Paper 1     |     Paper 2

Just under 800 candidates sat Paper One this year and candidates came from 68 schools.   Although some found the paper a hard one, the best of the qualifiers for Paper Two wrote impressively detailed answers in the limited time and space available.   No-one performed better than Dhiren de Silva (Quainton Hall), whose excellent paper placed him first and close on his heels were Daniel Abu, also from Quainton Hall, Tom Britton (King’s College Junior School, Wimbledon), Alexander Spacey (Boundary Oak School), Hamza Khan (Quainton Hall) and William Michell (King’s College Junior School, Wimbledon).  Quainton Hall’s three in the top six was most impressive and in terms of numbers King’s College Junior School, Wimbledon had the strongest entry this year.  There was also a strong showing from Shrewsbury House, St Paul’s Preparatory and King’s College School, Cambridge.

All the sets of questions were well done by at least some of the candidates, with the best answered being question 6, on battles, the multiple choice question (12) and the last question on great speeches of the twentieth century (13).  Dates are supposed to be off-putting to the young, but I always find that the most famous dates, as in question 7 this year, are well known.  Question 2, on Prime Ministers’ nicknames, was harder, but the stronger candidates could identify some, or even all of them.   In question 5, Joan of Arc, Walsingham, Raleigh, Pepys and Gandhi were all well known and I was surprised by how many could tell me about Grace Darling.   Least understood in this question was Patrick Pearse, the Irish nationalist and leader of the Easter Rising of 1916 (5n).   In question 8, the trickiest one was probably (b), on the Roman forts on Hadrian’s Wall.  10 (c) was least known of all.   Many, quite understandably, identified this sixteenth century naval engagement as being associated with the Spanish Armada, but a handful of candidates were able to come up with Lepanto, the battle fought in the Mediterranean in 1571 between the Ottoman fleet and the combined forces of the Holy League.

The answers to question 9 gave me the greatest surprises.  While some got all the answers correct and even knew of the conspiracy to assassinate the Prime Minister and Cabinet in 1820 (9d), I also had many answers about the muffin man ‘who lives in Drury Lane’ (9b), as well as the ‘demon barber of Fleet Street (9e)!   Perhaps not surprisingly, the present economic climate had an impact on some of the answers I got to 11d, about events on Wall Street in 1929.  This was sometimes described with pardonable understatement as ‘an economic down turn’ and one candidate wrote that ‘a great credit crunch started here’!

My thanks go to all the schools which participated in this year’s Paper One and especially to all those who teach the great stories which bring History alive.   Your enthusiasm is transmitted to your pupils and many, including some who have not gone through, showed knowledge across a broad stretch of historical time.   Well done and good luck to the 202 candidates who now proceed to tackle Paper Two!

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