Pre-U History

History in the Sixth Form offers you the chance to explore further the central aspect of all History: human motivation. Asking why things happened (and what their effects were) is an essential and rewarding experience and requires skills of critical analysis, discrimination, argument and persuasion.

History can be taken in conjunction with a wide variety of subjects. Traditionally, it is chosen to complement the arts, languages and social sciences but also works well for scientists looking for a slightly different fourth subject. Beyond the Sixth Form, History affords good preparation for a range of degrees and careers such as law, journalism and the media, teaching, business, accountancy and banking.

Why Pre-U?

Pre-U History is a very well established linear course, and therefore tried and tested. It is academic and stimulating, as well as being highly regarded by Oxbridge and Russell Group universities. The MCS-designed course allows the study of a considerable breadth of historical periods, ranging from the reign of Elizabeth I to the Russian revolution.

Brief overview

All Sixth Form History ‘menus’ need to cover a spread of at least 200 years. While there is no requirement to have an overarching theme linking them together, we have chosen one: our courses are largely based around the concept of ‘revolutions’. Thus, in the lower Sixth the English Revolution of the mid C17th sits alongside the French Revolutions of the late C18th and C19th, with the Russian Revolution of the early C20th providing a counterpoint in the Upper Sixth course. It is hoped that pupils will start to become aware of links and commonalities, taking them beyond the strict confines of what they need to know. The same principles of extension and independent thinking lie behind the coursework module, where pupils can choose their own questions, with guidance from their teachers.

One of the joys of History is that there is not always a ‘right’ answer, so it is important to test your ideas and develop your own justifications. However, a willingness to read widely is the most important requirement of a Sixth Form Historian. The school library boasts a well-stocked History section and the department has its own dedicated Sixth Form library.

Sixth Formers are encouraged to develop independent learning habits and to read around their courses. There is a weekly History Society on a Friday lunchtime where pupils, staff and visiting speakers give presentations and take questions, culminating in the MCS annual History Conference. Recent topics have included the decline of the Byzantine Empire, the life and afterlife of Mary Wollstonecraft and the British colonisation of South Africa. In the Hilary Term, a L6th Reading Group meets; members often enter Oxbridge college essay competitions.

Course content L6

British Outlines 

  • The reign of Elizabeth I
  • The reign of James I
  • The reign of Charles I to 1640
  • The origins, course and outcomes of the British Civil Wars

European Outlines 

  • The French Revolution
  • The Rule of Napoleon 1774-1815
  • France 1815-1848
  • The Vienna Settlement and European Diplomacy 1815-1848
  • The 1848 Revolutions in Europe

Course content U6

Special Subject 

  • Russia in Revolution, 1905-1924

Personal Investigation (externally-assessed coursework)

  • 3500-4000 words on a topic of the candidate’s choice

Examination arrangements

Paper 1b: British Outlines: 2 hours 15 minutes, 25% of marks

Paper 2c: European Outlines: 2 hours 15 minutes, 25% of marks

Special Subject: 2 hours, 25% of marks

Topic-based Essay: Up to 4,000 words, 25% of marks


Recommended preparation
Guy, John Tudors: Very Short Introduction
Castor, Helen Elizabeth I
Mortimer, Ian Time Traveller’s guide to Elizabethan England
Brigden, Susan New World, Lost Worlds
Hutton, Ronald Brief History of Britain
Blanning, Tim Pursuit of Glory, 1645-1815
Voltaire Candide
Price, Roger Concise History of France
Hibbert, Christopher French Revolution
Wilkinson, Richard Louis XIV


Further inspiration
Rex, Richard Tudors
Collinson, Patrick Elizabeth I
Haigh, Christopher Elizabeth I
Porter, Roy Cult of Elizabeth
Nicholls, Mark History of Modern British Isles, 1529-1603
Smith, David History Modern British Isles, 1603-1707
Kishlansky, Mark Monarchy Transformed
Worden, Blair English Civil Wars
Purkiss, Diane English Civil War
Hill, Christopher World Turned Upside Down
Blanning, Tim Culture of power and power of Culture
Porter, Roy Enlightenment
Schama, Simon Citizens
Doyle, William Oxford History of French Revolution
Fontana, Biancamaria Germaine de Staël: A political portrait
Hardman, John Life of Louis XVI
Burke, Peter Fabrication of Louis XIV
Doyle, William Old Regime France
Broers, Michael Soldier of Destiny
Broers, Michael Napoleon: the spirit of the age