The History Department is housed in Street and Blomfields’ splendid Museum Block (1881-3), at the very heart of the College. In the midst of the classrooms is the magnificent Garnett Room, which serves as a history library and lecture hall.
The History courses and programmes at Marlborough are busy, dynamic and popular and the subject is presented in extremely diverse ways. Above all, we aim to develop enthusiasm and a thirst for knowledge, since we believe these to be the most useful motors to build expertise. Central to the department’s ethos is that pupils understand that the taught courses – rich though they are – are merely fragments of much broader histories, and we are proud to present very many opportunities for all pupils to grasp the significance and drama of the wider developments of cultures and civilisations. We believe that with this wider understanding, History will be of particular use, and that it will help pupils to perform at the highest level they can in the exams.
Amid the challenges and opportunities facing our and other societies, a comprehension of History appears as urgent as ever. We are adamant that the material pupils encounter is put in the context of today’s world: this goes for all kinds of history (from political to social, cultural, religious, economic and environmental). The value of our role in deciphering the purport and worth of sources is also increasingly obvious when we consider the overwhelming amount of (frequently untrustworthy) information we face.
The department is staffed by experts in a broad range of topic areas, from medieval culture to 18th-century ideology to modern politics, and beaks tend to teach their specialisms. Teaching is creative, dynamic, and – as far as possible – geared up to the particular interests and requirements of individual pupils.
In the Shell, History is incorporated (in numerous different ways) into the Form programme. Thereafter, those who choose to study it (typically about 2/3rds of the year group) will follow the CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) IGCSE ‘Modern World’ programme. This allows an exploration of dramatic and too often tragic international tensions (1919 to the 1980s), as well as spectacular domestic crises in one country (Germany 1919–1945).
In the Sixth Form, we offer courses from CIE’s Pre-U syllabus. There are three ‘routes’, with four or five classes in each year group (typically about 50 pupils), and where possible staff teach their subject specialisms. We have a strong and popular tradition of medieval history, and several classes study 11th–13th century England and 12th–14th century Europe, including the Crusades, the Italian city states, and the Capetian/Plantagenet struggle. Other classes study the English Civil War and the development of Britain and its empire in the 18th century, together with the ‘Age of Revolutions’ in Europe (from the French Revolution to the First World War). The third route involves a tight exploration of 20th-century British politics, together with an examination of 19th and early 20th century European states, culminating in an analysis of the Russian Revolution.
We offer a huge number of enrichment opportunities, which go far beyond the classroom syllabuses. We have a splendid library, housed in the beautiful and much used Garnett Room. The latter also serves as the hub for a variety of co-curricular clubs and events. At the core of these is HATA (the History and the Arts society), whose purpose is to explore links between all historical periods and their cultural context. Through HATA, pupils are encouraged to gain a very wide knowledge and understanding of contrasting periods and patterns across the ages. The busy and well-attended HATA programme includes a weekly seminar as well as weekly trips for both juniors and seniors: these might encounter anything from ancient oak woods to Norman churches to factories in Swindon.
There is much else in addition to HATA. We welcome several distinguished speakers each year, and have special public ‘Medley’ evenings in which ambitious pupils give short lectures on areas of interest. Once a year, we all dress up garishly and re-enact a great historical event, and dozens of pupils cheerfully wield hockey sticks: recent examples have been Agincourt, Culloden and the Russian Revolution. We also have a regular Quiz, a Question Time, and there are numerous meetings tailored to the interests of pupils, such as a recent ‘Spanish Reconquista Breakfast’. There are also several foreign trips, and these reflect our desire to go beyond the standard curriculum: recently we have been to Morocco, Tuscany and Berlin.
CAF Moule MA (Head of Department)
D E Adamson BA
M B Blossom MA
M P L Bush BA
Lady Cayley MA
A J Hamilton MA
W J Molyneux BA
R A Sandall BCom BA