A Level History Course

Ashbourne’s A level History students take an epic journey spanning four hundred years to investigate how major events, turning points and conflicts of the past have shaped our world.

Why study A level History?

Travelling back in time forces us to examine the many forces – social, economic, political, cultural – that influence behaviour and bring about change. It reveals the complexity of human nature and helps us make more sense of the world we live in now.

As a history detective you will learn how to gather and critically analyse information and sources, sift through facts and draw conclusions, argue your point yet consider others’ and illustrate how past events affect what goes on today.

Ashbourne students are encouraged to analyse, evaluate and interpret a wide range of sources so they can discuss and debate issues from differing perspectives, gain a better understanding of events and paint a vivid picture of the past.

We take full advantage of all the excellent exhibitions and events going on in London to help students contextualise their history and get a taste of what different times were like.

Past excursions include the Pepys exhibition called ‘Fire, Plague, Revolution’ at the Royal Maritime Museum; travelling the 17th century way by boat from the Embankment; visits to the Imperial War Museum; and exploring historical issues and figures through art at the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy and Tate Britain. King Charles I, for example, gathered an extraordinary art collection which is house at the Royal Academy and includes artwork by Titian, Mantegna, Holbein and Dürer.

History is a very highly regarded subject and excellent foundation for many degree courses.

European trip

Every year Ashbourne students have the chance to visit a major European city, such as Rome, Athens, Madrid, Paris and Barcelona, during the Spring half term. The trip is an extremely popular cultural and historical experience and a fantastic opportunity for A level History students. It is also a real highlight of many students’ time at Ashbourne.

Beyond A level History

With your finely honed investigative skills you will be well equipped to pursue a career as a private detective, high court judge, national politician or political revolutionary, undercover economist, campaign journalist, intelligence spy and more.

History is a highly regarded A level and is an excellent foundation for degree courses in Law, International Relations, other Humanities subjects, and History. It also complements a selection of science and art-based courses.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the AQA syllabus for History A level.

What is covered in the course?

Stuart Britain 1603-1702, Russia 1917-1953 and France 1789-1905 are the three components covered in this linear course.

Stuart Britain 1603-1702

Breath study: Stuart Britain and the Crisis of Monarchy (1D)
Disputes over religion, opposition forces and powerful individuals and ideology all added to the volatile relationship that existed between Crown, Parliament and the people in Britain during the 17th century.

In this component you will study the reigns of James I and Charles II as well as the Interregnum and discuss how effective the early Stuarts were in establishing and consolidating their monarchy in the period 1603–1702.

In 1642 Civil War broke out between King and Parliament and transformed English politics and society. Students will examine a wide range of historical perspectives and interpretations of this period including those of Barry Coward, Conrad Russell and Christopher Hill.

From a world turned upside down by the Civil War emerged Oliver Cromwell, a military and political leader who presided over the execution of the King. Following his death the monarchy was restored but religious and political strife quickly resurfaced.

Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, 80 marks, 40% of overall result.

Russia 1917-1953

Depth Study: Revolution and Dictatorship – Russia 1917-1953
In 1917 the people of Russia embarked on a vast experiment.  A small group of Marxist revolutionaries seized power and imposed communist ideas on what came to be known as the USSR. This resulted in great suffering but also astonishing transformation.
In this unit you will investigate the legacy of the Russian Revolution under Lenin and Stalin. You will explore its impact on the people of the USSR and the wider world.
Written exam: 2 hours 30 minutes, 80 marks, 40% of overall result.

France 1789-1905

Historical investigation: France, 1789-1905
Hot on the heels of American revolutionaries and emboldened by Enlightenment ideals the citizens of France rose up in 1789 to overthrow the monarchy and smash the feudal system. A ‘Reign of Terror’ then ensued as the revolutionaries turned in on each other leading ultimately to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte by the late 1790s. The dramatic events of the French Revolution transformed the political landscape forever in France and for the rest of Europe.

What were the underlying causes and events that led to such an uprising and how did the tensions and divisions among the revolutionaries make way for Napoleon? How has the legacy of the revolution shaped France and Europe? These are some of the questions you will need to address for this component.

Internally assessed coursework: France in Revolution, 1789-1905; 40 marks or 20% of overall result.

Who teaches this course?

Joanna Budden

BA History (Leeds); PGCE (Manchester Metropolitan University)

Joanna has been teaching History at Ashbourne for many years and is also an examiner for the Edexcel exam board. She is a keen traveller and loves the great outdoors.

Wesley Rykalski

BA History (UCL); MA Medieval Studies (UCL)

As well as teaching History at Ashbourne Wesley runs a very popular Critical Theory seminar with English Faculty Head James Wilkes.

Reading and resources


Bel-Ami, Guy de Maupassant
Georges Duroy, a poor journalist from Normandy, ruthlessly seduces his way to the top of Parisian society by manipulating a succession of wealthy and powerful mistresses. Maupassant’s classic French satire explores attitudes toward sex, money and power during French colonisation of North Africa.

