Historians are academic detectives, piecing together answers from sources and investigating how evidence and public opinion may have been contaminated along the way. Our History School of Ideas will teach you to think like an historian. You’ll use new concepts and approaches to help you understand the past and explore the philosophy of history.
Sessions will be interactive and challenging, developing presentation and oral skills, encouraging you to explore beyond your syllabus and the perceived ambit of “your course”. Extensive reading lists will offer opportunities for further study and the focus of the sessions will encourage awareness of current affairs.
We will look at all kinds of weird and wonderful types of sources, from pop music, through ‘violent’ architecture to the love letter that set off the Cold War. We’ll stretch your imagination by looking at criminal court proceedings, comparisons to fiction and cutting edge psychology. With a few magical tricks up your sleeve, you’ll set to work producing a propaganda poster of your own.
We will also visit the great philosophers to question whether we can truly trust our own senses, let alone the senses recorded by a foreign scribe centuries ago.
One of the historian’s greatest pleasures is realising that a popular argument is flawed, then demolishing it. To learn the pitfalls of rhetoric and logic, you’ll be debating with a twist: you will aim to get it all wrong!
Once you’ve displayed your potential as a demagogue, you’ll don your lawyers wig (not literally, but feel free to bring props) and set about constructing arguments that are both water-tight and entertaining.
Now fully equipped to evaluate academic work, we’ll engage in a whistle-stop tour of modern history’s horizons, questioning whether geology can determine an empire’s future, whether pigs are the key to modernity, and whether Queen Elizabeth survived as a woman on the throne through an oft-overlooked vice. We will examine theories of gender, class and race, dabble in human sacrifice and witchcraft, and quite possibly meet a dragon.
The final session will return you to the present day. We will look at why history is a valid and important skill, rather than a mere hobby. You will consider how history has formed the world around you, and the opinions within it.
Group discussion of the major issues of today such as gay marriage, racism and Islam will fill you with a sense of history’s central role in life, before your try to imagine yourself aligned to alien politics and morality, and construct a brief narrative history to justify those quirks.
By the end of the day you will be well acquainted with handling and selecting sources, confident in evaluating and constructing arguments, mildly bewildered by the breadth and scope that modern historians tackle, and above all, energised to learn more.
Your day runs from 10am - 5.30pm in central London and is split into three sections, with breaks for lunch and well-earned snacks. As part of the day you'll receive a subject-specific workbook, a copy of our book So you want to go to Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana.., which gives you more challenging questions and suggestions as to how you can approach them, and a Course Report for the Oxbridge courses that might be right for you.
Come with an open mind, a thirsty brain and a tasty packed-lunch!