Across centuries and continents
Cambridge has one of the largest and best history departments in the world, and the course we offer reflects this quality and breadth of interest. We can offer you a huge range of options that span two millennia and circle the globe. Our course also reflects the rich diversity of modern historical writing, with cultural, social and intellectual history figuring as prominently as political or economic history, and with global history sitting alongside British and European history. In fact, you will have the opportunity to investigate practically any period or aspect of history that interests you.
At the same time, our course has clear, tightly focused, objectives. It will equip you with a broad range of historical knowledge and understanding. It will teach you to evaluate critically the significance and usefulness of primary and secondary material. It aims to instil in you the confidence to undertake self-directed learning – in other words, to define your own questions, and to go about answering them using the analytical and research skills you have picked up. And it emphasises the importance of assembling, organising and presenting your ideas clearly and coherently. Studying history will provide you with a multifaceted insight into human experience and help you to make sense of a complex, globalising world.
What are we looking for?
There is no such thing as an ‘identikit historian’ and so there is no simple answer to this question.
Apart from history, you do not need any particular subjects at A' level. A foreign language is certainly useful but not necessary. However, you should enjoy making analytical judgements, be able to think laterally, discriminate critically, enjoy reading, and have a burning curiosity about the past.
If you are a mature student, go here for more information about requirements for study at Cambridge:
What are we offering?
Our greatest strength - our staff
One of our professors has recently been awarded a knighthood for his work on German history. Another has recently completed a biography of the early medieval emperor, Charlemagne, while three of our colleagues have put together a groundbreaking exhibition on changing fashion trends from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. You may well be taught by any or all of these people.
Cambridge prides itself on being a teaching university, and none of the academics who work here is considered as being ‘too exalted to teach’. So the Faculty’s major resource is this international body of experts, numbering about 90. We continue to achieve top ratings in research assessments of university history departments in the UK and outstanding teaching ratings in surveys by the UK national press.
Our other great strength is the Seeley Library, one of the largest student libraries dedicated to history in the world, recently rewired for full internet access. Nearby is the University Library, which is unique among copyright libraries in storing most of its volumes on open shelves, available to undergraduates. In short, finding the right book is rarely a problem.
There are other benefits to studying here. Undergraduate historians are encouraged to embark or brush up on foreign languages, and have access to both the University Language Centre and specialist language teaching. And most Colleges have travel grants for students who wish to study the history of another country or who are doing research for their dissertation.
Teaching is spread between the Faculty and the Colleges. The Faculty devises the options, sets the examinations and provides lectures to cover course content. On average, you attend eight to ten lectures each week. Themes and Sources, in Part I, and Special Subjects, in Part II, are taught through Faculty classes. The Colleges arrange supervisions for the other papers in Parts I and II and this gives you the opportunity to engage in intense debates with senior historians. These weekly one-hour discussions are the focal point of your academic week and the core of the History course. You write an essay for an expert supervisor, who then discusses it with you either individually or in a small group. This system of teaching ensures that you get plenty of guidance, support and feedback. All Colleges are experienced in organising specialist teaching across the full range of historical topics.
At appropriate points, there are Faculty lectures and College classes on general historical issues. You will also have opportunities for informal interaction with frontline historians at College history society meetings and in the Faculty.
Breadth and depth
Our course gives you the opportunity to look at the past through many disciplinary lenses – including political, economic, social, cultural and intellectual – and to explore how history has learnt from other disciplines like anthropology, literature and archaeology. Course options are shared with other departments, such as Social and Political Sciences, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Classics, Modern and Medieval Languages and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.
History is unusual among Cambridge subjects in not setting a classed first-year examination but most history undergraduates sit a Preliminary Examination towards the end of their first year. This does not count towards your final degree but aims to give you an informal sense of your achievement to that point. The Colleges decide individually whether to enter their students for this or to assess their progress by other means.
The basic difference between Parts I and II is that Part I concentrates on breadth of historical understanding and Part II on depth. Throughout the course there is ample scope for you to pursue your personal interests and experiment with different historical approaches. Specialist papers allow you to work with a variety of source materials: in the past few years, these have included music, art, cartoons, other visual images, and coins. At the end of Part I, students sit five three-hour written papers; one-year Part II students also take five papers (unless they write a dissertation). The Part I Themes and Sources Long Essay and a Part II Long Essay and Dissertation ensure that you have the opportunity to be assessed on work done outside the examination room.
The flexibility of the History Tripos, and the fact that some Part II options are shared with faculties such as Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) and Classics, mean that few students wish to transfer out after Part I. Law and History of Art are favourites among those who do transfer. About ten people each year take a two-year Part II in History, usually after a one-year Part I in subjects such as SPS or Economics.
The basic difference between Parts I and II is that Part I concentrates on breadth of historical understanding and Part II on depth. Throughout the course there is ample scope for you to pursue your personal interests and experiment with different historical approaches. Specialist papers allow you to work with a variety of source materials: in the past few years, these have included music, art, cartoons, other visual images, and coins.
|UCAS code||V100 BA/H|
|Entry requirements||Typical A level offer A*AA
A' level History normally required. See also Course Requirements
|Admissions tests||See Admissions Tests and Written Work|
Available at all Colleges
|Further information||Information and Enquiries Office
Faculty of History
Cambridge CB3 9EF
|Open Days||Attend a College open day or the Cambridge Open Days|