college’s supportive and motivational environment; with teachers who aimed at finding a personal touch with each student and with my Personal Tutor who made my adjustment to the UK education system not only an easy step in my life but, more importantly, an enjoyable one.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
University College London (Mathematics and Statistics)

“International students have many aspects to think about, such as accommodation and guardians, but MPW surprised me by having a highly organised and supportive administration. Also, because most MPW Cambridge students are local, as an ‘international’ student, I found this very useful in both improving my English and in giving me a taste of a genuinely ‘English’ college.”


Grades achieved at MPW

Progressed to
King's College London (International Relations)

 “The teachers really helped me overcome any difficulties I came across; they always seemed willing to offer support be it inside or outside of the classroom. I could safely say my teachers inspired me to work hard and aim for the best, sometimes simply by being passionate about what they do.”