Why Study History?

The study of VCE History assists students to understand themselves, others and their world, and broadens their perspective by examining people, groups, events, ideas and movements. Through studying VCE History, students develop social, political, economic and cultural understanding. They also explore continuity and change: the world is not as it has always been, and it will be subject to change in the future. In this sense, history is relevant to contemporary issues. It fosters an understanding of human agency and informs decision making in the present.

The study of history fosters the ability to ask searching questions, to engage in independent research, and to construct arguments about the past based on evidence. Historical comprehension enables a source to be understood in relation to its context; that is, students make links between the source and the world in which it was produced.

We can never know the whole past. Historical knowledge rests on the interpretation of sources that are used as evidence. Furthermore, judgments of historical significance made by historians are central to the discipline. Historians do not always agree about the meaning that is taken from the past: historical interpretations are often subject to academic and public debate. The study of history equips students to take an informed position on such matters, helping them develop as individuals and citizens.


The study is made up of thirteen units of which Emmaus College offers four.

Twentieth Century History
Unit 1: Twentieth Century History 1918-1939
Unit 2: Twentieth Century History 1945-2000

Units 3 and 4: Revolutions

Unit 1: Twentieth century history 1918-1939

In Unit 1 students explore the nature of political, social and cultural change in the period between the world wars.

World War One is regarded by many as marking the beginning of twentieth century history since it represented such a complete departure from the past and heralded changes that were to have an impact for decades to come. The post-war treaties ushered in a period where the world was, to a large degree, reshaped with new borders, movements, ideologies and power structures. These changes affected developments in Europe, the USA, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Economic instability caused by the Great Depression also contributed to the development of political movements. Despite ideals about future peace, reflected in the establishment of the League of Nations, the world was again overtaken by war in 1939.

The period after World War One was characterised by significant social and cultural change in the contrasting decades of the 1920s and 1930s. New fascist governments used the military, education and propaganda to impose controls on the way people lived, to exclude particular groups of people and to silence criticism. In Germany, the persecution of the Jewish people became intensified. In the USSR, millions of people were forced to work in state-owned factories and farms and had limited personal freedom. Japan became increasingly militarised and anti-western. In the USA, the consumerism and material progress of the 1920s was tempered by the Great Crash of 1929. Writers, artists, musicians, choreographers and filmmakers reflected, promoted or resisted political, economic and social changes.

Area of Study 1

Ideology and conflict

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the consequences of the peace treaties which ended WW1, the impact of ideologies on nations and the events that led to WW2.

Area of Study 2

Social and cultural change

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain patterns of social life and cultural change in one or more contexts, and analyse the factors which influenced changes to social life and culture, in the inter-war years.

Unit 2: Twentieth century history 1945-2000

In Unit 2 students explore the nature and impact of the Cold War and challenges and changes to existing political, economic and social arrangements in the second half of the twentieth century.

The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 was intended to take an internationalist approach to avoiding warfare, resolving political tensions and addressing threats to human life and safety. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 was the first global expression of human rights.

Despite internationalist moves, the second half of the twentieth century was dominated by the competing ideologies of democracy and communism, setting the backdrop for the Cold War.

The period also saw challenge and change to the established order in many countries. The continuation of moves towards decolonisation led to independence movements in former colonies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific. New countries were created and independence was achieved through both military and diplomatic means. Old conflicts also continued and terrorism became increasingly global. The second half of the twentieth century also saw the rise of social movements that challenged existing values and traditions, such as the civil rights movement, feminism and environmental movements.

Area of Study 1

Cometing ideologies

Outcome 1

On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the ideological divisions in the post-war period and analyse the nature, development and impact of the Cold War on nations and people, in relation to one or more particular conflicts in the period.

Area of Study 2

Challenge and change

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to explain the causes and nature of challenge and change in relation to two selected contexts in the second half of the twentieth century and analyse the consequences for nations and people.

Units 3 and 4: Revolutions

In Units 3 and 4 Revolutions students investigate the significant historical causes and consequences of political revolution. Revolutions represent great ruptures in time and are a major turning point which brings about the collapse and destruction of an existing political order resulting in a pervasive change to society. Revolutions are caused by the interplay of ideas, events, individuals and popular movements. Their consequences have a profound effect on the political and social structures of the post-revolutionary society. Revolution is a dramatically accelerated process whereby the new order attempts to create political and social change and transformation based on a new ideology.

Progress in a post-revolutionary society is not guaranteed or inevitable. Post-revolutionary regimes are often threatened internally by civil war and externally by foreign threats. These challenges can result in a compromise of revolutionary ideals and extreme measures of violence, oppression and terror.

In these units students develop an understanding of the complexity and multiplicity of causes and consequences in the revolutionary narrative. They construct an argument about the past using primary sources as evidence and evaluate the extent to which the revolution brought change to the lives of people. They consider how perspectives of the revolution give an insight into the continuity and change experienced by those who lived through dramatic revolutionary moments. Students evaluate historical interpretations about the causes and consequences of revolution and the effects of change instigated by the new order.

In developing the course, teachers select two revolutions to be studied from the following, one for Unit 3 and one for Unit 4:

  • The American Revolution of 1776.
  • The French Revolution of 1789.
  • The Russian Revolution of October 1917.
  • The Chinese Revolution of 1949.

For the two selected revolutions, both areas of study must be undertaken.

Area of Study 1: Unit 3 and Unit 4

Causes of revolution

Outcome 1
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the causes of revolution, and evaluate the contribution of significant ideas, events, individuals and popular movements.

Area of Study 2: Unit 3 and Unit 4

Consequences of revolution

Outcome 2
On completion of this unit the student should be able to analyse the consequences of revolution and evaluate the extent of change brought to society.


Satisfactory completion

The award of satisfactory completion for a unit is based on a decision that the student has demonstrated achievement of the set of outcomes specified for the unit. This decision will be based on the teacher’s assessment of the student’s performance on assessment tasks designated for the unit.

Levels of Achievement

Units 1 and 2
Emmaus College students complete graded Assessment Tasks and Semester Examinations as part of the Assessment process for Units 1 and 2.

Units 3 and 4
The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority will supervise the assessment of all students undertaking Units 3 and 4.

Percentage contributions to the study score in VCE History are as follows:

Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework 25%
Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework 25%
End-of-year examination 50%