"Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it - the study of history aims above all to make us aware of possibilities we don’t normally consider" 

― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow


The Department seeks to develop a passion for historical research and academic curiosity amongst pupils. Whilst exams are important, we believe that a broader interest in the subject is cultivated by lively, well-informed argument.

Throughout the F Block pupils are encouraged to engage in their study of History through their own research and fresh ways of looking at sources. Stimulating independent yet supported learning is important preparation for study during the remainder of their time at school, and a vital part of pupils’ education at Rugby School. The range of topics covered is intended to foster this development. Tailored around the themes of Industrialisation, Trade, War and Social and Political revolution c.1750-1950, the course allows pupils to encounter some of the most important concepts in modern European and global history, including nationalism, emancipation, state control, individual liberty, mechanised war, political reform and the search for international order. There is a core content which will be assessed at three points during the year, but otherwise teachers may be selective and emphasis will be placed on different aspects across the sets.

The great majority of students choose to study History at GCSE. The Edexcel IGCSE possesses a strong internationalist flavour, taking in a wide sweep of global and European affairs from 1914 to the late 1990s, in topics ranging from the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, the rise of Hitler, life in Nazi Germany and the outbreak of World War Two, to the nuclear arms race, Cold War tensions to the conflict in the Middle East, and the emergence of new political and economic blocs. Two in-depth studies, Revolutionary Russia and Hitler’s Germany provide the core at E Block and an opportunity for focused comparative study. The chronological and conceptual span is more expansive in the D Block, ranging from the brinkmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis to the struggle for political, economic and national freedoms in the Middle East. The course provides a superb pathway to popular A Level options including History, Global Politics, Economics, and Geography.

At A Level we use OCR. Pupils are given a choice of four different historical options to allow them to explore their own particular interest. The periods on offer may vary according to staff availability and interests, and the following is based on the current sets studying in the Upper School.

Medieval c. 790-1192

  • Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest, 1035-1107
  • The Crusades and the Crusader States, 1095-1192
  • The Viking Age c. 790-1066

Early Modern 1445-1815

  • England 1445-1509: Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII
  • The French Revolution and the Rule of Napoleon, 1774-1815
  • Popular culture and the Witchcraze of the 16th and 17th Centuries

Modern 1603-1964

  • The Early Stuarts and the Origins of the English Civil War, 1603-1660
  • The American Revolution, 1740-1796
  • Russia and its Rulers, 1855-1964

Late Modern 1783-1992

  • From Pitt to Peel: Britain 1783-1853
  • Democracy and Dictatorships in Germany, 1919-1963
  • Civil Rights in the USA 1865-1992

The department has ten members whose enthusiasm and range of expertise allow us to offer this wide curriculum. All sets are taught by experts in their particular field. Throughout the School pupils are strongly encouraged to develop their own reading and research. Classroom study is supported by History Society meetings, trips and visiting speakers.

The department is noted for its excellent Oxbridge preparation and has a flourishing academic society, HYDRA, which meets regularly to welcome speakers and for pupils to present papers. The department also hosts the Bloxam Project, an academic journal for pupils and staff. The expectation is that all ambitious A-level historians will seek to contribute to the intellectual life of the department as part of their engagement with the subject at this higher level. In addition to what we offer within school, pupils also have the opportunity to attend lecture days in London and to enter History competitions run by Oxford and Cambridge.

There are regular trips both within the United Kingdom and abroad to supplement our studies. These have recently included visits to Berlin and Krakow, RAF Cosford, IWM Duxford and the Thackray Museum for F Block and GCSE Historians and to Washington DC for our Upper School pupils.

Bloxam Project: Click below to read