Thursday, 13 September 2012

Open University A200: History Medieval to Modern

I wanted to put a sort-of 'review' of A200 on here. It was a really testing course, and I got a really good mark, and was so happy. I wanted to let others know what I did that worked, and what I did that didn't work, and just generally offer some tips. It's hard being an OU student, as anyone who has done distance learning will tell you - it can be lonely and sometimes you just have no idea whether you are going right or wrong with what you are doing. There are social internet media type things, Facebook groups, OU forums, OU Twitter feeds that do help. I find Facebook groups to be friendly and useful - although you have to be aware that these are not moderated like the OU forums. The OU forums are informative and lively - but are quite heavily moderated, and things can get a bit heated sometimes.

When I started the course, and definitely closer to exam time, I searched the internet for help, for experiences of other students, and found very little to be honest. I just thought that if this helps some people, then while it's fresh in my mind, then that would be pretty cool. It's nice to be nice.

My aim here is to just talk through the blocks of the course and offer some tips. Please leave comments, good or bad. I plan on doing similar  for A218 - History of Medicine, but more in real-time, maybe one blog a month about it, so I can just get things straight in my head and hopefully help/get help from others!!! I love to share my work and anything that I make for revision, but I also love shamelessly borrowing from other people, but I suppose that is what any good historian does! I'm just going to start at the beginning here, please correct me if I'm wrong or add anything in the comments, or email me for further information or to shout at me for getting it wrong - I don't mind.


Basically the course does what it says on the tin - it's a survey course from about 1400-1900. It is very fast paced and there is a LOT of information crammed in. You WILL feel like you are on a roller coaster, one minute you're at the battle of Agincourt and the next you're on a slave ship bound for the Americas. It is heavy going and quite emotional at times. Take your time, read things thoroughly and enjoy it.

Tip: The course is about historiography. Remember your facts, but remember what historians views are about events. If you're taking notes on each block, write down histroians' names and their views. I had to cram all this information in at the end, because it wasn't until the end that I realised I would get more marks by letting the historians tell the story, letting them compliment my essay, and backing up my points.

Tip: Pay attention to the course themes. Think about it as you go along.

Block 1 - France, England and Burgundy in the fifteenth century

It is what it is. Medieval Europe, Joan of Arc, The Wars of the Roses. All really interesting events, focused around beliefs and ideologies, state formation and producers and consumers.

I didn't really do any outside reading for this, but I loved Joan of Arc, and watched a film called The Messenger.

The film was OK, and although Joan of Arc only gets a small mention in this block, the film helped me to visualise battles and the passion that these people had for their cause.

"Inside the Medieval Mind"  - Loved this documentary. They used to have all of this on Youtube, but my links have broken, so maybe you can find it elsewhere.

Block 2 The European Reformation

Again, self-explanatory. Really interesting. You'll hate me for this now, I know it's a degree-level subject, but for this section I listened to the Horrible Histories English Kings and Queens song. Youtube it.

It helped me to remember who was King/Queen at the time so that I would know who was Protestant, who was Catholic, and I can sort-of picture who wanted what and why. This has helped me since in all the blocks, I'll post more up as I go, please don't hate me, I really REALLY used these for revision and they helped me no end in the exam.

I watched The Virgin Queen as well at this point. It's a little off-topic, but Elizabeth I's Dad was Henry VIII so it's sort-of related to the Reformation, and again paints a picture. Ann-Marie Duff was OK in this, and the men were all fit, so that did it for me!

Block 3 The Wars of the Three Kingdoms

The English Civil War. Remember to recall Ireland and Scotland, don't just focus on England - this is important. Now this is where I did some real background reading, and I scored my highest essay score ever for this TMA. I used this website: Civil War.

I also watched Cromwell, which was a bit rubbish to be honest, but again, it painted a picture in my mind.

The most concise history of the Civil War - I actually recalled the lyrics to this as I wrote my exam answer

Charles II - Restoration - same with this one

Block 4 - Slavery and Freedom

I'll warn you - course starts to get quite harrowing from here on in, and I really struggled with my own feelings about these last few blocks. I loved them, and wanted to learn more but realised I was developing quite strong views and ideas - that of course can not really be expressed in a history essay at this level. Try and remain 'on the fence.'

I visited Liverpool Slavery Museum - they even have a copy of Equiano's diary here - amazing. There is a model of a plantation as well, and lots of accounts from slaves and historians. Look up Thomas Thistlewood. Read Equiano's diary. Go to the docks and breathe it in.

I watched Amistad, which I wouldn't recommend as a film, but certainly read up on the events. Amazing Grace was fabulous, I really thought it was a good film and very helpful. Please check historical facts on films though!

As an aside, I watched The Great British Bake-Off the other night and they were talking about the sugar industry, and how Britain made it accessible for the masses, etc. Not one mention of the slave trade which made me feel slightly sick to be honest.

