Themes and Sources

Course Material 2020/21

Themes and Sources is a compulsory paper in Part I (Paper 1), in which students study one of a number of options, and are assessed by means of a Long Essay (3000-5000 words) on one of a variety of set questions. This involves extensive individual research. The essay is set in May of the first year and submitted in January of the second year, so most of the work for it is done in the intervening vacations.

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.

Other options explore big themes over long periods of time; or there may be a combination of theme-based and source-based approaches. Some options may also involve the use of visual material. Those who have followed source-based courses at school will find these approaches quite familiar.

Themes and Sources papers are taught by Faculty classes. These involve a different style of study from the weekly essay. Teaching takes place in classes at regular intervals in the last two terms of the first year. Presentations by option teachers are held in the first teaching week of Michaelmas term, after which students are asked to submit their preferences. Class sizes are limited, between 14 and 18 students per option. Students will be assigned to an option by the Faculty, in consideration of their preferences and available spaces, in a process overseen by the convenor of Themes and Sources.  Occasionally, the Faculty may need to withdraw an option before the course starts, and any students who had been assigned to that option would be offered an alternative.