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History is a dynamic, contested, evidence-based discipline that involves an exciting engagement with the past.

History is an exploratory subject that fosters a sense of inquiry. It is also an interpretive discipline, allowing opportunity for engagement with multiple perspectives and opinions. Studying history develops an understanding of the past, which leads to a deeper understanding of the nature of humans and of the world today.

The Diploma Programme (DP) history course is a world history course based on a comparative, multi-perspective approach to history and focused around key historical concepts such as change, causation and significance. It involves the study of a variety of types of history, including political, economic, social and cultural, encouraging students to think historically and to develop historical skills. In this way, the course involves a challenging and demanding critical exploration of the past.

The DP history course requires students to study and compare examples from different regions of the world, helping to foster international mindedness. Teachers have a great deal of freedom to choose relevant examples to explore with their students, helping to ensure that the course meets their students’ needs and interests regardless of their location or context.

History is available at both Standard Level (SL) and Higher Level (HL).

Syllabus outline

Prescribed subjects

(one to be studied)

1. Military leaders
2. Conquest and its impact
3. The move to global war
4. Rights and protest
5. Conflict and intervention

SL and HL
World history topics (two to be studied)

1. Society and economy (750-1400)
2. Causes and effects of wars (750-1500)
3. Dynasties and rulers (750-1500)
4. Societies in transition (1400-1700)
5. Early Modern states (1450-1789)
6. Causes and effects of Early Modern wars (1500-1750)
7. Origins, development and impact of industrialization (1750-2005)
8. Independence movements (1800-2000)
9. Emergence and development of democratic states (1848-2000)
10. Authoritarian states (20th century)
11. Causes and effects of 20th-century wars
12. The Cold War: superpower tensions and rivalries (20th century)

SL and HL
HL options: Depth studies (one to be studied)   1. History of Africa and the Middle East
2. History of the Americas
3. History of Asia and Oceania
4. History of Europe
HL only
Internal assessment Historical investigation SL and HL


Learn more about history in a DP workshop for teachers

History subject brief

Subject briefs are short two-page documents providing an outline of the course. Read the standard level (SL) and/or higher level (HL) subject brief below. 


History SL (PDF, 39 KB) pdf

History HL (PDF, 39 KB) pdf