A healthy future for history

20th August 2004 at 01:00
Once again, we see a history academic complaining about how the subject of school history is dying (TES, August 13).

While I believe that we should be encouraging as many children as possible to study history it should be noted that, as a subject, history has been a long time in dying. Complaints about competition for grades and an overly restrictive exam system causing a decline in history are nothing new; Sir James Kay Shuttleworth believed that the 1861 revision of the code of education was forcing history out of the school curriculum. Seeing similar complaints more than 140 years later suggests that Professor David Nicholls is being a little pessimistic.

Academic history will always be something of a niche subject of study, and the decline in numbers taking up history at GCSE level seems to indicate nothing more than the broader choice of subjects now available to GCSE students.

Yet numbers of students taking history at degree level seem relatively stable, and if anything there is an increase in public interest in the subject. That Nicholls's dour comments can be published on the same page as a celebration of the success of the BBC's Restoration programme seems to indicate that his fears may be misplaced.

Jacob Middleton

Foster Street

Harlow, Essex

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