IB History at the International School of Toulouse




Overview of the Course

Note: The most useful resource is the departmental website, www.activehistory.co.uk, which provides a curriculum map and detailed resources for all the subjects, including worksheets, interactivities and teacher support materials.


1. Introduction – Why is History important?

▪ In the late nineteenth century a German intellectual named Karl Marx spent endless hours scribbling away in the British Library studying and writing about history. By looking at different periods and times he came up with a theory of how societies developed and how and why civilisations rose and fell.

▪ His ideas were literally revolutionary. The Bolshevik Party in Russia used them to spearhead the Communist Revolution of 1917. The Fascists in Italy, and the Nazis in Germany, emerged in retaliation; this in turn provided the roots not just of World War Two but the "Cold War" which drove the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust.

▪ Marx demonstrates the power which historians can wield. They look back at the past to make sense of the present and inspire our dreams for the future.

▪ An ignorance of history leaves individuals and societies unsure of themselves and how to relate to each other, with devastating consequences.

2. Course Content

As a matter of principle nothing we cover in the IGCSE course is repeated at IB. The focus of IGCSE is on Europe, whereas the IB course focuses on global history.

A. Higher Level History (i.e. Higher Level Historians ONLY) - 20th Century Americas

Higher Level Essays – 3 Essays in 3 hours

At IST we choose Higher Level Topics which overlap with the Standard Level Paper. As a result, Higher Level is viewed as an opportunity to look at familiar topics from a fresh perspective. The most important topics are United States history 1945-1979 and Latin America. 

B. Standard Level History (i.e. ALL Historians)

The Internal Assessment

Coursework assignment  (counts for 20% of HL grade, 25% of SL grade)

• The internal assessment allows students to write a 1500-word structured essay on absolutely any period, region or theme of history that interests them. They produce their study under the supervision and guidance of the teacher. Past students have covered the historical significance of authors, artists, scientists and poets; local history studies; the impact of film(s), architecture, fashion and music. The departmental website www.activehistory.co.uk provides detailed support materials, along with an archive of past studies from IST students.

The Extended Essay [OPTIONAL]

All IB students complete an Extended Essay in one IB subject of their choice. The History department welcomes students who choose to do their essay in History and will help them to formulate a question and provide the appropriate support and guidance for completing the assignment. The departmental website www.activehistory.co.uk provides detailed support materials for the Internal Assessment and an archive of past studies.


Standard Level Sourcework – Structured Questions (1 hour)

• This sourcework paper focuses on the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and the Civil Rights movement in the USA.

The departmental website www.activehistory.co.uk provides sample sourcework assignments and (for teachers) model answers to share later with students.

The 20th Century World

Standard Level Essays – 2 Essays in 90 minutes
• Students write two 45-minute essays, each taken from a different area of the paper:

A. Causes, Practices and Effects of War
• You will compare and contrast various events in different parts of the world at different times: the Russian Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Civil War, and the Korean / Vietnam Wars.

B. The Rise and Rule of Dictators in Single Party States
· You will investigate how and why dictators emerge through case studies of: Mussolini (Italy), Lenin and Stalin (Russia), Mao (China), Castro (Cuba), Pinochet (Chile) and Franco (Spain).

C. The Cold War
· You will investigate the origins, main events and consequences of the conflict between The Superpowers: USA and USSR. There will be a heavy focus on the use of film, music and the arts as source material.


The department sets aside four weeks before study leave begins to revise the entire course with the students. The departmental website www.activehistory.co.uk provides a complete breakdown of IB revision lessons along with supporting materials.

C. Resources

· The History Department of the IST provides students with their own copy of all central textbooks for key topics (list available in the departmental handbook)
· We also have a vast collection of DVD documentaries and feature films which can be borrowed by students.
· In total there are well over 200 DVDs available for students to loan.

D. Field Trips and Excursions

· Historians go on two major residential trips: one in Grade 9, and one in Year 11. Each one is packed with experiences. 

· These trips are organised so that the Berlin Trip runs for two years, then the Barcelona Trip runs for two years. In this way, students will always be guaranteed to go on one of the trips in G09, and the other in G11.


· We spend 3 days in Barcelona focusing on its historical significance in the Spanish Civil War. We have a guided tour from a historical expert and also get the chance to visit a range of museums and sites of artistic and historical interest. This trip is run with the Business and Management department and the Geography Department as a 'Group 3' experience over several days. Year 10 students who study more than one of the three subjects will have dedicated events relating to each of them. Students who do not study particular curriculum subjects are provided instead with cultural experiences in Barcelona including a visit to the Picasso and Gaudi Museums.


· We spend 3 days in Berlin studying the city as part of our investigation of Cold War Germany. Full details can be found on this website.

IB History and TOK

The History department delivers dedicated TOK sessions tying Theory of Knowledge concepts to History topics and skills. The departmental website www.activehistory.co.uk makes these resources available in full here - both in terms of student handouts and teacher notes.
In addition, the nature of the subject - with its focus on questioning the reliability of sources, debating and assessing the respective importance of different factors, and grappling with the meaning of key terms such as 'liberty', 'democracy' and 'dictatorship' allow regular opportunities to address issues relating to epistemology.

IB History and CAS

The IB CAS programme aims to develop students who are: reflective thinkers, willing to accept new challenges, aware of themselves as members of communities with responsibilities towards each other, active participants in sustained, collaborative projects; and enjoy a range of activities involving intellectual, physical, creative and emotional experiences.

Creativity is interpreted broadly to include a wide range of activities that involve creative thinking. Creativity provides students with the opportunity to explore their own sense of original thinking and expression. In History, students are required to research, investigate, collate, and present their findings, to form theses and express these in the form of essays which demonstrate not just understanding but also insight and originality.

Service requires students to understand their capacity to make a meaningful contribution to their community and society. Through Service, students develop and apply personal and social skills in real-life situations involving decision-making, problem solving, initiative, responsibility, and accountability for their actions. In History, students relect deeply upon the nature of human society and how it is organised. They also consider the importance of democracy in preventing violent revolution and the horror of dictatorships. Through the process of debate and role-play they are constantly involved in decision-making, whilst their residential trips to Barcelona and the First World War Battlefields help them to reflect upon the importance of internationalism. They are also responsible for fundraising during our whole-school activities around Remembrance Week and helping to deliver an assembly about the nature of remembrance and the concepts of honour, duty, pacifism and resistance.

IB History and the IB Learner Profile

• The IB Learner Profile serves as a model for all members of our community here at the IST.

• Moreover, the Group 3 subjects (Business and Management, Geography, and History) have pioneered a new initiative to ensure that the IB Learner profile is embedded into our practice.

• We have divided a large display board into ten permanent ‘zones’ for each of the Learner Profile elements. Into these, we regularly place photographs of students of all ages engaged in activities in the classroom, then get the students to write a caption reflecting where each of these photographs should be placed in the display.

• As the display has built up we have been able to ensure not only that students actively reflect on the IB Learner Profile, but also that we teachers can identify which criteria we are delivering particularly strongly, and which require further emphasis.

The photographs and associated captions are being archived as the display continues to grow and will be available for inspection.



Russel Tarr, Head of History: tarr_r@intst.net  / www.activehistory.co.uk / @russeltarr on Twitter