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A Level History Topics

The following list of A Level History topics will help you to understand exactly which topics you are studying and how your course is broken down in terms of assessment. This post covers all the three main exam boards of AQA, Edexcel and OCR.

No matter which exam board and modules you are studying in order to get your best result at A Level History you will need to learn and improve certain techniques.

Pass A Level History – is our sister site, which shows you step by step, how to most effectively answer any A Level History extract, source or essay question. Please click the following link to visit the site and get access to your free preview lesson.

ideas for a level history coursework

AQA Assessment Breakdown

Historical Investigation (Coursework) – 20% of final grade

Breadth Study (Exam) – 40% of final grade

Depth Study (Exam) – 40% of final grade

AQA A Level History Topics

Component 1: Breadth study

1A The Age of the Crusades, c1071–1204

1B Spain in the Age of Discovery, 1469–1598

1C The Tudors: England, 1485–1603

1D Stuart Britain and the Crisis of Monarchy, 1603–1702

1E Russia in the Age of Absolutism and Enlightenment, 1682–1796

1F Industrialisation and the people: Britain, c1783–1885

1G Challenge and transformation: Britain, c1851–1964

1H Tsarist and Communist Russia, 1855–1964

1J The British Empire, c1857–1967

1K The making of a Superpower: USA, 1865–1975

1L The quest for political stability: Germany, 1871–1991

Component 2: Depth study

2A Royal Authority and the Angevin Kings, 1154–1216

2B The Wars of the Roses, 1450–1499

2C The Reformation in Europe, c1500–1564

2D Religious conflict and the Church in England, c1529–c1570

2E The English Revolution, 1625–1660

2F The Sun King: Louis XIV, France and Europe, 1643–1715

2G The Birth of the USA, 1760–1801

2H France in Revolution, 1774–1815

2J America: A Nation Divided, c1845–1877

2K International Relations and Global Conflict, c1890–1941

2L Italy and Fascism, c1900–1945

2M Wars and Welfare: Britain in Transition, 1906–1957

A Level History Topics - Edexcel

Edexcel Assessment Breakdown

Research Enquiry (Coursework) – 20% of grade

Breadth Study with Interpretations (Exam) – 30% of grade

Depth Study (Exam) – 20% of grade

Themes in Breadth + Aspects in Depth (Exam) 30% of grade

Ed Excel A Level History Topics

Breadth study with interpretations

1A: The crusades, c1095–1204

1B: England, 1509–1603: authority, nation and religion

1C: Britain, 1625–1701: conflict, revolution and settlement

1D: Britain, c1785–c1870: democracy, protest and reform

1E: Russia, 1917–91: from Lenin to Yeltsin

1F: In search of the American Dream: the USA, c1917–96

1G: Germany and West Germany, 1918–89

1H: Britain transformed, 1918–97

Depth study

2A.1: Anglo-Saxon England and the Anglo-Norman Kingdom, c1053–1106

2A.2: England and the Angevin Empire in the reign of Henry II, 1154–89

2B.1: Luther and the German Reformation, c1515–55

2B.2: The Dutch Revolt, c1563–1609

2C.1: France in revolution, 1774–99

2C.2: Russia in revolution, 1894–1924

2D.1: The unification of Italy, c1830–70

2D.2: The unification of Germany, c1840–71

2E.1: Mao’s China, 1949–76

2E.2: The German Democratic Republic, 1949–90

2F.1: India, c1914–48: the road to independence

2F.2: South Africa, 1948–94: from apartheid state to ‘rainbow nation’

2G.1: The rise and fall of fascism in Italy, c1911–46

2G.2: Spain, 1930–78: republicanism, Francoism and the re-establishment of democracy

2H.1: The USA, c1920–55: boom, bust and recovery

Themes in breadth with aspects in depth

30: Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII, 1399–1509

31: Rebellion and disorder under the Tudors, 1485–1603

32: The Golden Age of Spain, 1474–1598

33: The witch craze in Britain, Europe and North America, c1580–c1750

34.1: Industrialisation and social change in Britain, 1759–1928: forging a new society

