Subject Overview

The History syllabus aims to ensure that students:

  • Acquire knowledge and understanding of human activity in the past
  • Understand the contemporary world through the study of the past
  • Develop conceptual understanding
  • Develop the ability to think independently
  • Develop a range of historical skills e.g. research skills
  • Develop such positive attitudes as a commitment to objectivity and fairness
  • Develop an interest and enthusiasm for history
  • Learn to value their heritage


The syllabus is divided into three sections. The framework is chronological in presentation, spanning prehistoric times to the late 20th century. It is developmental in nature, moving from the simple to the more complex, from the concrete to the more abstract.
Section I : How we find out about the past

  1. Introduction – the job of the historian.
  2. Our roots in ancient civilisation – a study based on archaeological evidence of life in pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland and in one ancient civilisation
  3. Castle, church and city – a study of medieval society based on buildings, settlements and other material sources
  4. Renaissance – a study based on visual sources and biography of Renaissance art, architecture and learning

Section II : Studies of Change

  1. Changes in European view of the world – Exploration
  2. Religious change – Reformation
  3. Changes in land ownership – Plantation in Ireland
  4. Political change – Revolutionary change
  5. Social change – From farm to factory

Section III : Understanding the Modern Ireland

  1. Political developments in Ireland in the 20th century
  2. Social change in the 20th century
  3. International relations in the 20th century


Assessment is by means of an examination paper at two levels, Ordinary level and Higher level.
The following styles of questioning are used at the two levels:
Q. 1 – Pictures (based on picture sources)
Q. 2 – Documents (based on written sources)
Q. 3 – Short answer questions
Q. 4 – People in history (short essays on historical personalities or generic types)
In addition, at Higher Level there are two extra questions testing higher level skills and a broader knowledge of syllabus content.

Current status

As part of the review of junior cycle, History is one of the syllabuses currently undergoing a rebalancing process, in a move towards presenting all junior cycle syllabuses in similar formats.


Junior Certificate History Syllabus (Ordinary level and Higher level)
Junior Certificate History – Guidelines for Teachers (revised 1996)