A Level History and Politics students were lucky enough to spend five days in Washington D.C. over half term. With the American Civil War and US politics contributing to a sizeable amount of the syllabuses, this was a golden opportunity to witness the legacy of american history, as well as gaining a greater understanding of how the complex political system operates.

From a historical perspective, a visit to the Confederacy’s White House in Richmond, Virginia was a highlight of the first day. Far from the grand building in which President Trump now resides, it was barely distinguishable from any others in the town and a guided tour gave us an insight into the life of Jefferson Davis (Confederate President) and how his familial and political affairs were interconnected within that one house. A day trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania saw us track the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg by foot, and see (through the preserved battlefield) exactly how the Union defeated the Confederate forces and arguably defined the outcome of the Civil War. This was followed by an extremely interesting visit to Mount Vernon Estate, the home of George Washington. Washington - and fellow president Abraham Lincoln - are commemorated by enormous, breathtaking monuments in the National Mall, in addition to that of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam War Memorial. Lincoln’s assassination site, Ford’s Theatre, is also open to the public where we were able to visualise the exact, shocking circumstances in which he was murdered.

From a political viewpoint, the US Capitol building was no doubt the main attraction of the trip. We were able to watch the debates in the Senate, as well as have a guided tour including the Capitol’s iconic dome. Nearby was the Supreme Court and the White House, both of which we saw from the outside before heading to the National Archives Museum. Seeing the original 250-year-old documents that are the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence was truly mind-blowing, given the sheer significance of their content in the whole of US society. Whilst we were in Richmond, we also visited the Virginian Capitol to learn more specifically about state government, listening to talks from two government employees.

The inaugural Washington D.C. scavenger hunt proved a lovely way to explore the city in a more relaxed manner. Overall the trip was jam-packed and extremely enriching and informative. Personally, seeing the breadth of history that exists in such a small city was amazing, considering how the country has evolved into what it is today. Thanks are owed to the History and Politics Team for organising an incredible trip.