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Early Modern History A Level at Westcliff High School for Boys

Course description

History analyses the past, and looks at cause and consequence to build a narrative of human experience. In the Early Modern History course, the key religious, social, military and economic developments of some of the major early modern powers will be investigated. This is a course that will challenge you to expand on your historical knowledge and understanding, by looking at themes and time periods that go well beyond those offered by most GCSE syllabuses. You will learn to synthesise information, analyse argument, see connections between countries and time periods, to read critically, and to advance and support your own line of argument across a piece of extended writing. 

Course content

The Advanced Subsidiary Curriculum: Unit 1: Historical Themes in Breadth (80 minute examination). 50%

This unit explores power, belief and conflict in Early Modern Europe, with a particular focus on the religious developments that threatened to tear Europe apart. In the first half of this unit – Luther, Lutheranism and the German Reformation, 1517-55 – we look at the role of Martin Luther, the expansion of his ideas across Germany, and the impact they had on the Holy Roman Empire. In the second half of this unit – Meeting the Challenge? The Catholic Reformation, c.1540-1600 – we look at how the Catholic Church responded to these attacks on its authority, including the Inquisition. In the exam, students will be required to answer two essay questions. 

Unit 2: British History Depth Studies (80 minute examination). 50%

This unit explores the crown and its authority in Early Modern Britain, namely Henry VIII: Authority, Nation and Religion, 1509-40. It looks at the personal power of one of the most iconic figures in British history, and at his relationship with his advisors, his people, and other European states. In the exam, students will be required to answer two source-based questions. The first is worth 20 marks and will focus on reaching a judgement by analysis, cross-referencing and evaluating source material. The second is worth 40 marks and will ask candidates to address an historical view using two sources in conjunction with their own knowledge. 

The A2 Curriculum: Unit 3: Depth Studies and Associated Historical Controversies (120 minute examination). 60%

This unit focuses on the Tudor governments and the response of the English people, namely Protest, Crisis and Rebellion in England, 1536-88. Court politics, religious upheaval, and the growing threat from Spain will all be examined. Students will also focus on two key controversies. The first is a consideration of how seriously rebellion challenged the authority of the Tudor state. The second is how significant were the changes that took place in the role and power of parliaments. In the exam, students will be required to answer one essay question, and to conduct one source-based analysis. 

Unit 4: Historical Enquiry (extended essay). 40% 

The coursework unit will look at the key developments of one other major European power in the Early Modern era. Students will write two essays: the first will be an overview of a hundred year period of history. The second will look at the short term significance of an event or individual of their choice. Students will be required to read widely and undertake their own research; whilst their work will be guided by their teacher, this is essentially an independent project. The two essays combined will total no more than 4000 words. 

Entry requirements

Students should preferably have studied History at GCSE level and should have achieved at least a B grade.  Those without History at GCSE should have achieved at least an A grade in a subject involving a significant amount of extended writing and should be able to demonstrate an interest in analysing events and exploring the motives of historical figures.  A taste for reading and researching and also for writing is important.


Please be aware that we offer the Early Modern route through History subject to sufficient numbers of students opting to study it. If numbers are not sufficient, the Early Modern route will run instead as a Modern History course.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Westcliff High School for Boys directly.

Last updated date: 09 June 2015

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