Ancient history

6th April 2007 at 01:00
The recent announcement by the OCR exam board that A-level ancient history is to be discontinued as a separate subject is a cause for serious concern and all possible pressure should be applied to bring about a reversal of this most regrettable move. It comes at a time when the history of ancient Greece and Rome enjoys very great popularity among 16 to 18-year-olds and in the broadcasting media generally.

There are other serious issues. Greek and Roman history should not be treated as one of several components of a classical civilisation A-level, as is proposed. Students of the history of the classical world need to be taught differently from those studying other aspects of classical civilisation. They need to know how to understand and write history on the basis of close study of narrative and documentary texts - in other words, to think and write like historians.

Knowledge of the history of Greece and Rome is the indispensable foundation for the understanding of European history. If we remove this from the A-level syllabus as a subject in its own right, we will do irreparable damage to future generations of historians, both ancient and modern.

Alan Bowman

Camden Professor of Ancient (Roman) History, and Robert Parker Wykeham Professor of Ancient (Greek), University of Oxford

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