Reaction to Leaving Certificate 2023 Higher Level History, by Susan Cashell, History teacher at The Institute of Education.
- A fair and manageable paper that combined expected topics.
- Students who prepared material in every section were well-served, but those hoping to take two questions from Sovereignty Irish History might have found it more challenging.
The History paper is one that always requires students to write with time constraints in mind. Generally, the questions were straightforward. Occasionally a term might be unfamiliar but after a moment of composure and reflection the context of the question would provide the key.
Section 1: To start, the compulsory document question was the Sunningdale Agreement and the power-sharing executive, 1973-4. Many students would have been well-prepared for this and thus well-equipped to tackle the first three questions. Some might have paused before Question 4’s Contextualisation, which asked why the Agreement was so “divisive”, but ultimately this would have been manageable by adapting prepared material and reworking link sentences to fit the question.
Section 2: Ireland had an overarching question on how Cosgrave and De Valera handled Anglo-Irish relations. The broad scope of this question would really allow the practised student to show off their knowledge – which could be a challenge within the 42.5 minutes allowed for each question. Those looking to write another essay on the most popular area, Sovereignty, might have been stretched to find another question with the same flexibility. The question on the Northern Ireland Government and its challenges, or the question on the impact of the Eucharistic Congress and the Irish language, were options but were much less generous in their scopes.
Section 3: Europe and the Wider World had a great question on the characteristics of fascism. This would have been covered at the beginning of 5th Year, as it underpins the topic. Students who knew the specific examples of fascism could easily refine them into a response for the characteristics in general. Those wishing to focus on specifics were greeted by a very accessible question on Stalin. Many students would have anticipated and prepared for this and been relieved. For those looking to stand out from the crowd by taking the road less travelled, there was a rewarding question on France. While not appealing to everyone, if you had prepared that topic you really had a chance to shine. Those looking to answer on American history will have been well-served by racial inequality and the Moon landing.
The History course is large, varied, and demands a lot of writing but, on this paper, everyone had a chance to fairly represent themselves. In particular, those who were prepared to tackle three topics would have found something rewarding in each.