History and Politics BA (Tripos)


Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics together. Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political history, international relations, and the history of political ideas, and draw on a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Our joint degree balances a strong grounding in the two component subjects with the chance to explore the ways in which historical and political understanding together illuminate the modern world.

One of the strengths of the History and Politics degree at Cambridge is the quality of the teaching: you will have the opportunity to learn from some of the most eminent academics in the field. The degree is taught through a mixture of departmental lectures, seminars and classes, and college ‘supervisions’, in which students discuss their essays with a senior academic individually or in very small groups. Supervisions provide a wonderful opportunity for students to receive individual feedback on their work and to discuss the problems and ideas thrown up by the lectures and further reading.

What's special about the course?

Our academics - more than 135 experts in their field who teach and research.

Libraries and source materials - the Seeley Library contains the collections of both History and Politics & International Studies. It is one of the largest history student libraries in the world. The University Library is also situated nearby, and is one of Britain's copyright libraries, offering an unrivalled book collection spanning centuries.

The Cambridge teaching system - supervision - regular one-hour supervisions taught in Colleges are the focal point of learning, providing personal supervision and the opportunity to debate with and learn from senior figures in the study of History and Politics. They are usually taught one-on-one or in small groups. You will write essays or prepare other materials for these sessions, in which you will receive constructive feedback on your work and further guidance.

The Cambridge teaching system - lectures and seminars - alongside preparing for your supervisions, which remains the centrepiece of the Cambridge experience, you will attend a number of lectures each week. These are designed to give you clear introductions to the history of political thought, a wide variety of modern British, European, American and world history, the origins of contemporary domestic and international politics, and conceptual issues in political science. Parts of the course are also taught through seminars where group discussion, small group work and presentations are encouraged.  

Gaining breadth and depth - the structure of the course gives you a broad understanding of historical and political themes (in Part IA and IB) and then encourages you to delve into specialist topics (in Part II).

At a glance

UCAS code VL12
Entry requirements and admissions tests

Typical A level offer A*AA 
A level History normally required.

IB: 40-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level
Some colleges may require pre-interview written assessment.
See Course entry in Cambridge prospectus for more information

Average entry 45
Available at all Colleges
Applications/acceptances 262/66
Further information If you have any questions about the admissions process, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office. If you have specific enquiries relating to the course, please contact the History Faculty Office by email at gen.enq@hist.cam.ac.uk.

The Course (from 2022)

You take four papers in each year. Teaching is provided through University lectures and classes and College supervisions, for which you typically write an essay and which give you the opportunity to discuss your ideas with a senior academic. In the first year, you can expect between eight and 10 hours of lectures and classes a week, along with one or two supervisions.

You’re assessed at the end of every year – mostly by three-hour written exams, though some papers are assessed by coursework and in the final year you can replace one paper with a dissertation.

Year 1 (Part IA)

In Year 1, you choose a History Outline paper from a wide range of options, typically including papers on British, European, American, African, and Asian history. You also take two Politics papers – The Modern State and its Alternatives, and International Conflict, Order and Justice – plus a core interdisciplinary paper in Evidence and Argument.

Year 2 (Part IB)

In Year 2, students choose one paper in each of the following categories:

  • a paper in International Organisation or Comparative Politics
  • a paper in the History of Political Thought
  • a further History Topic paper from a variety of options, reflecting the diverse research interests within the History Faculty

For the fourth paper, you write a long essay of up to 5,000 words on a question drawn from a wide range of subjects in History and Politics.

Year 3 (Part II)

You choose three papers from a wide range of possible combinations, including third-year Politics and International Relations papers (shared with HSPS) and History Special Subjects and Specified Subjects. The papers available each year may vary and numbers are restricted on some papers. Alternatively, you can replace one of these three papers with a dissertation of 10,000 words (2024-25 onwards) on a topic of your choice within the scope of the course.

All students also take a core paper called Theory and Practice in History and Politics, which engages with key issues such as democracy, inequality, and war in the light of work throughout the degree course.

Explore Part II

In Year 1, you choose a History Outline paper from a wide range of options, typically including papers on British, European, American, African, and Asian history. You also take two Politics papers – The Modern State and its Alternatives, and International Conflict, Order and Justice – plus a core interdisciplinary paper in Evidence and Argument.

Key Facts

  • You do not need to have studied Politics or International Relations before, though some colleges require A Level/IB Higher Level History or at least one essay-based subject.
  • A typical offer is A*AA at A Level or 40-42 IB points, with 776 in Higher Level subjects.
  • At least 45 places are available for next year's entry, and we hope to admit as many qualified applicants as possible.
  • Candidates who are not accepted for History and Politics may be considered for places in History or HSPS.

After Cambridge

Students who take this degree will have acquired a range of skills that are attractive to employers. They learn to work independently; to evaluate and discriminate between different types of evidence; to cope with large amounts of information; to work independently and with others; and to present arguments clearly and persuasively.

Recent graduates from the single honours History degree and from the Politics and International Relations track of the HSPS degree have gone on to careers in the media, politics, law, international organisations, public policy and administration, social research,  finance, teaching, and the charity sector.

Further Information

Discover more about studying History at Cambridge by following the links to other pages of this website. If you would like further information about studying Politics and International Relations, visit the website of the Department of Politics and International Studies.

Information on how to apply for this course can be found on the University's Undergraduate Study pages.