MODERN WORLD HISTORY TO GCSE. James Mason. Oxford University Press. pound;8.
The Key History for GCSE series is very detailed. Have we really got time for 40 units of work, even on a depth study? How many students will be able to see the wood for the trees?
While specially designed worksheets may make the written part of the task easier, this will only solve part of the problem if the information is too difficult to get at. History has become democratically inclusive of all social groups in its subject matter, but it must not become exclusive in its accessibility.
Key History provides separate books on popular GCSE topics so that you can mix and match to suit your chosen syllabus. The coverage is very thorough and each unit of work is organised around a double-page spread of text and sources with accom-panying questions.
In line with advice from the exam boards, the emphasis is on exercises that concentrate on knowledge and understanding, although evidence questions are still used. The text is well written, but the pages are somewhat crowded and would have to be used very selectively with lower ability pupils. Many of the sources on Germany are familiar, but there are also some interesting and unusual posters, paintings and cartoons.
Vietnam has some good drawings that would be much clearer than photographs in demonstrating military tactics. Each pupil's book has an index, but a separate glossary would have been useful too.
The teacher's books contain a useful breakdown of the syllabus requirements of the exam board for the appropriate topic and provide some photocopiable worksheets that could be used by less able students.
Modern World History to GCSE covers three popular depth topics: the USSR 1900-64, USA 1919-80 and Germany 1918-45, and an outline treatment of international relations 1900-1991. It is really a revision book that concentrates on lists of key points and arguments, timelines and maps. There are helpful diagrams of various kinds and the maps are clear.
Although some primary sources are included, the exercises are all concerned with knowledge and understanding and not with evaluation of evidence. Each double-page spread has a set of exercises, but the material is crowded and would be difficult for weak readers. However, this is a well organised and exhaustive approach for the more able.
Sue Jones is head of history at StFrederic Osborn School, Hertfordshire