History BA (Tripos) - New for 2022

Overview

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 taught in Colleges 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 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 weekly supervision, 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 historical events and processes, change over time, and historians’ changing interpretations of the past. 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 broad historical understanding (in Part IA and IB) 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 .
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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 (from 2022)

We are delighted that students who join us from 2022 will study a substantially new and significantly enhanced curriculum. This has been designed over several years, in consultation with current undergraduates, and aims to enhance students’ knowledge, skills and employability.  

Please note that current students looking for information about the old course should go to: The Historical Tripos (2021/22).

The new single-honours history course is designed to facilitate your progression along three distinct tracks of historical teaching, across all three years of the degree: 

  1. Historical knowledge. You will acquire a breadth of area-specific historical knowledge covering different places, periods and themes, by taking a wide range of Outline, Topic and Advanced Topic papers across Year 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
     
  2. The craft of history. You will develop skills central to historical work, from research, writing, note-taking, data collection and analysis in Skills papers, to deep engagement with historical sources in Sources papers. In subsequent years you deepen your understanding of the craft of history through the second year Research Project and the third year Special Subject
     
  3. Historical thinking. You will gain a deep understanding of the nature of history as a discipline, and exposure to its multiple fields and cross-disciplinary affiliations. Historical Thinking is taught through a combination of college-based reading seminars and faculty lectures. In your first year, you will take Introduction to Historical Thinking, in which you will learn how to read a single historical book as a historian would. In Years 2 and 3, you examine the development of historical fields and key concepts.
     

A summary of Tripos structure:

Type of paper

Part IA (Year 1)

Part IB (Year 2)

Part II (Year 3)

Historical Knowledge

Outlines

Topics

Advanced Topics

The Craft of History

Sources

Research Project

Special Subjects

Historical Thinking

Introduction to
Historical Thinking

Historical Thinking II

Historical Thinking III

In addition, students will have access to a varied programme of training throughout their degree course. This will cover key historical skills, including essay-writing, note-taking, and numeracy, and how to handle a range of primary materials, from archival documents to visual sources and digital databases.

To learn more about specific paper offerings, explore the sections below.

Explore Part IA (Year 1)

Part IA is designed to give you the foundations on which to develop your skills as a historian, researcher, writer and thinker, and to make the transition from A-level to University with confidence. You will also learn about areas of the world and historical periods which you'll likely never have studied in depth at school.

Taught entirely in your College, you will learn how to read books and understand how they have made a significant impact on a given historical field. Some choices for 2022-23 include: 

  • Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Belief in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England (1971) 
  • Helen Smith, Masculinity, Class and Same-Sex Desire in Industrial England, 1895-1957 (2015)
  • Simon Gikandi, Slavery and the Culture of Taste (2011)
  • Gregor Benton and Hong Liu, Dear China: Emigrant Letters and Remittances, 1820-1980 (2018)
  • Camilla Townsend, Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs (2019)

Explore Part IB (Year 2)

  • Two Topic papers – these explore focused areas of historical knowledge in depth. The topics available each year may vary, but there will be a wide choice, reflecting the diverse research interests of the Faculty’s staff.
  • A Research Project – this paper equips you to undertake your own historical research. Each project covers analytical and conceptual features of a particular area of history, and offers guidance on the methodologies and skills needed to research it
  • Historical Thinking IB – this introduces you to broad methodological fields of history, such as environmental history, material culture, and intellectual history.

    More information on Part IB will be added in due course. 

Explore Part II (Year 3)

These courses are designed to give students an ambitious sweep through a theme or period and are oriented to the latest research. Those listed here are an indicative selection that have recently run, and give you a sense of the sorts of things on offer.

You take five papers:

  • Two Outline papers – these typically survey a long period and broad geographical area. You choose from around ten papers, ranging over Britain and Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.
     
  • Sources paper – this examines in detail a body of primary material on a particular historical theme, issue, or event. You choose from a range of options which vary each year. Typical examples include Travel and Trade in the Medieval World; Letters in Antiquity; Arab Intellectual History.
     
  • An Historical Thinking paper – this introduces methods and debates by examining a single work of history that has influenced the discipline.
     
  • An Historical Skills paper – this covers the research skills essential in History, such as the use of archives, digital sources, and oral history, as well as quantitative approaches. You will also be taught good academic practice.

 

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 IA or IB, 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. 

Destinations

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.