34.2: Poverty, public health and the state in Britain, c1780–1939

35.1: Britain: losing and gaining an empire, 1763–1914

35.2: The British experience of warfare, c1790–1918

36.1: Protest, agitation and parliamentary reform in Britain, c1780–1928

36.2: Ireland and the Union, c1774–1923

37.1: The changing nature of warfare, 1859–1991: perception and reality

37.2: Germany, 1871–1990: united, divided and reunited

38.1: The making of modern Russia, 1855–1991

38.2: The making of modern China, 1860–1997

39.1: Civil rights and race relations in the USA, 1850–2009

39.2: Mass media and social change in Britain, 1882–2004

A Level History Topics - OCR

OCR Assessment Breakdown

Topic Based Essay (Coursework) – 20% of grade

British Period Study and Enquiry (Exam) – 25% of grade

Non-British Period Study (Exam) – 15% of grade

Thematic Study and Interpretations (Exam) – 40% of grade

OCR A Level History Topics

British Period Study and Enquiry

Alfred and the making of England 871—1016

Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest 1035—1107

England 1199—1272

England 1377—1455

England 1445—1509: Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII

England 1485—1558: the early Tudors

England 1547—1603: the late Tudors

The early Stuarts and the origins of the Civil War 1603—1660

The making of Georgian Britain 1678 — c. 1760

From Pitt to Peel: Britain 1783—1853

Liberals, Conservatives and the rise of Labour 1846—1918

Britain 1900—1951

Britain 1930—1997

Non-British Period Study

The rise of Islam c. 550 — 750

Charlemagne 768—814

The Crusades and the crusader states 1095—1192

Genghis Khan and the explosion from the Steppes c. 1167 — 1405

Exploration, Encounters and Empire 1445—1570

Spain 1469—1556

The German Reformation and the rule of Charles V 1500—1559

Philip II 1556—1598

African kingdoms c. 1400 — c. 1800: four case studies

Russia 1645—1741

The rise and decline of the Mughal Empire in India 1526—1739

The American Revolution 1740—1796

The French Revolution and the rule of Napoleon 1774—1815

France 1814—1870

Italy and unification 1789—1896

The USA in the 19th Century: Westward expansion and Civil War 1803 — c. 1890

Japan 1853—1937

International relations 1890—1941

Russia 1894—1941

Italy 1896—1943

Democracy and dictatorships in Germany 1919—1963

The Cold War in Asia 1945—1993

The Cold War in Europe 1941—1995

Apartheid and reconciliation: South African politics 1948—1999

Thematic Study and Historical Interpretations

The early Anglo-Saxons c. 400 — 800

The Viking age c. 790 — 1066

English government and the Church 1066—1216

The Church and medieval heresy c. 1100 — 1437

The Renaissance c. 1400 — c. 1600

Rebellion and disorder under the Tudors 1485—1603

Tudor foreign policy 1485—1603

The Catholic Reformation 1492—1610

The ascendancy of the Ottoman Empire 1453—1606

The development of the nation state: France 1498—1610

The origins and growth of the British Empire 1558—1783

Popular culture and the witchcraze of the 16th and 17th centuries

The ascendancy of France 1610—1715

The challenge of German nationalism 1789—1919

The changing nature of warfare 1792—1945

Britain and Ireland 1791—1921

China and its rulers 1839—1989

Russia and its rulers 1855—1964

Civil Rights in the USA 1865—1992

From colonialism to independence: The British Empire 1857—1965

How To Improve at A Level History

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ideas for a level history coursework

History Coursework: how to Choose the Best Question

So, just when you thought your first A-level History year was over and you could relax before tackling next year, you have to think about your history coursework. This will be the non-exam assessment (NEA) or Historical Investigation.  It can cause a lot of angst amongst students but taking some time and thinking it through carefully before you start can make the world of difference.

1. Choose to study something interesting for your history coursework

If you have the chance to choose whichever topic you like for your history coursework and set your own question, or if you are given a list of different topics, choose one you are genuinely interested in. You will be working on this piece for months, so it makes sense to choose something that will hold your interest.

2. Make sure there are no clashes with your other topics

In practice, there are constraints set by the various exam boards to make sure that your topic does not overlap with the components you are already studying for your A level or Pre U. Your exam centre (school, college or independent centre) will need to have your question approved by the exam board and they will not approve a topic with an obvious overlap. For example, if you are already studying the Tudors for AQA, it is unlikely that you can  study a topic set in England between 1485 to 1603. Therefore, if you are setting your own question, ask yourself if it overlaps in date or topic with one of your components. If it does, you will need to find an alternative. Each exam board has slightly different rules, so check on their website to see what the rules are for your exam board.

