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Footnotes in General/References

Footnotes in general

Wherever possible, footnotes must be confined to references only.  The expanding of footnotes to include lengthy digressive notes and other footnotes that are not directly relevant to the actual content of the thesis itself will not be accepted.


The purpose of footnotes is primarily to refer the reader to the sources upon which statements are made.  It is essential that the reader should be able to identify quickly the particular sources for particular statements.  If it is convenient to gather together the evidence for sequences of statements, or a sequence of examples illustrating a statement, it is perfectly proper to put these into a single note.  However, in such cases the sequence in the notes must follow the sequence in the text precisely. If there is any risk that a reader will not be able immediately to identify a particular source for each statement, then separate notes should be given.  If in doubt, use more rather than fewer separate notes.

There are two alternative systems of inserting references.  You cannot mix them for published references, but must choose one or the other and stick to it. You would do well to acclimatize yourself early to whichever sort of system is used by the journals in which you might hope eventually to publish some of your conclusions.  The Historical Journal, for example, uses traditional footnotes.

Traditional footnote system


  • The traditional method is that the first reference to a document or work in each chapter should be punctuated, spelt out and capitalised as in the following examples:

Cardwell to Russell, 3 Nov. 1865, London, National Archives (N.A.), Russell Papers, 30/22/1466, f. 23.

John Morley, The life of William Ewart Gladstone (2 vols., London, 1988 edn.), I, 42, 121-34.

M. Cowling, 1867: Disraeli, Gladstone and revolution: the passing of the second Reform Bill (Cambridge, 1967),  pp.41-5, 140-7, 151-62.

C.M. Williams, ‘The political career of Henry Marten’ (unpublished D.Phil. dissertation, University of Oxford, 1954).

W.G. Hynes, ‘British mercantile attitudes towards imperial expansion’, Historical Journal, XIX, 4 (1976), 969-76.

Select committee on manufactures, commerce and shipping (Parl. Papers, 1833, VI), Q3326.


and that the second and later references should be given in the appropriate abbreviated form (see (b)).

  • Since you should already have full description of your sources in the bibliography, you may, if you wish, use abbreviated versions for all your footnotes, except for manuscript references, which must appear in full.  You must be consistent and avoid ambiguity.  Add volume (if more than one).  It is usual to include ‘p.’ (or ‘pp.’ if more than one page) before page numbers, but only if there is no volume number.  It is also usual to shorten the second number (except those between 11 and 19) in a pair of page numbers, e.g. pp. 508-9, 512-16.

The references should be punctuated as in the following examples:

Hazel, The growth of the cotton trade, III, 2.

Carr, ‘Uncertainty and monetary theory’, p. 82.

Do not use op. cit. and loc. cit. but only your standardised abbreviated form of reference.  Use ibid to indicate that you are referring to the same item as that mentioned last, but remember that you may need another page reference.

When referring to a foliated work, use ‘fol.’, ‘fols.’ or ‘f.’, ‘ff.’ for folios; ‘r’ and ‘v’ for ‘recto’ and ‘verso’ should not be raised or underlined.

Check your footnotes against the bibliography because it will confuse and irritate the reader if the details given are not the same.  Use as few capitals as possible in book, journal and article titles, and be consistent.

Provide at the beginning of the thesis a list of any abbreviations used in the footnotes or in the bibliography and any special symbols that you have employed.

Footnotes must appear at the foot of the page to which they refer, in single-spaced typescript.

Author-date system

This can be used either in brackets in the text or in the ordinary way in footnotes: the use in

text is normally only suitable for some fields of social and economic history.

The normal form is ‘Darcy 1920. pp. 131-8’ – author’s name, date and reference; if the

references are in the text, they are in brackets ‘(Darcy 1920, pp.131-8)’.  Possible alternatives

include ‘Darcy (1920), pp.131-8)’. or ‘Darcy 1920: 131-8’ omitting the ‘pp.’.

If the references are in the text another variant can occur: ‘the analysis of straw hat manufacture at Gamlingay by Darcy (1920, pp.131-8)’.  If the author published two or more works in one year, these are labelled ‘1920a’ etc.

Manuscript References must appear in full as in the Traditional Footnote system.

When explanatory notes are needed they must appear at the foot of the page, not in brackets in the text.

The names of two joint authors are always given.  Three and four joint authors are always given in full the first time and thereafter et al. may be used.  Five or more names can be given as et al. from the start.

Where several references are cited together in the text they may be placed in alphabetical or chronological order, or in order of importance, but the same system should be used throughout.

New MPhil courses in 2015

Applications are now being accepted for three new courses to be run from October 2015

Nominations are now closed

Voting day Tuesday 25th November

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