A Level History – Glossary for Revision (AQA,OCR, Edexcel)

The A Level History Glossary for Revision gives you definitions of key revision and exam terms related to studying A Level History. These are not topic specific, but are focused on general historical terms and methods that you need to understand. This will help you to properly revise and prepare for any A Level History examination or assessment. Where appropriate I have included an example to help your understanding.

This A Level History Glossary for Revision is a constant work in progress and regularly updated. Please do leave a comment if there is a specific term you don’t understand and/or would like added to the list.

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glossary – an alphabetical list of words relating to a specific subject with explanations.

A Level History – Glossary for Revision

Analysis – is critically examining evidence in order to come to an understanding of an event/topic/question etc. This is a crucial skill to achieve higher grades.  
Assess – means to determine the significance or value and is used in conjunction with analysis. Example: ‘The Liberal governments of 1906-14 radically improved the lives of children and the elderly’ Assess the validity of this view.  
Bias – intentional use of language to present something in a one-sided way. Tends to be strongly in favour or strongly against what is being described. Specific word choices will indicate bias. Example: The Communist heroes of 1917 toppled the backward Tsarist regime. In this example the two italicised words would tend to indicate bias.  
Cause – this is the cause of an event, or a reason as to why it happened. Example: The immediate cause of the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Austria-Hungary then declared war on Serbia, which set in motion a complex set of events meaning many European nations declared war on each other, due to previously negotiated alliances and agreements.
Change – refers to something that is different from what occurred previously. This can happen over long periods of time or sometimes very dramatically in a short space of time.
Chronology – means the order in time in which events occurred. Is sometimes referred to as timeline. Example: 1st September 1939 – Germany invades Poland. 3rd September 1939 – Britain and France declare war on Germany.
Consequence/Effect – the changes that have occurred as a result of that event. Example: A short term consequence of Britain voting to leave the European Union was a dramatic 10% drop in the value of Sterling.
Contestability – the extent to which people hold different opinions/views.
Context – means the conditions that existed during a certain time and place when the event/issue was happening.
Continuity – this refers to something that has remained the same over time. Example: The social standing of women in Tsarist Russia had a remarkable continuity throughout the 19th century.
Description/Narrative – this means describing or narrating the events, often in chronological order. It is a sort of storytelling of what happened that simply describes what has happened but lacks analysis, evaluation or interpretation.    
Evaluation – means reaching an informed judgement based on evidence.
Evidence – is anything that can help us to understand the issue/source.
Interpretation – is the process by which we describe, analyse, and evaluate evidence to create an explanation on the past. Example: The historian’s interpretation was that the Roman Army was significantly overstretched leading to defeat at the battle of Cannae.
JEON Structure – This is a method of structuring paragraphs in an essay that some people find useful. J – Judgement – First you give your judgement about the point. E – Explanation – Use evidence to explain your judgement. O – On the other hand – Use evidence to critique your judgement. N – Nevertheless – Explain why your explanation judgement and evidence is more valuable than the critique part.
Perspective – the point of view from which someone views an event. Thus, different people/sources can describe the same event in different ways because it was seen from a different point of view. Perspective can exist independently of its poor relation bias.
Primary Sources – provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning the event you are studying. These are documents, images or artifacts, that were created or experienced at the time of the event. However, if an individual writes about events they experienced first-hand many years after the event occurred, it is still considered a primary source. Example: an official parliamentary report of a speech by Harry Brodie, Liberal MP, during a House of Commons debate on the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill, February 1908.
Secondary Sources/Extracts – are works that analyse, assess or interpret an historical event. Secondary sources often offer a review or a critique. They include books, journal articles and reviews etc. Example: Robert Service, The Russian Revolution, 2nd edition 1991 – this book was written in 1991 many years after the 1917 revolution by somebody not present during 1917.
Significance – is a decision we make about what is important. Different people may view different things as more or less important. Example: I believe the most significant factor in Stalin’s rise to power was his control of party apparatus, whereas you insist the ideology ‘socialism in one country’ was of greater importance. Significance needs to be determined by analysis and backed with evidence.
Validity – means whether something is logically and/or factually sound. Example: ‘Outremer remained over-reliant on the Latin West for its survival in the years 1119 to 1149.’ Assess the validity of this view.

How To Improve Further at A Level History

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This blog is dedicated to you – the history student. My aim is to help as many of you as possible achieve your highest grades, whilst studying history. The regular blog posts, alongside additional resources, aim to make your life as a history student easier and more enjoyable, whilst at the same time ensuring that you are fully prepared for all your exams.

Pass A Level History – is our sister site, which shows you step by step, how to most effectively answer any A Level History extract, source or essay question. Please click the following link to visit the site and get access to your free preview lesson.

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