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Opening time capsules and tracing footsteps

At RIC we empower our students to become adept interpreters of historical narratives, capable of constructing compelling arguments rooted in evidence and analysis. Through meticulous research and thoughtful reflection, our students engage with the past not as passive observers, but as active participants in the ongoing dialogue of history.

We explore at A level the challenges and triumphs that shaped nations and ideologies. From the gritty battles of the English Civil War to the seismic shifts of American politics, our students dive deep into the heart of historical debates, wielding primary sources like seasoned detectives. And with the NEA Historical Investigation, they're not just spectators – they're the historians, unraveling mysteries that redefine our understanding of the past.


Exam Specifications

Assessment methods 

80% Exam, 20% coursework 
Length of exams: 2 x 2h30 exams
Breakdown of units:

The Making of a Superpower: The USA 1865-1975 

This unit provides an overview of US history in the period 1865– 1975 as it responded to a series of challenges both from outside and within the USA. Students will examine the role of individual presidents, the factors working for and against change, and how foreign and domestic policy changed to meet the various crises. There will be opportunities to consider interpretations of how the USA developed during this period and to engage in the various debates over key incidents in US history. The study of events between 1865 and 1975 will enable students to compare, explain and assess the nature, pace and extent of change and its impact on domestic and foreign policy.

The English Revolution 1625-1660 

This unit promotes an understanding of change and continuity over approximately 50 years of British history. It provides for the study in depth of the challenges faced by those in authority in
the years before, during and after the English Civil War. It explores concepts such as Divine Right; arbitrary government, Arminianism, and political and religious radicalism. It also encourages an in-depth understanding of how government works, arbitrary government and consensus, authority and opposition and issues of settlement. The unit allows students to study historical sources and assess their utility in relation to its historical context.

NEA Historical Investigation

This is the coursework unit. Students carry out individual research on an issue that has attracted considerable historical debate and are required to produce a piece of coursework of 3500 words. The piece must address a specific question and be contextualised within a period of 100 years. Students are also required to show their historical skills by including use of primary sources and a discussion of two historical interpretations in depth. The topic for the investigation is the collapse of Tsardom in Russia, focusing on the period 1825-1917.

Assessment method

Two exams worth 73% (paper 1: 40% and paper 2: 33%) and coursework worth 27% 

Exam length
Paper 1: 2hrs
Paper 2: 2 hrs 

Breakdown of units

Paper 1: This paper assesses students’ ability to recall, select, organise and deploy knowledge and the ability to construct historical explanations. The paper has two  sections.

Section A is on the Core Content. There will be 4 questions on Core Content Option B, and students must answer two.

Section B is on the Depth Study, there will be 2 questions and students answer 1.

The Core Content Option B of the IGCSE syllabus covers: 20th century international relations since 1919:

Were the peace treaties of 1919–23 fair?

To what extent was the League of Nations a success?

Why had international peace collapsed by 1939?

Who was to blame for the Cold War?

How effectively did the USA contain the spread of Communism?

How secure was the USSR’s control over Eastern Europe, 1948–c.1989?

Why did events in the Gulf matter, c.1970–2000?

The Depth Study will be Russia: 1905-41 (subject to change). This course covers 4 key questions:

1. Why did the Tsarist regime collapse in 1917?
2. How did the Bolsheviks gain power, and how did they consolidate their rule?
3. How did Stalin gain and hold on to power?
4. What was the impact of Stalin’s economic policies?

Paper 2: This paper primarily assesses students’ ability to understand, interpret, evaluate and use a range of sources as evidence. For the June 2022 exam the prescribed topic is: How secure was the USSR’s control over Eastern Europe, 1948–c.1989? For the June 2023 examination the theme will be: Why had international peace collapsed by 1939? The source and questions will be on this topic only. The topic changes every year.


Students need to write a 2000 essay addressing a question set by the teacher. The topic of the coursework will be based on the content studied for the Depth Study (Russia). The coursework will require students to engage directly with a question related to assessing the significance of a specific aspect studied. The coursework will be completed in year 11.

Curious about History?


In Our Time (

Broad BBC radio show with 20 years of archives. There are a wide range of historical programmes, neatly ordered by topic or century on the website.

More Perfect (

An interesting series of discussions of the Supreme Court, its relationship with the rest of government, powers and some key cases relevant to the course.

Backstory (

A podcast created by historians which discusses an aspect of US history each week.

Presidential (

Washington Post podcast surveying all US presidents. WP has a similar podcast exploring the Constitution called Constitutional.

Revolutions (

A podcast charting and comparing the causes, courses and consequences of most major revolutions in history. Go back to the beginning in the archives for the English Revolution - it is the first he covered in his series.

Khan Academy (

A website with a range of ‘lessons’, articles and videos available.

The Art of the Levellers (

A website devoted to the revolutionary seekers of democracy in 17th century England. Very relevant for the A level English Revolution course.


Germs, Guns & Steel by Jared Diamond
convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world.

Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Noah Yuval Harari spans the entirety of human history and explains how humans dominated the earth.


13th (Netflix)
Documentary covering the African American experience since Reconstruction. Advances a position but has useful and interesting arguments regarding the changing nature of representation in America.

Race for the White House (Netflix)
A more traditional documentary, covering key presidential races.

Ken Burns: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History; The West; Prohibition; The Civil War; The War
A wide range of Ken Burns documentaries are available on various streaming platforms.

Crash Course: US History ( and Crash Course: World History
Short videos on a range of periods and topics. The World History series is more wide-ranging and exploratory and the US History more thorough.


Social History Cool Kids (Instagram) (
An interesting account introducing lesser-known events in history.

History Photographed (Instagram) (
An eclectic collection of photography, by necessity largely covering the twentieth century.

RIC detectorists and dark academia

RIC amateur archaeologists have been digging up the past under the enthusiastic historical oversight of Vice Principal and History teacher Ellen Crozier. Ethan in year 8 found a medieval coin that sparked a College wide numismatic investigation. His coin was eventually identified as a very lightly clipped and pitted halfgroat of Henry VI with the KCC finds specialist saying ‘Your group has done a much better job than the average archaeologist could do, coins tend to be a quite specialist field.”

Even more exciting is the discovery of RIC’s very own witch’s bottle, dating we suspect from the 17th century. Witch bottles were countermagical devices, supposed to ward off witches and were placed in walls, often containing pins, human hair and urine.

Ours was discovered in a cesspit behind Gainsborough when we were extending the building over ten years ago. It was not recognised as a witch bottle by the archaeologist at the time and stored with other finds considered less significant in the RIC cellar until visiting mudlarker Fleur Alston of Kit and Caboodlers fame who was trawling the College site identified it as a witch bottle this summer. We followed guidance from the Museum of London’s bottles concealed and revealed team live streamed the opening of its contents.