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.

Units of Study

Unit 1 & 2: Modern History

Change and conflict

In this unit
students investigate the nature of social, political, economic and cultural
change in the later part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
Modern History provides students with an opportunity to explore the significant
events, ideas, individuals and movements that shaped the social, political,
economic and technological conditions and developments that have defined the
modern world.

The late 19th
century marked a challenge to existing empires, alongside growing militarism
and imperialism. Empires continued to exert their powers as they competed for
new territories, resources and labour across Asia-Pacific, Africa and the
Americas, contributing to tremendous change. This increasingly brought these
world powers into contact and conflict. Italian unification and German
unification changed the balance of power in Europe, the USA emerged from a
bitter civil war and the Meiji Restoration brought political revolution to
Japan. Meanwhile, China under the Qing struggled to survive due to foreign
imperialism. Modernisation and industrialisation also challenged and changed
the existing political, social and economic authority of empires and states.
During this time the everyday lives of people significantly changed.

World War
One was a significant turning point in modern history. It represented a
complete departure from the past and heralded changes that were to have
significant consequences for the rest of the twentieth century. 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 and led to the
creation of many new nation states. These changes had many unintended
consequences that would lay the foundations for future conflict and instability
in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Economic instability
caused by the Great Depression contributed to great social hardship as well as to
the development of new political movements.

The period
after World War One, in the contrasting decades of the 1920s and 1930s, was
characterised by significant social, political, economic, cultural and
technological change. In 1920 the League of Nations was established, but
despite its ideals about future peace, subsequent events and competing
ideologies would contribute to the world being overtaken by war in 1939.

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 and other minorities intensified, resulting,
during World War Two, in the Holocaust. In the Union of Soviet Socialist
Republics (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. Turkey emerged out of the ruins of the Ottoman
Empire and embarked on reforms to establish a secular democracy. In the United States
of America (USA), foreign policy was shaped by isolationism, and the
consumerism and material progress of the Roaring Twenties was tempered by the
Great Depression in 1929. Writers, artists, musicians, choreographers and
filmmakers reflected, promoted or resisted political, economic and social

changing world order

In this unit
students investigate the nature and impact of the Cold War and challenges and
changes to social, political and economic structures and systems of power in
the second half of the twentieth century and the first decade of the
twenty-first century.

establishment of the United Nations (UN) 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.
However, despite internationalist moves, the second half of the twentieth
century was dominated by the Cold War, competing ideologies of democracy and
communism and proxy wars. By 1989 the USSR began to collapse. Beginning with
Poland, Eastern European communist dictatorships fell one by one. The fall of
the Berlin Wall was a significant turning point in modern history.

The period
also saw continuities in and challenges and changes to the established social, political
and economic 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. Ethnic and sectarian
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, as well as new political partnerships,
such as the UN, European Union, APEC, OPEC, ASEAN and the British Commonwealth
of Nations.

beginning of the twenty-first century heralded both a changing world order and
further advancements in technology and social mobility on a global scale. However,
terrorism remained a major threat, influencing politics, social dynamics and
the migration of people across the world. The attack on the World Trade Centre
on 11 September, 2001 was a significant turning point for what became known as the
war on global terror and shaped the first decade of the twenty-first century,
including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Global Financial Crisis
challenged and contributed to some change in the social, political and economic
features and structures; however, many continuities remained. Technology also
played a key role in shaping social and political change in different contexts.
The internet significantly changed everyday life and revolutionised communication
and the sharing of information and ideas, some of which challenged authority,
most notably the Arab Spring.

Unit 3 & 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 in the collapse and destruction of an
existing political order which results in extensive change to society.
Revolutions are caused by the interplay of events, ideas, individuals and
popular movements, and the interplay between the political, social, cultural,
economic and environmental conditions. 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
regime attempts to create political, social, cultural and economic change and
transformation based on the regime’s ideology.

Change in a
post-revolutionary society is not guaranteed or inevitable and continuities can
remain from the pre-revolutionary society. The implementation of revolutionary
ideology was often challenged 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 construct an argument about the past using historical sources
(primary sources and historical interpretations) as evidence to analyse the
complexity and multiplicity of the causes and consequences of revolution, and to
evaluate the extent to which the revolution brought change to the lives of
people. Students analyse the different perspectives and experiences of people
who lived through dramatic revolutionary moments, and how society changed
and/or remained the same. Students use historical interpretations to evaluate
the causes and consequences of revolution and the extent of change instigated
by the new regime.

At Trafalgar High School the revolutions studied are:

  • The Russian Revolution of 1917
  • The Chinese Revolution of 1949.
Example pathways
  • Historian
  • Librarian
  • Researcher
  • Writer
  • Journalist
  • Educator

This is a guide only, please see the careers team for pathway planning advice.


There are no prerequisites for entry to Units 1, 2 and 3. Students must undertake Unit 3 and Unit 4 as a sequence.

Unit 3 and 4 Assessment

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

  • Unit 3 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent.
  • Unit 4 School-assessed Coursework: 25 per cent.
  • End-of-year examination: 50 per cent.