History BA (Tripos)


Cambridge has one of the largest and best history departments in the world, which means our courses offer a huge range of options covering three millennia and circling the globe.  Viewing history through political and economic lenses as well as cultural, social and intellectual ones  gives you the opportunity to investigate practically any aspect of history which interests you.
The course has clear, tightly focused, objectives. Equipping you with a broad range of historical knowledge and understanding,  it teaches you to critically evaluate primary and secondary material. It aims to instil in you the confidence to define your own questions, and to go about answering them using the analytical and research skills you have gained. You will learn how to go about assembling, organising and presenting your ideas clearly and coherently.

What's special about the course?

Our academics - more than 90 experts in their field who teach and research.

Libraries and source materials - the Seeley Library is one of the largest history student libraries and the University Library is one of Britain's copyright libraries, offering an unrivalled book collection spanning centuries.

The Cambridge teaching system - supervision - weekly one-hour supervisions in College are the focal point of the academic week, providing personal supervision and the opportunity to debate with and learn from senior historians.  They are usually undertaken one to one or in pairs. You write essays for these sessions and get guidance, support and feedback.

The Cambridge teaching system - lectures and seminars - on average you attend 8 - 10 lectures a week, designed to give you clear introductions to historical events and processes, change over time, and the changing interpretations historians have offered. The course also includes seminars where small group work and presentations are encouraged. 

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

At a glance

UCAS code V100 BA/H
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 200
Available at all Colleges
Applications/acceptances 744/201
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 .
Photo of Khadija Tahir
Khadija Tahir
Writing a third year dissertation was both daunting and exhilarating. I loved forming my own views, leading my own research and contributing to the history of Lahore, a city I grew up in.

The Course (2022)

This information is for current students and those starting the course in October 2022. Prospective applicants should note that the structure of the Tripos has changed from previous years. More information can be found here


The course is currently split into a 2 year Part I and 1 year Part II. Part I is where you are expected to build a breadth of historical knowledge.  During Part II  you select a 'Special Subject' for in depth study and have the option to develop your own questions and archive research in a dissertation.

How the course is taught

Teaching is split between your college and the Faculty.  The Faculty designs the courses, sets exams and provides lectures.  Your small group supervision takes place in College in a weekly cycle where you write an essay and then discuss this with your tutor.

How the course is assessed

Part I Exams (at the end of Year 2) - five Part I papers which consist of three-hour exams in which you answer three essay questions.

Part I Long Essay -  a 'themes and sources' option taken during your first year is assessed via a 3-5,000 word essay written over the summer at the end of the first year.

Part II Special Subject Essay -  a long essay of 6-7,000 words written over Easter in your third year.

Part II Exams -  a three-hour 'gobbets' paper which asks you to comment on primary sources studied over the year; and either one or two Advanced Topic papers which are each three hours long and in which you answer three essay questions.

Part II Dissertation -  a 10-15,000 word dissertation researched over the summer between  your second and third years and written during the autumn.  It is submitted in the Easter Term.  If you choose a dissertation only one 'Advanced Topic' exam is written.

Explore Part I (2022)

Current Part I students should note that the following papers will not run in 2022-23:
2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 14


Themes and Sources is examined via a Long Essay of 3,000 to 5,000 words.  This is a ‘take-home’ examination paper which first-year students receive in May, after they have completed the course.  Students submit their Long Essay the following January, at the start of the Lent term in their second year.  The aims of the Long Essay are to test students’ understanding of the main problems and approaches of the course they have followed with reference to a specific question.

Options typically take a broad theme in comparative history (such as gender, race, Christianity or film) and investigate continuities and changes over time. Several options are based on a close reading of primary source material, and examine the problems involved in using such sources.

Students choosing the pre 1700 paper can take the post 1700 option in Part II

Explore Part II (2022)

Note that when we refer to 'papers' these are similar to modules and are examined.


  • Students must choose a themes and sources paper that is taught in year one and examined in year two. This offers opportunities to work with primary sources, and broad themes such as 'utopia' or 'the body'
  • Students must sit one paper that is broadly pre 1750, and one European paper during their BA course. This can fulfilled at any point over the three years of study.

Optional papers
You take five optional subjects. At least one must be selected from British Political History.  At least one must be from British Economic and Social History.   At least one must be from any of European History, Political Thought, World History or American History. Typical courses within these subject areas include British political history from 380 to 1100 or the history of the United States from 1865.

Detailed information can be found here


Studying at Cambridge

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.

Applying to study History

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

Further information

Options on changing course

It is possible in certain circumstances to transfer to a different Tripos after Part I, although 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 very few students opt to do so.  A very small number of students each year take a two-year Part II in History, having completed Part I in another subject, such as English or Economics. 


Cambridge historians acquire a range of skills that are attractive to employers: the ability to work independently, to evaluate evidence, and to present arguments clearly and persuasively.

In the past, our graduates have secured rewarding jobs across sectors, ranging from journalism and broadcasting to teaching and research, finance, consultancy, law and public administration.