Subject Choice: History

Review the content below to help you make a better choice about History as a subject

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is History all about essay-writing?

A: No. There are three different types of essays which require slightly different skills for Matric. These need to be practised frequently. However, the essay component of the final Matric exam makes up 50% of the two papers. The other 50% is made up of questions which require comprehension, extraction, application and analytical skills in ‘short’ answers.

Q: Do I have to read?

A: Yes. History is a study of literature. Most History has been written and therefore one has to acquire that knowledge and perspective by reading. The more one reads, the greater the understanding.

Q: How much will I have to learn?

A: How long is a piece of string? The more one reads, the more knowledge and understanding one acquires… All of which helps the learning process.

Q: How much studying will I have to do?

A: History requires reading and then, analysing. It is not just a regurgitation of the facts. It requires an analysis of the evidence in the context of a question or inquiry. It therefore requires a great deal of time to absorb and analyse the topic.

Q: What if I struggle with aspects of the English language? Does that mean I can’t do History?

A: No, although the subject requires a high level of comprehension, understanding and analysis of the written material to achieve a high mark, those who have a genuine love for History, but are weaker in languages can still do well, provided that they read and practice their essay-writing.

Q: What do we learn from the past?

A: An understanding that the current world is a combination of events from the past. These past events, some distant, some recent, have shaped the economic, social and political world in which we live. It therefore offers a balanced and insightful understanding of ‘current affairs’.

Q: Do we only do ‘boring South African’ History?

A: There is no such thing as ‘boring South African’ History. Living in SA, we need to understand the complexities of our people and our land. Studying SA History is critical to that end. However, the topics also include a wide range of topics which have shaped the modern world, including, but not limited to the Russian Revolution, modern day genocides, scientific racism, the Cold War and the collapse of Communism.

Q: What else does it teach me?

A: The acquisition of transferable skills. History is not confined to ‘understanding or learning the past’. The study of History allows the acquisition of multiple skills including: empathy, cultural understanding, presentation of argument, and a gamut of analytical, diagnostic and evaluation techniques. These abilities can be applied to wide variety of disciplines.
In addition, History teaches an element of intellectual independence. Students are taught to logically apply, from their own interpretation and analysis of the evidence, their own opinion.
History is a humanity and it teaches the ‘good and bad’ about civilisation and humankind. Based on this, students obtain a deep understanding of their place within mankind.

back to Subject Choice home page