What is history? - The play in the past

The fact that the play takes place in the past is important to this theme. Scripps’s occasional speeches as narrator show that the events of the sixth form are happening in the past. The frame, with the ‘future’ Irwin at the beginning of each act, shows that the 'History Boys' are historical because of:

  • their topic of study
  • their schooling and university lives are now in the past

There is a direct link made between the events of the play and the future of the boys, and of their teacher. For example:

  • Irwin’s TV history programme echoes his teaching
  • the boys have grown up lives and careers whose causes can be traced back to their sixth form life

But there is nothing to suggest that these were the only possible outcomes. Although the 'future' is fixed, because it’s already happened, there is only a slight sense of fate in the play – about Irwin’s wheelchair.