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History Tripos overview

From Republican Rome to contemporary India, from Plato and Aristotle to Obama and Cameron: it’s your choice. 

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 three 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 

Cambridge prides itself on being a teaching university, and none of the academics who work here is considered as being ‘too exalted to teach’. There are over 50 permanent lecturing staff in the Faculty and they work alongside many college teaching and research fellows and several notable visiting scholars from abroad.  A list of Faculty and college lecturing staff can be found here.  

The Faculty has an internationally distinguished reputation for research. We regularly achieve top ratings in research assessments of university history departments in the UK and outstanding teaching ratings in surveys by the UK national press.

Unparalleled libraries 

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.

Specialist teaching and informal interaction 

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. Source-based options 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 History 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. Some course options are shared with other departments, such as Politics and International Relations, Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, Classics, Modern and Medieval Languages and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

Changing courses

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. 

An overview  

UCAS code V100 BA/H
Entry requirements and admissions tests

Typical A level offer A*AA 
A' level History normally required.
Pre-interview written assessment for all applicants.
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 .
Open Days Attend a College open day or the Cambridge Open Days 

View current course structure

View course structure from 2021