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History Faculty style guide

Guidance for all coursework submitted for examination in the Historical Tripos (Themes & Sources Long Essays, Special Subject Long Essays and Dissertations) and the History and Politics Tripos (Long Essays and Dissertations submitted to the History Faculty).

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Section I gives compulsory requirements for all coursework: these include the regulations for the word count; presentational matters including line spacing, page numbers, margins, font; for miscellaneous matters; and basic compulsory requirements for footnotes and bibliography.

Section II gives an example of a specific style for footnotes and bibliography, adapted from Cambridge University Press guidelines for Humanities and Social Sciences, which is recommended but optional. So long as the guidelines set out in Section I are observed, students may choose from any documented style for footnotes and bibliography, on condition that they apply it sensibly and consistently. They may wish to consult, for example, the style adopted by journals in the field of their submission, or the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017), or the compact version thereof in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 9th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

This latitude for style choice has been introduced because academic styles vary widely among different journals and publishers, and it would be misleading to require students to adhere to a single system as if that were likely to be the only system required of them in the future. The main requirement is to be consistent and clear in the use of any given style.

A.   Word count

  1. The word count for each piece of coursework is clearly stated in the relevant essay or dissertation guide. 

  2. The word count must be strictly observed. Students can expect to be penalized for exceeding or falling short of the prescribed word limits. 

  3. The word count includes:
    1. Statistical graphs, charts, tables, and digital objects, each of which should be counted at 150 words per page. However, technical explanations accompanying digital objects (where necessary) are not included in the word count. A technical explanation is narrowly defined as any text strictly necessary to understanding the digital object it accompanies. 
    2. Appendices (if any): which should be included, if at all, only in dissertations, on the advice of your supervisor, and never in Long Essays. Permission may however be sought from the Faculty Board to exclude from the word count an appendix which for the convenience of the examiners reproduces a little-known or difficult-to-access text or source being discussed: see the Dissertation Guidelines for the procedure to be followed.
    3. Chapter and section headings.
    4. Captions for illustrations and maps.
  4. The word count excludes:
    1. Footnotes. However, footnotes should be restricted to the documentation of claims and the registration of relevant caveats or observations in relation to the literature. Footnotes must not be used to circumvent the word-count length in relation to the argument of the essay or dissertation; examiners have the discretion to penalise work which grossly abuses the purpose of footnotes. See below for further instructions on footnotes.
    2. Bibliography. See below for further instructions on bibliography.
    3. Prefatory material: title page, table of contents (for dissertations only: see B.7 below), acknowledgements page (optional), abbreviations list (optional: see C.3.b below).
    4. Illustrations and maps, wherever used, must be clear and legible and provided with appropriate captions. The captions do count in the word count as stated in A.3.d above; however, technical explanations of digital objects are not included, as stated in A.3.a. above. 
    5. Passages duplicated because of the requirement to supply translations of sources in foreign languages (see section C.4). Students may supply either the original foreign-language source or the translation in the body of the text, as they see fit. Those who have quoted from the original foreign-language source should supply the translation in the footnotes, and vice versa. Since these duplicated passages are placed in the footnotes, they are not included in the overall word count. However, note that if the submission goes on to discuss the translation as part of the argument, there the translated words should be counted normally.
  5. Calculating and verifying the word count: the word count should be conducted on the main body of the text, excluding prefatory material and bibliography, and setting the 'word count' tool to exclude footnotes from the word count.

B.   Presentation matters

  1. The text should be double-spaced, with the exception of footnotes, which should be single-spaced.

  2. Submissions should be typed and printed single-sided.

  3. The main text, bibliography, and any other prefatory or appended materials should use 11- or 12-point font. Footnotes may use 10-, 11- or 12-point font.

  4. Margins should be at least 2.5 cm on each side. The main text should be left justified but not right justified.

  5. All pages should be numbered, with the exception of prefatory material (the title page, table of contents, and any acknowledgement page or abbreviations list) and the first page of full text. These numbers should be in the top right hand corner of each page and should not be preceded by any ‘p.’ or followed by a full stop. 

  6. Avoid ‘widows and orphans’: that is, headings, single words, or single lines of text that dangle, separated from the rest of the section to which they belong, at the top or bottom of a page. You may insert additional line spaces to avoid such occurrences.

  7. Dissertations should include a table of contents on a separate page, which lists the title, chapter titles, and any sub-sections, giving for each the page number on which it begins (without any ‘p.’ or full stop associated with that number).

C.   Miscellaneous matters

  1. Spelling, punctuation and capitalization:
    1. Punctuation systems should consistently follow British style (except in quotations from other sources, where the punctuation convention of the original should be retained). British style uses single inverted commas, except for quotations within quotations (which have double inverted commas). Punctuation should follow closing inverted commas:

             It was ‘too close to call’.
    2. The exception to the above rule is the case of grammatically complete sentences beginning with a capital letter as in the following example.

             ‘This is an example of such a grammatically complete sentence.’
    3. Full sentences within brackets have their punctuation within brackets:

              He said it. (But I don’t know why.)

