Studying history at Cambridge
Due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and government guidance, we are constantly monitoring the changing situation, and aiming to offer students the best possible academic experience in the circumstances. We will continue to respond to the changing public health situation.
The academic year 2021-2 will see the following adjustments:
- Teaching will be a mixture of online and in-person, adjusted according to government and university health guidelines
- Those who cannot attend in person due to international travel restrictions or health vulnerabilities will be offered remote learning alternatives
Turning to wider academic matters...
The aim of studying history, in single or joint honours, at university is to further your understanding and knowledge of the past and your ability to present that understanding and knowledge with clarity, insight and discrimination.
The historian has to mine a large body of material efficiently; to evaluate its significance and utility in answering important questions about societies, institutions, cultures and individuals; and to order her or his thoughts on these matters succinctly, clearly, yet with sensitivity. The teaching that you will receive over the next three years is designed to develop these skills.
They will be examined in a number of ways. For single honours History degrees, you'll sit outline papers and the Themes and Sources paper in Part I (years 1 and 2), and by Advanced Topics and Special Subjects plus a general paper in Historical Argument and Practice in your third year. You will also have the opportunity to substitute a dissertation on a subject of your choice for one of your Part II Advanced Topics.
For History and Politics, all first years take courses in Evidence and Argument, The Modern State and its Alternatives, and International Conflict, Order and Justice. You can then select additional courses from the History Faculty options. In the third year, 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.
For History and Modern Languages, students combine History Faculty papers with language study in German, Italian, Russian and Spanish from scratch or post-A Level; Portuguese from scratch; and French post-A Level. Your first and second years see intensive language training and papers on the literature, history, film and philosophy of the country where your language is spoken, as well as broad papers in European or global history. Your third year is spent abroad, while year four includes advanced language work and specialist papers in history, literature and culture.
The function of the History Faculty is to develop the course structure, to organise and oversee its working, to set and mark the Tripos examinations - and to offer lectures, which play a crucial role in defining the content of each paper. In addition, Themes and Sources options and Advanced Topics are taught by Faculty classes.
The role of colleges, in particular your college Director of Studies, is to arrange the teaching of all other papers and to help you get the most out of it. Your Director of Studies is responsible for overseeing your academic progress, and is the person to whom you should turn if you are having difficulties with work or with understanding what is expected of you. Never be afraid to approach him or her with your problems.