Oscar Wilde famously wrote “Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it”. At IPS, we aspire to meet Wilde’s challenge of writing History to the highest levels. Our starting point is to empower all pupils with the understanding that they can act like a professional historian. The History Department’s emphasis is one of investigation; one in which pupils are encouraged to engage with and assess source material to come to their own reasoned conclusions. Weighty questions, such as what makes one monarch’s reign particularly significant compared to another; what really caused the demise of the British Empire; and was it really opposition at home that forced America to leave Vietnam are the staple diet of our debates and investigations.
While we obviously make full use the written word, pictorial and film evidence, we also seek to explore History through different and more imaginative mediums. Thus, in S7, groups were encouraged to consider the strengths and weaknesses of Norman Motte and Bailey castles by building one for prep. Pupils also face historical dilemmas where they have to empathise both with people from the past and the historical situation. Where possible, the discipline seeks to make links with contemporary historical developments and current affairs. Visiting speakers, such as the yearly visit by a Holocaust survivor, help give pupils a greater understanding of the terrible reality of some historical events. Other visits, such as the S10 one to the World War I battlefields, provide an experience that few will ever forget.