3. Find your source material early

For your history coursework, you will need to find two types of source material – primary and secondary:

P rimary sources are those that were written at the time and you will also need to find a range of these to support your investigation. To achieve high marks you should look for a variety of primary sources, for example, a letter, a report, a painting, a speech etc.

Secondary sources are scholarly books or articles by historians, or what the a-level exam boards call ‘interpretations.’ this means that your investigation will only be viable if historians have written about the topic and, preferably, argued over it. you will need to understand the arguments that provide a framework for your chosen topic. historians call this the historiography..

Therefore, the question you set yourself will only be able to achieve high marks if you make sure there are both secondary sources (scholarly argument) and primary sources (original material) to support your investigation. If you cannot find these, you should re-think your question.

History Coursework

4. Remember you actually have to answer the question!

It sounds really obvious – but remember that you actually have to answer the question you set yourself!  You need to choose something that is achievable in the time frame and gives you a good chance of success. A good question will give you a framework within which to research and write – you are looking for something that is not too vague nor too wide.

You also need something that you can address in the historical time frame (e.g. around 100 years for AQA) and a topic that you can analyse and evaluate in approximately 3, 500 words (check the word limit for your own exam board). In practice, any question that is too wide, too vague or unlikely to be achievable should be vetoed either by your school/college/independent centre or the exam board. However, this will waste your valuable time and is not totally foolproof, so choose an achievable project to give yourself a fighting chance of achieving that elusive A grade.

5. Choose a good format for your history coursework question

The standard ‘for and against’ question format will always be a good choice and will give you a framework within which to set your investigation. There are various ways to word such a question e.g. ‘How far…’, To what extent…’ ‘Within the context of … how important was…’ which will give you a clear framework and a direction for your investigation. Keep it simple is good advice here. Remember, though, to define your framework by including the date range in your question. For example ‘Within the context of 1790 to 1890, how important was…?’

Done well, the NEA or Personal Investigation will teach you a huge amount about how historians work, how sources are used and how to construct an argument. This will help you enormously when you come to the final exams and it can be a very valuable contribution to your qualification. It can also be enjoyable as it is your first chance to ‘do’ some real historical research. Choose your question with care and you automatically give yourself a head start.

Exam Board History Coursework Guidance

AQA Guidance

Cambridge Pre U Guidance

OCR Guidance

Edexcel Guidance

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ideas for a level history coursework

The top 10 most popular history topics taught to A-level students – in pictures

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Coursework Topics and Ideas You Won’t Resist

College and university students are required to write different types of academic papers, and coursework is one of them. In order to write coursework, students usually have to conduct independent research on a particular topic presenting both its theoretical backgrounds and own scientific conclusions. The main difficulty in writing coursework lies in need to present an in-depth analysis of a topic that is relevant and needs investigation. Besides, any coursework should have scientific novelty and be based on credible and reliable data. The nature of coursework can be different depending on a particular scientific field or discipline. For example, coursework in Literature can be based on the literary analysis of a particular work or several works or personal interpretations of a certain literary style or period. In order to write coursework in Biology, one may need to conduct some experiments, run tests, and investigate the nature of certain organisms or other phenomena. For coursework in Mathematics, one can use data retrieved from accurate calculations and investigate different approaches to a particular mathematical problem or puzzle.

To write perfect coursework, a student should first choose an effective topic. This stage is one of the most important in writing coursework. A student should find a captivating topic that needs investigation and can be developed in an interesting and informative independent research. The topic should be relevant and not outdated. Besides, it should be not too general and at the same time not too narrow. Finally, the topic should correspond to one’s interests and background knowledge. While choosing a topic, a student should follow all the professor’s requirements. Also, it is helpful when a professor provides students with a list of suggested topics.

Topics and Ideas for Coursework

In case you have to choose a topic by yourself, here are some examples of the topics you can use for your coursework.

All things considered, coursework writing is an essential part of the studying process. Students can be required to write coursework in different disciplines. The nature of coursework strongly depends on a particular field of studies. The success in writing coursework lies in choosing a catchy topic that will be captivating and informative. The topic of your research should correspond to your interests and knowledge. This will definitely make coursework writing an easy and exciting process. Besides, while writing coursework, you have to follow the professor’s requirements concerning format, structure, and content of your coursework. You should cite all the used sources properly and avoid plagiarism. Even if some idea is paraphrased and taken from an outside source indirectly, it should be cited. Also, it is essential to follow the topic accurately and develop informative independent research on it. It means that you have to develop a coherent and consistent work that combines your theoretical knowledge and practical skills.

