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History of Ideas

History of Ideas at KS3 

The History of Ideas course is unique to the Langton. We devised the concept of History of Ideas with the goal of providing an important expansion to our curriculum. It aims to broaden the cultural and intellectual horizons of our students, encouraging them to understand how different ideas and disciplines have connected together over time, and to become conversant with a range of key thinkers and cultural figures from the past. The Key Stage 3 rotating carousel of short courses develops as they grow into more advanced, lecture-based courses in the Upper School. These prepare students for the advanced critical thinking required in university learning and for advanced research projects both in the Langton and beyond.

In Year 7, the course gives students a broad overview of the whole of human history, and a framework for understanding other subjects including literature, philosophy, art, geography, and science. It is based on a study of the book and Radio 4 series by Neil MacGregor, a History of the World in 100 Objects, to which the students have full access to the written and spoken material. This is supported by work which ranges from the building of knowledge and a sophisticated vocabulary, to more advanced questions of interpretation that give opportunities for boys to formulate and debate their own ideas. It is essential that they gain a sense of the world beyond their immediate environment, and the book allows them to access questions of culture from across the world and throughout time. The students are encouraged to ask difficult questions, let their imaginations leap beyond the boundaries that traditional subjects might entail, and to make connections across their learning in and out of school.

In each of Years 8 and 9, the History of Ideas comprises six mini-courses which are studied in turn, and taught by different teachers, for five weeks each. Each mini-course introduces an area of study that is important, interesting, and exciting, but does not feature in the standard curriculum and therefore stretches their cultural engagement.

Year 8 Year 9
Introduction to Film Making Critical Thinking 101
Climate Change and the Environment History of Art
Hinduism Codes and Codebreaking
Anti-Social Media? Introduction to Script Writing
Islam and Islamic culture Ancient History
The Ideas that Revolutionised Navigation Psychology

Students produce one assignment for each of the mini-courses, completing a portfolio of five pieces of work at the end of each year, and being examined viva voce by a senior member of staff at the end of Year 9.

For Years 10 and 12, a programme of lectures is arranged which aim to cover a wide variety of subjects, and allow us to use the expertise, enthusiasm and specialisms of staff beyond their usual subject areas. In year 10 they are encouraged to make notes using the Cornell method, and to use their learning to support their curriculum work. It is also expected that they will further develop their cultural literacy through the programme. It is arranged into sections which group the lectures into thematic areas: The Self, Building for the Future, Revolutions, Truth and Beauty, and Cultural Encounters. For year 12, the programme further intensifies, and offers choices between lectures as students specialise between sciences and humanities. They are, however, also encouraged to attend outside of their school subject interests. Interspersed with the programme are sessions which support eh EPQ research, and towards the end of the year, UCAS briefings and careers advice are also included.

It is our intention that History of Ideas means no student is restricted by the necessary boundaries of examination subjects, and that their minds can begin to reach beyond into the world of connected knowledge, benefitting their whole lives from enhanced cultural literacy.

History of Ideas at KS4

The History of Ideas is a uniquely Langton programme, and you will remember that between Year 7 and 9, you have studied a wide range of subjects beyond the standard curriculum, covering many subject areas. History of Ideas is a key element in the making of a Langton student; aiming to broaden the cultural and intellectual horizons of our students, encouraging them to understand how different ideas and disciplines have connected over time, and to become conversant with a range of key thinkers and cultural figures from the past.

In Year 10, this takes the form of a lecture course. Each term an overall theme is explored from a variety of angles in weekly lectures, with a final session of each term being devoted to reflection and discussion in smaller groups. Increasingly we are broadening the scope of the lectures to draw in new disciplines, ideas and issues which are of relevance to the fast-changing world our students experience.

The course is split into sections which thematically bring together the lectures, with a class for reflection at the end of each section. The thematic areas are:

  • Revolutions
  • Building for the Future
  • The Self
  • Truth and Beauty
  • Cultural Encounters

Sample Lecture titles:

  • Evolution and consciousness
  • The future of Cities
  • What Use are Prisons?
  • The Self in Literature
  • Africa before Colonialism
  • Language: A Journey
  • The Renaissance

The aim is to stimulate critical thinking whilst introducing them to a range of unfamiliar ideas from a wide range of subject areas, and to build knowledge that will help them as they move forwards towards the Sixth Form. They also develop very valuable skills of learning and note-taking (including the Cornell system) in lectures that point the way towards Higher Education.

The History of Ideas course itself is not assessed. We are planning to introduce, in the first part of Year 11, the Higher Project Qualification, in which each student will take one element of the HOI course that has particularly interested him, research it further, and produce an essay of around 2,500 words. This is a certified qualification (from the PearsonEdexcel exam board) and will lay the foundation for undertaking the more demanding EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) in Year 12.


What is EPQ?

  • the Extended Project Qualification
  • a compulsory part of the Langton curriculum for all students
  • a separate qualification that is officially worth half of an A level
  • the course starts in September of Y12, and students will complete their EPQs in the summer term of Y12
  • you choose any subject area you wish and set your own title (needs staff approval)
  • you carry out research
  • you work independently with support from a designated member of staff
  • you write a long essay (6000 words) [this applies to the Dissertation route, which most of our students follow. Other options that are available: Artefact, Investigation, Performance]
  • you deliver a 10 minute presentation to a small audience
  • you get a grade (A* to E) certified by the Edexcel exam board

Why do all Langton students do an EPQ?


  • free choice of subject with no constraints – pursue what stimulates your intellect
  • the pinnacle of 13 years of study
  • in-depth, high-level academic research


  • undergraduate (or higher) level research
  • reading academic texts
  • handling complex academic arguments
  • planning and writing an extended essay over a long period of time
  • presenting your ideas verbally

University entrance

  • your EPQ makes you more likely to get an offer
  • you can show real engagement with a “new” subject area such as law or psychology
  • many universities will give you a lower offer if you do well in EPQ
  • universities are more likely to take you if you miss your A level grades
  • additional UCAS points