The History department looks for more than simply success in exams, and in a much broader sense aims to teach Tonbridgians to be enquiring and well-informed young men, able to question and understand the world around them.
An excellent History library and collective teaching expertise that covers most periods of history, from Ancient Rome to the Cold War, ensures that during their time at the school boys study a wide range of topics as well as learning skills of writing and analysis that will be useful whatever they go on to study at university.
In the Novi, boys study a number of different periods and geographical areas, looking at questions such as ‘what was the role of troops from the British Empire in WW1?’, ‘how did de facto segregation continue after the legal victories of the American Civil Rights movement in the 1950s?’ and ‘how did Chinese civilians experience the Cultural Revolution?’. At iGCSE, boys build on the skills they have acquired in the Novi, studying topics such as the League of Nations, appeasement, the Cold War and Germany 1918-45.
At Tonbridge we offer an A-Level course with considerable chronological and geographical range. Students study two papers in the Lower VIth year – The Early Stuarts and the Origins of the Civil War, and From Colonialism to Independence: The British Empire 1857–1965. In the Upper VIth year, students build on the skills gained and write an extended essay of 4000 words, together with a non-British period study.
However, the examined curriculum is only ever a starting point for the boys, and across the age range boys attend History talks put on by boys, teachers and external speakers. Where appropriate, students are taken to one-day conferences relevant to their courses to hear the perspectives of leading academics. We also undertake a number of trips - recent examples have included visits to archives, museums and universities.
There are also opportunities for extended writing and independent research at all levels. During the IGCSE course we spend time teaching outside the syllabus and allow boys to research independent projects on any aspect of World War Two that interests them. In the sixth form many of the boys write extended projects, many of which are entered for Oxbridge essay competitions. In the last few years several boys have been commended for entries for the prestigious John Locke Institute, Vellacott and Julia Wood History prizes with topics as diverse as the Court of Henry VIII, Population Growth in early Modern Europe, the Korean War and the British Empire in India.
MSt, Exeter College, Oxford