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History & Politics

History and Politics are, of course, distinct subjects with their own appeal and importance, but they are also an integral part of the broader curriculum that the school offers.

History and historians are present in collaborations with other departments, in various trips and events, and as an intellectual underpinning for much of the academic activity in the School.

The Department’s ethos is rooted in thoughtful research, sceptical analysis and academic rigour. It promotes a culture of conversation and debate. The Department’s approach is an inclusive one, however, accepting the challenge of giving every Merchiston boy a sense of history and their place in the world. The curriculum has been devised so as to relate the history of Scotland to that of Britain, and to place Britain in a wider international context.

Staff

Lesley McDiarmid

Lesley McDiarmid

Teacher of History and Politics
BA

Mrs McDiarmid teaches History across the school and also Politics at A Level. She is particularly interested in Twentieth Century History and current affairs.

Fraser Newham

Fraser Newham

Teacher of History and Politics; Assistant Head Academic
MA

Mr Newham teaches History throughout the School, and also Government and Politics in the VI Form. He is a tutor in Laidlaw North and coordinates the Cecil Stagg Society, intended to stretch the most able boys. He has a particular interest in East Asian History and languages, and also contributes to the teaching of Mandarin and Chinese culture within the School. He is an Assistant Head Academic, with particular responsibility for university applications.

Simon Thompson

Simon Thompson

Head of Department
MA

Mr Thompson teaches History throughout the School, and also Government & Politics in the VI Form. He is very interested in music and the performing arts and he oversees the School's Arts programme. He specialises in cultural history and in the history of Sixteenth Century Britain and Europe.  

John Troxler

John Troxler

Teacher of History and Politics
BA

Mr Troxler teaches History from the II form to the VI form. He also teaches Politics to the VI form. He has a particular interest in 20th century European and American history. He is a keen sportsman, and is involved in coaching rugby, strength and conditioning and athletics.

Facilities

In addition to the obvious teaching resources, textbooks and technology in our three dedicated classrooms, the Department’s greatest facility is the Spawforth Library, which houses very good History and Politics sections. We also make use of the libraries at our neighbouring universities.

Curriculum

The younger boys follow courses covering – very broadly – the Romans; the Medieval World; Renaissance, Reformation and Civil Wars; the British Empire and the World Wars.

In Shell and Fifth Forms the boys follow the Cambridge IGCSE Modern World syllabus. In particular, they follow international relations from 1919 to 1989, with depth studies of inter-war America and Germany. There is no coursework, but the boys sit three exam papers at the end of the course.

At A-level the Department follows the AQA board for History. We focus on three distinct topics: boys will take exams in Tudor Britain (1585-1603) and the Birth of the USA (1740-1801). We also do a coursework project on the causes of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia

For Politics we take the Edexcel exams, covering UK politics and constitution in the Lower Sixth and Global Politics in the Upper Sixth.

Activities

The Department arranges a wide programme of trips away from school, ranging from the Royal Mile to Stirling Castle. Our boys studying IGCSE History get the chance to participate in a trip to Eastern Europe, while our VI Form boys have the opportunity to take a brief study visit to London. Both of these trips support closely our curriculum covered by those year groups.

Every year our boys studying A-Level Politics also have the opportunity to visit First Minister’s Questions at the Scottish Parliament. Visiting speakers include academics from the universities and politicians of national as well as local standing. Our keenest boys take part in essay competitions for Oxbridge colleges and public speaking challenges arranged by the Historical Association.

Our student-led Medical Society provides opportunities for prospective medics to collaboratively apply their scientific knowledge in a medical context. On average, 7% of our Year 13 students have applied for Medicine at university over the last three years.

Merchiston

Through our close links with the Roslin Institute, IGCSE and A Level pupils also get to experience advanced genetics techniques as well as a wide range of the usual practical work offered within schools. Being able to use the Roslin labs has enabled the department to deliver hands on experiments on subject matter elsewhere only able to be taught theoretically.

Ms Williams Head of Biology

Coming from a state school, science was taught very theoretically. Here at Merchiston, we do so many practicals to reinforce our knowledge. This has given me a totally different view on school in general: every day I wake up and I look forward to my lessons

Vincent B Year 11 (S4)

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