What is history?
....it must be understood that history is a response to the eternal desire of human beings to know about themselves. For this reason it is fundamentally a humane study, emphasising the importance of people, their individual choices, the values they hold, and the angles of vision by which they have looked at themselves and the world.
This pervading interest in humanity is the vital link between history and other humanistic disciplines with which it shares tools and objectives. But because history deals primarily with the human race in time, it offers a way of looking at human experience that the other humanistic disciplines do not: History brings depth to the study of humanity, giving it a past perspective and a sense of the inevitability of change. Because history deals with the flow of things, it shows that nothing stands still, that experience is dynamic and continuous; it lets us know that while what is happening now is important, people have had problems before and have survived them. One of history's most valuable contributions to its reader and writer is that it puts the present in its proper place:
Russel B. Nye, History, Meaning and Methods, Scott, (Foresman and Company, Glenview, Illinois,1975)
In the Preliminary Course, students of Ancient History have the opportunity to study the treatment and display of human remains, marine archaeology, the case study of Masada, Tutankhamun’s Tomb, and the power and image of Augustus. In the following HSC Course, students study Pompeii and Herculaneum, the ancient society of Sparta, the historical period of the Julio-Claudians, and Julius Caesar.
Students will also develop and refine their skills of writing, presenting, critical thinking and analysis. Ancient History is a fascinating subject that draws on many fields such as archaeology, anthropology, DNA analysis, forensic science and radio-carbon dating to unlock the mysteries of the past. Students also examine problematic knowledge when debating topics such as the ethics of displaying human remains, ‘who owns the past?’ and the reconstruction of ancient sites. Students will also engage with different interpretations of evidence and come to their own conclusions based on their analysis of archaeological and written sources. In addition, students will have the opportunity to engage in 'hands on' experiences such as mummifying a rat, handling ancient artefacts at the Museum of Ancient Cultures and attending excursions to Italy and Greece to gain a first-hand experience of the ancient sites that they study in the course. Our history faculty also has close ties with Dr Estelle Lazer, the leading Australian archaeologist in Pompeii. Estelle has visited the school to lecture Ancient History students on key syllabus points in the HSC Core: Cities of Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum.
HSC History Extension
The History Extension course offers a higher level of challenge than the Ancient History and Modern History courses with its greater emphasis on historiography. It is a challenging one unit course for students who are deep thinkers, avid readers, fantastic researchers, and self-starters. Enrolment in either Ancient History, Modern History or both are prerequisites for this course. This course goes beyond the traditional historical concepts of ‘past and present’ or ‘primary and secondary sources’ to a study of historiography. This involves intriguing questions such as: How is history written? Why? Is there ‘truth’ in history? Who decides what is history? Concepts like relativity in history, history as a human construct and the authenticity of history are all considered. Students analyse and evaluate different historical perspectives and approaches and the varying interpretations developed from these.
The first half of the course is dedicated to a study of ‘What is History?’ in which we look at a wide variety of historical texts such as the ancient historians Herodotus and Thucydides to contemporary histories from the 2015 Nobel Prize winner, Svetlana Alexievich, and Richard Evans. We move on, in the second semester, to an analysis of the different ways in which ‘The Crusades: Campaigns of the Cross?’ have been written about. The latter involves considering historical texts from the medieval period through to the Enlightenment, Romanticism, the emergence of Arab Nationalism in the 20th Century as well as contemporary writings on the subject.
Students also undertake a major research project involving analysis, synthesis and evaluation of information from historical sources of differing perspectives and historical approaches. This gives each student the chance to explore an aspect of history that they are passionate about. Students visit Fisher Library at Sydney University to help them find resources for their History Project and to equip them for further research.
History Extension Course Structure and Requirements - (60 hours)
- Constructing History: Key Questions and Case Study – 40 (minimum Indicative hours)
- History Project: 20 (maximum Indicative hours)
Blood – Brawn – Brains: History’s Big Ideas
Elective History Course Stage 5
The two ideas that drive the Year 9 and 10 Elective History courses are ‘student voice, student choice’ and ‘project based learning’. Student voice, student choice helps our elective students become autonomous, self-regulating and self-motivating learners. The thinking behind project based learning is that students will make meaning and create understanding in a collaborative and supportive environment. Students also have the opportunity to work on developing strong essay writing skills that will inrease their success at the Stage 6 level. The aim of these courses is to develop a life-long interest and enthusiasm for history. Some of the content covered includes: Ancient Persia, Alexander the Great, Vikings, the History of Terrorism, the French Revolution, Assassination of JFK, Historical Biography, Film as History, Historical Fiction, Heritage and Conservation, War and Peace, History and the Media, Local History, Museum and/or Archives Studies, Oral History and Historical Reconstructions.
Minecraft or Game Based Learning
The most effective lessons in the classroom are those with real-world applications. Minecraft is a world where students can solve real historical problems in real time. Students of Elective History will have the opportunity to use Minecraft to accurately rebuild ancient sites, understand the relationships between problems and solutions and have fun in a collaborative environment. Students will learn by doing, failing and trying again.
Games of Strategy
Board games will not take centre stage in the Elective History course, but they will provide a unique, fun opportunity to facilitate higher order cognitive abilities in ways that our normal academic studies may not. These games can facilitate discussion and help students explain their thinking in a fun and spirited learning environment. The following games will be played: Puerto Rico, Carcassone, Sequence, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Agricola, and Axis and Allies.
In the Preliminary Course, students undertake studies of The Decline and Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, the American Civil War, and World War I. In the HSC Modern History Course, students have the opportunity to study interwar Russia and the Soviet Union, Conflict in Indochina, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, and Civil Rights in the USA.
Modern History develops students’ understanding about people and how they are influenced by past events. Through examinations of various primary and secondary sources students gain a critical understanding of current events and can place these events into their proper historical context. Crucial to this course is the need to think critically and creatively about the interplay between individuals, groups, events and institutions. Good historians have the skills of differing research methodologies, critically analysing primary and secondary sources, understanding perspectives, editing, proofreading, building arguments and understanding causation. The knowledge, understanding and skills that students acquire through studying Modern History provide a firm foundation for further study, the world of work, active and informed citizenship, and for lifelong learning. It fosters a critical approach to understanding events, issues and interpretations as well as the effective communication of accounts conveying ideas, judgements and evidence.
The Modern History subject is divided into the Preliminary and the HSC Courses:
Investigating Modern History: The Nature of Modern History
Investigating Modern History: Two Case Study
Historical Investigation: Personal Interest Project
The Shaping of the Modern World: World War I
Core Study: Power and Authority in the Modern World 1919–1946
National Study: Russia and the Soviet Union 1917–1941
Change in the Modern World: Civil Rights in the USA 1945–1968
Peace and Conflict: Conflict in the Pacific or Conflict in Indochina
During the Preliminary Course, students study the topics of the Legal System, the Individual and State, and the Law in Practice. In the HSC Course, students study Crime, Human Rights, World Order, and Shelter. Legal Studies is a highly engaging subject for those interested in studying Law and the rules that govern our society. With a focus on contemporary case studies, legislation and court judgements - both Australian and international - students will gain a deeper understanding of systems of rule, why certain behaviours are criminalised, and the rights they possess. We examine contemporary debates surrounding the need for law reform including a focus on responses to terrorism and the emerging challenges of cyber-crime and genetic technologies. Legal Studies fosters intellectual development, especially the ability to engage with higher order concepts, and develops students’ literacy through its focus on explicit teaching of written responses. Students’ learning is enhanced further by an excursion to court and the chance to participate in the Mock Trial competition.