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Aims of the Depth Studies

The key aims of the depth studies are:

  • To give students the opportunity to investigate a single topic in depth by examining a range of primary sources they would not normally be able to access
  • To provide students with an opportunity to make effective use of primary sources as evidence in a specific enquiry
  • To introduce students to research methods and collections historians use, and encourage them to use these methods and resources to investigate other areas of historical study

All of the current AS/A2 specifications have a component that assesses students' ability to work with original sources. These components go beyond the challenges of GCSE. Students are required to show awareness of issues such as provenance and context, and evaluate sources almost as literary texts. At A level, these skills are assumed. Students are challenged to make meaningful use of sources in the context of an enquiry. They are required to interweave their understanding of the content of sources with issues of context, provenance and reliability. They must also demonstrate how the sources relate to their own wider knowledge, and current historical debates on particular issues.

Students are required to work in the same way as professional historians, putting together a coherent picture from disparate sources and their own prior knowledge. The studies try to recreate this process for students, allowing them to build-up knowledge and understanding of topics, and practise a range of valuable skills.

Taking it further

A secondary aim is to provide teachers with a template to create their own depth studies. The Cabinet papers are a formidable collection of original sources on almost all aspects of British history from 1915 to the late twentieth century. You could use the 'browse by theme' feature to locate collections of sources, or select documents from the database search, based on keywords. We have selected documents that are representative of key issues or areas of debate, but selection in this way is certainly not a hard and fast rule. Potential depth studies that are well supported by the Cabinet papers would be:

  • The significance of key individuals such as David Lloyd George, Harold Macmillan, Harold Wilson
  • The significance of particular events such as the Munich crisis of 1938 or the Wall Street Crash
  • The government perspective on important developments such as the Women's Suffrage Movement
  • The mechanics and management of government in key areas of foreign policy such as the Cold War or the League of Nations

However, there are many more possible studies which would be supported by the collection and which would fit neatly into most A level history courses.

You may also want to supplement Cabinet papers with other materials from different sources. Recommended resources are listed in the external links.