The study of History is a vital part of pupils’ education at Merchant Taylors’ Prep. The School is housed in a site of historical significance: the Manor of the More belonged to Thomas Wolsey and then Henry VIII, and was briefly home to Queen Katharine of Aragon. We encourage our pupils to think about what it means to work and play every day on a site of such special interest.
During their time here, pupils study the chronological past of Britain, developing an overview from the Roman period right through to the development of youth culture in the twentieth century. Some periods are studied in depth, and pupils are encouraged to identify and draw conclusions about how concepts such as kingship and democracy have developed over time. Our pupils also learn about some of the most significant non-British cultures and events that form part of our historical consciousness. What made the Greeks and Egyptians so special? How on earth did so many people convince themselves for so long that American slavery was acceptable? Why do some conflicts – such as the Crusades and the First World War – stick so long in the mind?
Effective historians must ask questions, challenge presuppositions, and learn to analyse the past. Throughout the Prep, our pupils learn how to structure an argument, selecting evidence to support their thesis; how to assess and extract meaning from sources; and how to quantify and evaluate change. By the time they reach Year 7, pupils are able to conduct independent historical investigations, for example into Indian independence or the great figures of the ancient world.
History is more than an academic discipline. The study of History is essential to creating good citizens, understanding our values, our culture and our sense of self. Pupils are encouraged to question our national identity: what do we remember at an Act of Remembrance? Is it possible to take an objective view of the past of one’s own people? Most of all, our pupils are encouraged to think about why there are so many competing representations of the past – representations found in the classroom, in textbooks, on DVDs, in popular culture, on visits to museums, to (other) royal palaces, and to the battlefields of Belgium.
History is taught as part of class topics by their form teachers up to Year 2. It is taught as a separate subject from Year 3 to Year 8.