Book 5 - Creating Nations

This was my least favourite Block, to be honest. Lots of historians to get to grips with here - make sure you learn them. Pay attention to the French Revolution, and do read around the subject. The French Revolution is where it begins, and to be honest there is not much to go on from the book. War and Peace would be useful to read here, but it took me a month to read it (after this course) - so not essential and possibly time-wasting!

Chartists and Luddites - really good stuff. Luddites If you get well into it, read Capital by Karl Marx. I read this after the course, as I couldn't squeeze any more reading in with what I was doing. Pay attention to the revolts - 1840s - really interesting stuff here. I'd also recommend reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, but again, only if you have time.

Block 6 - Nations and Imperialism

Again, harrowing. Do focus on your historians here again.

King Leopold White King, Red Rubber, Black Death - brilliant documentary

Focus on propaganda and the role of the media. There is loads to go on here, and because it is more modern history, I found I enjoyed this very much. Read Eric Hobsbawm - The Age of Empire - heavy-going but worth it.

The Exam

  • Do a revision timetable and try and stick to it. I revised one block a week, made notes, then revised exam technique and practise questions
  • Buy the practise papers, or network and get someone to email them to you.
  • Make posters or flashcards. Posters worked wonders for me. I printed pictures of the historians with speech bubbles saying what their view was on certain issues. Corny, but it worked. My flashcards were basically screwed up pieces of paper in a creased envelope with historians' views and names on that I asked my 8 year old to test me on in the car on the way to school. Resourceful!
  • Make notes. I didn't make ANY notes throughout the whole course, I was enjoying it so much I forgot about revision. I then had to play catch-up - DERR.

The Source Book

When we had our day school, one of the tutors asked the group how we planned to revise the source books. I answered with "I plan on reading every source." Both men at the front muttered "no no no" and shook their heads. I explained myself "I need to know these sources so I can use them to help me to answer my questions as primary evidence." I honestly read every source, and took mental notes. I remembered the women's pamphlets, the abolitionists' documents, Charles II's declarations, Leopold II's speeches. It was hard-going but worth it.

Visual Sources

Same again - look them over, try and remember them. You can use them in your exam and essays - Brookes' Slave Ship, the images of the Herero tribe, photographs of mutilated Congolese - these are all powerful images that should prompt you to remember names like Thomas Clarkson and  Alice Harris.

 So that's it really. I LOVED the course, and it's a bit sad, but I still miss the damn thing. I start A218 next week, so I am looking forward to that. I must say I feel so much better for getting all this stuff down - I only hope I have helped some of you. Thanks for reading and good luck with A200.

Please leave comments or email me, I'll be happy to respond.

If you liked this post, you might also like to read:

A218 - Just Call Me Dr. McGiveron
Stop! Essay Time
A218 TMA 01 Results and TMA02
A218 - Madness to Continue?
Last TMA Results and Revision/ist Time
Exam Jitters
A218 Pre-Exam Post-Revision Jitters: A Day In Pictures
A218 Exam Results


  1. Reading your blog as I'm almost at the end of A200 and plan on taking A218 next. Must admit to having a HUGE panic about the upcoming exam eek! We've had the advance notification of the topics now and it all seems to be very close and very scary! If you don't mind me asking, did you find the exam ok? Or awful?! I'm expecting awful!

  2. Hi Karen

    I found the exam questions were what I expected really - but that's not to say that there was no hard work to be put in! I basically planned my answers for 20 minutes and spent the whole rest of the time writing like a mad woman. Do you have practice questions? I found they really help. Is this your first exam with the OU? A200 was mine and I was terrified I'll be honest - but once I had done my plans I thought 'Hmmm actually I DO know the stuff - it was just a case of getting it down on paper. I didn't practice all the past questions, but I did time myself writing one essay so that I knew how long I would have to plan - I'd recommend doing that. Please get in touch if you need any other info, I'll be happy to do my best to help :)

  3. Hi Kerrie,
    Just spotted your reply, sorry! Only a few weeks away now and I should really be revising lots but haven't yet eek! My tutor sent me past papers from 2007-2010 so that's given me a fair bit to practise on. This is my first exam with the OU so I'm very nervous but looking forward to having it over with now. I'll really have to get cracking over the weekend :)

  4. Hi Kerrie, could you please let me know the word count for the assignments, are they around 1000 words? Also is this course so full on that it takes over your life completely? or do you still manage to get time for other things? I am only asking as i am enrolled on A200 from Oct. 2013, but i was hoping to take on a lesser demanding course too, but i work everyday which means i only have a certain amount of time to do everything in. Best regards Jon

    1. Hi Jon

      The essays range from 500-2000 words - I think onky the last one was 2000, they are mainly around 1000 words.
      I would say that you could probably fit a level 1 course in with this whilst working, like AA100 or something like that, but personally, I wouldn't take on anything harder than a Level 1. There is a lot of reading with A200, and I completely absorbed myself in all of it because I loved it. (I haven't with A218, hence me panicking about the exam!) So I'd say that you can squeeze in whatever you need to - the exam for A200 requires teh revision of at least 4 out of the 6 blocks - so there is a certain amount of leeway. I hope this helps. Please get in touch if you have any other questions.