Père Goriot, Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
In Balzac’s gritty commentary on wealth and desire in post-Napoleonic France Père Goriot meets his downfall as he sacrifices everything for his ambitious daughters while social climber Rastignac forsakes his integrity for fortune. This novel is part of Balzac’s most famous work La Comédie Humaine.

French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac’s realist style has influenced many famous writers and philosophers including Zola, Dickens and Engels.

Madam Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
Gustave Flaubert’s Madam Bovary shocked the nation and almost wound him in gaol when it was first published in 1857. His tale of a bored housewife’s passion to escape her dreary bourgeois life by means of adultery and lavish lifestyle was seen as scandalous by many.

Les-Rougon-Macquart, Emile Zola
Emile Zola paints a stark and brutally honest picture of French society during the Second Empire (1852-1870) in this epic fictional family drama.

A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel
Hilary Mantel brings to life three key figures of the French Revolution – Danton, Robespierre and Desmoulins – each bringing their own passions, peculiarities and agendas to the struggle. As their grip on power slips they too must face the horrors that have been unleashed.

Hilary Mantel is two-time Man Booker Prize Winner for her novels about Thomas Cromwell: Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies.

Restoration, Rose Tremain
Robert Merivel’s world is transformed when he is given a place at the court of King Charles II. He is soon stripped of his new life of luxury and exuberance for failing his duty. He is cast on a journey of self discovery which takes him to the depths of seventeenth-century society to win back the King’s favour.

Very short introduction books
Oxford University Press produces very short introduction books on a wide range of subjects.

History: A Very Short Introduction, John Arnold
Brief look at how we study and understand history with real examples to explain concepts like causation, interpretation and periodisation.

The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction, William Doyle
This book describes and analyses the causes, events and consequences of the French Revolution as well as its legacy. It also draws on fiction and legend to illustrate how the Revolution has shaped our lives today, from decimalisation to human rights.

Stuart Britain: A Very Short Introduction, John Morrill
This book sets the period into its political, religious, social, economic, intellectual and cultural contexts in fine detail.

Fascism: A Very Short Introduction, Kevin Passmore
This book explores the nature of fascism and traces the intellectual, political and social origins of the rise of fascism in the nineteenth century.

Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991, Orlando Figes (Pelican Introduction)
This is readable introduction explores the history of Russia from the viewpoint of the people themselves.


A History of Britain, Simon Schama
Four-part BBC series covering the French Revolution, Reign of Queen Victoria, liberal politics and free-market economics of British Empire and Winston Churchill and George Orwell on the 20th Century.

Monarchy, David Starkey
From the depths of the dark ages, through Stuart Succession and Cromwell the King Killer to the rise of House of Windsor David Starkey’s plots the epic ups and downs of British Monarchy in this four-series Channel Four production.

The Stuarts, Dr Claire Jackson
“The Stuarts were Britain’s defining royal family,” argues Dr Clare Jackson of Cambridge University in this three-part BBC series.

American (PBS) mini-series telling the story of Napoleon’s rocky journey to become emperor. (YouTube)


In our Time, with Melvyn Bragg
Highly acclaimed BBC Radio 4 discussion programme presented by Melvyn Bragg exploring the history of ideas. Great selection of episodes on historical themes, events and key figures.

History on the BBC
Discover a wealth of historical drama, documentary and debate from BBC History on radio and iPlayer.


National Portrait Gallery
Take a look at the faces from history at the National Portrait Gallery where they hold 200,000 portraits of famous men and women from the 16th century to today.

Museum of London
Explore the history of London since prehistoric times.

Chateau de Versailles
Jump on the Eurostar to Paris and visit the Chateau de Versailles to see the faces of the French Revolution.


Stuart Britain
AQA A Level History: Stuart Britain and the Crisis of Monarchy, 1603-1702
Angela Anderson and Dale Scarboro

The Coming of the Civil War
David Sharp, (Heinemann, 2000)

Rethinking History
Keith Jenkins, (Routledge, 2003)

Century of Revolution
Christopher Hill, (Routledge, 2001)

Tudor and Stuart Britain
Roger Lockyer, (Routledge, 2004)

England 1625-1660
Dale Scarboro, (Hodder, 2005)

The Stuart Age
Barry Coward, (Routledge, 2003)

Russia 1917-1953
Oxford AQA History for A Level: Revolution and Dictatorship 1917-1953
Sally Waller, Chris Rowe, (Oxford A Level History for AQA)
Russia under Tsarism and Communism 1881-1953
Chris Corin, Terry Fiehn, (SHP Advanced History Core Texts)

French Revolution

The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction
William Doyle (Oxford, 2001)

France 1870-1914
Robert Gildea (Routledge, 1996)

Children of the Revolution
Robert Gildea

France 1814-70: Monarchy, Republic and Empire
Keith Randell (Hodder and Stoughton, 1991)

France: The Third Republic 1870-1914
Keith Randell (Hodder and Stoughton, 1991)

The Age of Revolution
Eric Hobsbawn

Revolutionary France
Francois Furet, (Wiley-Blackwell, 1995)

A Level Menu ☰
A Level Menu ☰