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Getting ready for a level history coursework - mike goddard.

As anticipated, we’ve had a notable increase in queries about coursework and titles submitted for approval over the last few weeks. So I thought it would be a good idea to post a reminder of a couple of key documents about the unit: you can access the official teacher guide which has advice on what makes a good title and a good essay, as well as explaining the mark scheme and including an example of marked work.

The coursework in our new specification is a much more ‘university-style’ essay – driven by knowledge and argument, though still using sources critically (both primary and secondary), rather than the source-evaluation exercise (worthy as that is) that constitutes the legacy coursework. Some students may therefore find the Independent Study Guide , produced by Leif Jerram at the University of Manchester, useful.

Picking a topic

You can approach coursework in a number of different ways: one approach is to base titles on topics studied elsewhere in the course. The only prohibition of content is the unit 3 depth studies. Or you can pick a different, fourth topic, which will help diversify the content of the course and enable you to capitalise on resources you have built up for legacy specifications. With either of those options students must still have choice of titles. Or, students can research a topic of their own interest – already so far we have had proposals on the Barbarians, Vlad the Impaler, Franco’s dictatorship, and modern Japan.

If you feel that this free choice is appropriate for your students then the process could really benefit them. But equally, you must bear in mind that some students on less familiar ground may struggle to keep the relevance and tight argument for 3-4000 words. And you can be fully confident that it is just as possible to reach the higher bands of the mark scheme with more traditional questions – a balance of what is going to work for you and your students is necessary.

Finalising a question

Given the emphasis of marks for AO1 (knowledge, understanding, use of second order concepts, and judgment), the questions your students settle on need to set up a judgment, rather than a narrative, and they need to allow analysis using second concepts (one or more of change, continuity, cause, consequence, similarity, difference, significance). This will drive the essay, but your students need to be able to access a range (say 10-15 in total) of primary and secondary sources, which they’ll use critically as part of their essay. Primary sources can be visual or written; secondary sources – interpretations – must be later deliberate constructs but needn’t be whole academic history books.

There have to be different interpretations (not necessarily diametrically opposed views) to be considered and weighed up for their value, and primary sources: a good tip is, if your student wants to investigate a question you’re not sure about – tell them to present you with 6 or 7 primary sources and some historians’ views relevant to the question, if they can’t do that, they may need to rethink. The mark scheme does require evaluation of both primary sources and interpretations so this is good practice.

Getting titles approved

You may end up with several students choosing to do the same question. This is fine, there is no limit on the number of students who do this. It’s also fine if they end up using many of the same books as each other. The only thing you’re not allowed to do is to give them the sources that they must use.

Remember, all titles must be approved through our text and task approval service.

This is, however, just an approval service. You’ll just get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. This might be off putting if you get titles rejected, but if you do and you’re not sure why, email [email protected] and we’ll help to explain. Common reasons for questions not getting approved are closed question stems, too close to the unit 3 depth studies, moral or ethical dilemmas rather than historical ones, and manageability in 3-4000 words. A lot of our new centres are used to setting coursework in the context of 100 years – although this can work, there is no reason to do so.

We very much hope your students enjoy their coursework and that it sets them up with an interest in history, and ability to research and tackle problems, which will serve them well. 

About the author

ideas for a level history coursework

Mike is a history subject specialist and has worked at OCR on the history portfolio since 2007. Previously he has held roles at Cambridge International Examinations and for an educational publisher. Mike has a degree in Economic and Social History from the University of York and a Masters in Modern History from UCL. In his spare time he enjoys crosswords and snooker.

What exactly do you have to do for A-level history coursework?

ideas for a level history coursework

Thank you for your reply! Are there any specific timelines you must choose from? I am interested in modern history and writing a 4K essay on a modern topic seems much more interesting than writing the essay on something old.

i did mine in the easter half term in year 13 and ngl it was really hard work staying up till 5am some nights but it paid off ( got an A). you have to incorporate both primary and secondary sources, lots of reading and research including historian's and their credibility. some schools do theirs in year 12 which works but we did ours in year 13 because by then we would have developed our essay writing skills, although it was very hectic considering exams were really near. overall i'd say the coursework is pretty hard but if you stick to a clear plan and give yourself atleast 2 focused weeks to write it, you should be fine!

Thanks for your reply, I’ll make sure I have a solid 2 weeks to work on it.

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