Why study History?

In his classic of military history, The Face of Battle (1976), Sir John Keegan (himself a former King's pupil) wrote that the historian "… ought also to get away from papers and walk about his subject wherever he can find traces of it on the ground …"

Exploring the past through travel is certainly a good reason for studying history - an ambition that we encourage all King's historians to fulfil. And there are many other excellent reasons for studying history at King's …

  • Developing a better understanding of the present by learning about the key events that have shaped our modern world
  • Achieving skills of critical awareness about the reasons why historical events have taken place
  • Weighing up the evidence and reaching balanced conclusions about a wide variety of human issues
  • Learning to communicate ideas and arguments clearly and effectively both in discussion and on paper
  • Realising that there are many different viewpoints about the past and understanding the need for tolerance
  • Enjoying the opportunity to find out more about people in all walks of life and what motivates them

The department is on the first floor of the History and Science Block. There are three classrooms, two seminar rooms, and a specialist history library. Data projectors and PCs are in all classrooms, and an IT suite of 20 PCs is nearby. The department is particularly rich in resources, with full collections of the Illustrated London News and Punch Magazine at the top of the list. Former pupils and members of staff have generously donated a large number of books and magazines in recent years. The new school library , opened in 2011, also contains an excellent range of books about a variety of historical topics.

Many recent King's historians have gone on to study history at leading universities as well as related degree subjects such as war studies, politics, archaeology and law; and history has also provided an excellent basis for careers in areas such as law, public relations, business, publishing, teaching, civil service, psychology, accountancy, the armed forces and broadcasting (and many others besides).

King’s historians in 2012–17 have gained places at leading academic institutions, including St Hugh's College Oxford, Queens' College Cambridge, King's College Cambridge, Peterhouse Cambridge, The Queen’s College Oxford, King's College London, Royal Holloway University of London, Exeter University, Birmingham, Reading, Southampton, Cardiff, Swansea, Newcastle, Oxford Brookes and Warwick. In 2014 Josh Stickland won a prize in the prestigious Julia Wood History Essay competition arranged by St Hugh's College, Oxford, and in 2016 Matt Thorne won the highly competitive Vellacott History prize at Peterhouse Cambridge.

A highlight of 2014-15 was the Centenary Battlefields Trip in which 30 pupils and members of staff visited the areas of the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Ypres where many OAs fell during the Great War. A wreath was laid at the Menin Gate and crosses were laid at the graves of 18 OAs by current pupils.

There have been several trips to the local history museum and, in 2016, a memorable visit to the House of Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms and to the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

A Level history results have continued to be impressive: 100% pass rate at A2, with 100% % A*-C grades at coursework in 2016. GCSE History results have been outstanding for many years: 96% pass rate (2015) with 60% A*/A/ grades. In 2016 nine candidates scored 90% or higher in all four GCSE modules.

The 2015-16 Keegan Essay prizes, generously funded by the Joan Sewell Bequest, have been awarded to: Henry Biggs, Henry Cole, Pippa Smith, Jack West, Cameron Smith, Will Cashmore and Matt Thorne.

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