The course is designed to introduce students to “historiography”. In delivering the course, my aim is to encourage and inspire pupils from deprived state schools to think about applying to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities to read History. As an example, in its first year, pupils came from four schools, including two schools with a high proportion of pupils on free school meals.
Historiography is the study of the philosophy of history. It helps students to answer questions like:
- What is history?
- What is the purpose of history?
- Is it possible to reach a final version of History?
- How are historical events explained, when some events seem accidental?
- How does history shape identity?
- Is History an art or a science?
- What drives historical change?
- What is Marxist history?
- Do the histories of minority groups require wider recognition?
Many of the questions above are broached in university interviews or entrance examinations.
Here is one answer to why the study of History is important:
“My personal view of what the humanities are for is simple – they should help us to live. We should look to culture for useful ideas about how to face our most pressing personal and professional issues. It should be the job of a university education to tease out the therapeutic and illuminative aspects of culture, so that we can emerge from a period of study as slightly less disturbed, selfish, unempathetic and blinkered human beings, who can be of greater benefit not only to the economy, but also to our friends, our children and our spouses.”
Alain de Botton, ‘A Point of View: Justifying Culture’, 2001