History, BA History and Politics, BA History and Modern Languages

Director of Studies: Dr John Mueller

Course Overview

There are three ways to study History at Cambridge: as a single Honours subject, or jointly with either Politics or Modern Languages.

BA History

The course is divided into two parts: Part I (years 1 and 2) and Part II

Part I

Part I lasts two years (six terms) and comprises six papers, the first five of which are broad survey papers designed to give you an overview of a period in history. You study one each term for the first five terms and sit a written examination in each at the end of Year 2.

  • You take at least one paper on a period of British political history and at least one paper on a period of British economic and social history.
  • For the other three papers it’s possible to study any period of European history from the Greeks to the present; global and imperial history; the history of North America and the United States; and/or the history of political thought. If you wish, you can begin to specialise, for example in ancient and medieval papers, or almost entirely in the twentieth century.

For the compulsory sixth paper – Themes and Sources, an introduction to the handling of primary sources – you submit a 3,000-5,000 word essay. There’s a wide choice of topics, typically investigating a major comparative theme in history (such as the environment, money and society, or the history of the body). The essay is written over a period of some months and involves individual research.

Part II

You take five papers, three of which are compulsory:

  • Historical Argument and Practice – a general methodological paper that reflects on the broad issues of historical argument and practice arising out of work throughout the degree course (themes range from empire to gender, and from revolutions to race)
  • a Special Subject – consisting of two papers (one assessed by a long essay of 6,000-7,000 words, the other by a written examination) that provide an opportunity for advanced in-depth study of an important historical period, process or problem (eg the Angevin Empire, Indian democracy, the Black Death, the history of Ireland) through detailed examination of primary sources

For your remaining papers, you can either choose two Specified Subjects from a selection of topics or comparable themes in history, or choose one Specified Subject paper and write a dissertation of 10,000-15,000 words on a topic you have devised.

Further information is available on the University and Faculty webpages.

BA History and Modern Languages

Year 1 (Part IA)

You receive intensive language training (including translation and conversation) and take an introductory paper on the literature, history, film and philosophy of the country where your language is spoken. You also choose two broad papers in European or world history or the history of political thought.

Year 2 (Part IB)

You continue with classes to improve your language skills, and also choose three advanced papers – at least one from each subject – from a range in your chosen language (eg literature, history, film,  art, thought) and history (European, global or intellectual).

Years 3 and 4 (Part II)

Year 3

You spend the third year abroad – studying, teaching or on a work placement while gaining near-native proficiency in your language. You also complete a project, normally on a topic related to the history of the country you’re staying in.

Year 4

In the fourth year, you continue with advanced language work,  and take three specialised papers from a range of topics related to your language (eg literature, history, film, thought) and history (covering a variety of periods and parts of the world). You must take at least one from each subject. For further information about studying History and Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge see the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages website.

BA History and Politics

Year 1 (Part IA)

The first year provides a core grounding in historical knowledge, intellectual history, political science and international relations.

In Year 1, all students take three compulsory papers: Evidence and Argument; The Modern State and its Alternatives; and International Conflict, Order and Justice.

Your fourth paper is chosen from the following:

  • British Political History 1688-1886

  • British Political History Since 1880

  • European History 1715-1890

  • European History Since 1890

Year 2 (Part IB)

The second year offers more specialised papers in the history of political thought, international relations, comparative politics, and European and extra-European history.

You choose one of two History of Political Thought papers, either covering the period from the ancient Greeks to c1700, or c1700-c1890. For the second paper you take either International Organisation or Comparative Politics; and you select your third from four further history papers, covering periods of world history, American history or British social and economic history.

Your final paper is chosen from:

  • Statistics and Methods

  • Conceptual Issues in Politics and International Relations – exploring an aspect of politics and/or international relations (assessed by two 5,000 word essays)

  • a history project (leading to two 5,000 word essays)

Year 3 (Part II)

All students take an interdisciplinary paper that considers general and thematic issues in history and politics and the relationship between them.

You then choose three papers from a range from the Politics and International Relations and History courses which allow you to specialise further. The papers available each year may vary – see the website for those currently offered.

Alternatively, you can replace one of these three papers with a dissertation of 10,000-15,000 words on a topic of your choice within the scope of the course.

There is further information about the course on the University and Faculty webpages.

Entry Requirements

BA History:

Applications from mature students taking A levels or Access courses are welcome. There are no specific entry requirements for the course.

BA History with Modern Languages:

Applications from mature students taking A levels or Access courses are welcome.  Applicants must hold A Levels or equivalent in their preferred language.

BA History with Politics:

Applications from mature students taking A levels or Access courses are welcome. There are no specific entry requirements for the course.

At-Interview Assessment

All applicants for the History, History with Modern Languages, and History and Politics Triposes at St Edmund’s will be required to take an at interview admissions test.  Further information about this will be provided.
Please note that your performance in the assessment at interview will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.