  5. Hi Kerrie,

    Just spotted your blog. This is great information as i am just revising for this exam next week.

    The speech bubbles and the individual info is fantastic and is inspiring me to continue revision.

    The great thing is its reminded me otf lots of things i should be revising - like noting the historians names and taking in to consideration different anthologies. (plus lots n lots more)

    Exam here I come lol.

    Hope you enjoy your new course and look forward to reading some more of your experinces with the OU courses.


    1. Hi Suzanne

      Thanks for your comments. I'm glad I could be of some use! Good luck with the exam, I have mine next week too arghhh!!!


    2. Thankyou Kerrie, your reply has helped me to decide now, just how much of a work load to take on. good luck to you with your current course, Jon

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  8. I recently finished A100 and was really looking forward to starting this course in October despite the number of negative student reviews, but it seems that under the new OU rules if I want a student loan to cover the course fees I have to do another 60 Credits at level 1 before they'll pay for me to study level 2. So I'm taking Law in October and will start A200 in 2014.

    I am a bit jealous that your exam seems have been centered around the Civil War, as I find the prospect of an exam terrifying but am somewhat obsessed with the Civil War, Cromwell the Tyrant, the diggers movement etc, as it seems to me that without these events there may never have been a French Revolution, Communism, or American Imperialism.

    Thank you for your post, it's nice to see that it isn't a universally hated course, and I'm sure your tips will prove invaluable. However some of your attached links are no longer working so I was unable to check them all out.

  9. WifeMumStudentBum29 July 2013 at 17:02

    Thanks for this Damien. Diggers, Levellers etc were fascinating, and a lot of the primary sources on A200 focus around that - really interesting reads.

    Thanks for letting me know about the links, I'll go through them tonight and check. Good luck with your future studies.

  10. Thanks for this, I'm just about to start A200 in October (have done DD101 and now finishing W100) and I was a little worried about stepping up to level 2. I feel much better for reading your blog :)

  11. WifeMumStudentBum2 August 2013 at 20:59

    I'm glad you feel better Dawn - you will feel the difference moving up, but it's more of a challenge than a bind - bit more to get your teeth into. I'm doing Level 3 in Sept - eeek - scared! Good luck to you :)

  12. Thanks for this, I am also starting A200 in October and this has been really useful. Did you do 60 credits over the year or 120?

  13. WifeMumStudentBum14 August 2013 at 08:26

    Hi Sally - I just did 60 credits, I only do one module a year, but lots of people do double up.

  14. Beth MusingHousewife26 August 2013 at 11:17

    Hi, thank you for posting this, I am starting A200 in October and can't wait... As much as I've read mixed reviews, each block appeals to me in different ways! I enjoyed reading another parent/students point of view! :)


  15. Kerrie - thanks for going to the trouble of writing all this down. It's very useful.

  16. WifeMumStudentBum13 October 2013 at 19:25

    Thanks for your comment Ken it's great that people find this helpful. I still love A200, seems a long time ago since I did it now! :)

  17. Someone on an OU group has just posted this link - made me smile to think I'd already read your stuff! Now I have to get stuck and get work done! What was the deal about you writing my essays for me..... free cake wasn't it?

  18. i've read this about 4 times now kerrie but thanks - i'm only now getting round to starting the god damn module after a screw up with my student finance and you've helped remind me of the important things to note :) hope Empire is going well for you X

  19. Thank you so much for this. I just read it, I start A200 in September 2014 and now I know what I need to do to keep on track. I might add that I am taking L192 French at the same time so I think I might bein for some interesting times!

  20. WifeMumStudentBum21 May 2014 at 21:18

    Good luck Fiona, I am sure you will enjoy it. French as well? Wow, I am impressed!

  21. Hi Kerrie, I am so pleased I found your blog by accident! I am just about to start A200 and your study tips are greatly appreciated. I have not long since completed A151 and struggled with my time resulting in forever catching up, not taking notes and having too much to revise so your post will help immensely, thank you :-).
    A quick question....roughly how long do you have to wait to receive exam results, it's killing me waiting to see if I have passed lol.

    1. Thanks Laura. It is usually a couple of months for exam results I think, but each course is different. I hate waiting for exam results too, pressing refresh every day, even though you know that it is most likely a much longer wait anyway! Good luck with A200. :)

  22. I'm so pleased I found your blog as I've just enrolled to do the course this Autumn! I think your tips are going to be so helpful so thank you for sharing x

  23. I'm so pleased I found your blog as I've just enrolled to do the course this Autumn! I think your tips are going to be so helpful so thank you for sharing x

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  25. Someone has just posted this on the A200 facebook page and it is so very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to put down your thoughts and tips. I shall be printing those and fixing them to the front of my notebooks for each block.

  26. Just about to begin this course in October and your blog post has added to my excitement. Thank you and good luck with your next endeavour.


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