      But contrast the case of brackets used within a full sentence:

              He said it (but I don’t know why).
    4. Use the serial comma: ‘red, white, and blue’ rather than ‘red, white and blue’.
      Use the possessive ‘s’ following a name ending in -s (Dickens’s, Jones’s, rather than Dickens’, Jones’), except for names from antiquity (Socrates’, Jesus’).
  2. Numbers and dates
    Numbers should be written out up to 100, except in a discussion that includes a mixture of numbers above and below this, in which case all of them should be in figures (e.g. 356 walkers overtook 72 others, as 6 fell back, exhausted). However, numbers with units should always be given in figures, with a space between the number and the unit (e.g. 4 cm).

    Dates should be written in the form: 20 December 1148; 20 December; AD 245-50. Centuries should be written out (twenty-first century) and 1920s etc. should be written without an apostrophe.

  3. Abbreviations and reference conventions
    1. The following are standard abbreviations which you may employ without having to list them or explain them to the reader:

      ed., eds., edn editor, editors, edition
      f., ff. following page or pages
      fol. and fols folio, folios
      MS and MSS manuscript(s)
      qu quoted
      r. recto
      sig. signature number
      trans. translated (by)
      v. verso
      vol., vols. volume, volumes

      Note that abbreviations are followed with a point: ch., vol., vols.
      Contractions have no following point, so edn, Dr, St are correct.
    2. You may also give standard (or where there are no standard, invented) abbreviations for journals or materials to which you will be referring frequently in the text or notes. These abbreviations should be listed on a page at the beginning of the submission, which as stated above does not count toward the word limit. Examples are EHR (English Historical Review), MGHSS (Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores).
    3. Websites should be cited in roman without angle brackets: Although some authorities now counsel that there is no need to give the date of access to a site, the DNB and other important historical sources recommend it in view of frequent updating, and so you should include it, adapting the following form as appropriate:

      John Morrill, ‘Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [, accessed 15 June 2007].

      However, you should avoid citing websites where unnecessary, e.g. where a manuscript or source is readily available in print.
    4. To cite an interview that you have conducted, give the name of the person interviewed (unless the interviewee has asked to remain anonymous), the kind of interview (e.g. Personal interview, Telephone interview), and the date, for example:

              1 Theresa May. Personal Interview. 25 December 2016.

      The primary source section of your bibliography must include a list of interviewees (anonymised as necessary), indicating the date and location of the interview, unless the latter compromises the anonymity of the source. 
  4. Images
    1. Insert images in or at the end of the text, accompanied by a caption which clearly indicates as much as possible of the following information: artist/author; medium (oil/watercolour/pen and ink/engraving, etc.); date; location of the original; where you found the picture. The caption, which is included in the word-count, should be kept as short as possible. The images must be numbered in order of appearance (1, 2, 3 etc.).

    2. Size: whatever can be reproduced comfortably on the page. (For the purposes of uploading a digital copy to Moodle, the overall file size of your essay or dissertation should not exceed 40MB.)

    3. You do not have to put your images in the bibliography. Instead, include a separate List of Images, where you identify the images by their number and then give the same information as in paragraph a, above.
  5. Translation of Sources
    Where foreign language sources have been consulted, quotations should be given in the original language with a translation in the footnotes, or vice versa. If sources have been used in translation, the edition/translation consulted must be clear, and only the English version should be cited. For guidance on how this affects the word count, see A.4.e above. Please note that this guideline does not apply to foreign terms commonly used in English, e.g. ‘Ancien régime.’

D.   Basic compulsory guidelines for footnotes

  1. Use footnotes, not endnotes, for Faculty submissions (though note that most journals require text to be submitted as endnotes for eventual printing as footnotes). These footnotes should give a full form of the reference when first used, in whatever consistent style is adopted (see Section II for a recommended style). Do not use the author-date system – Skinner, 1969 – in either text or footnotes: although this system is used in some types of scholarly works, it is not well suited to most kinds of history and it is important for historians to learn to use a full reference footnoting system.
  2. See A.4.a. above for the golden rule on footnotes, which can be loosely summarized as keeping footnotes as brief as possible, essentially for reference and not digressions.
    Example of a footnote which would meet the A.4.a. guideline:

    See D.S. Allen, The World of Prometheus (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), who however understates the extent to which the Athenians felt bound by their laws.

    Example of a footnote which would violate the A.4.a. guideline:

    Allen argues that the Athenians determined their own law, without professional judges, legislators, or bureaucrats, and that this led them to see the law as a tool to use in rhetorical argument rather than as a binding and independent constraint. However this understates the extent to which the Athenians felt bound by their laws. They referred to them as ‘the laws of Solon’ and appeal to the laws, or to their violation, was a trump card in political dispute.
  3. Don’t over-footnote, but do make clear which reference goes with which item (don’t put five or six citations all in one footnote at the end of a paragraph, but key each to its relevant sentence). Where you have several references in a single footnote, separate items by a semi-colon. In most cases, the footnote indicator comes at the end of a sentence.
  4. Put a full stop at the end of every footnote.
  5. In works divided into chapters, as most Part II dissertations are, the footnote numbering begins anew in each chapter.

E.   Basic compulsory guidelines for bibliography

  1. Bibliographies should be divided into these sections, as applicable:
    1. Primary manuscript sources [manuscripts from the period studied]
    2. Primary printed sources [printed editions of sources from the period studied]
    3.  Secondary sources [works by historians or others, subsequent to period studied].
  2. In all these sections, items are listed in alphabetical order. In the case of printed sources, this is done by the first or only author’s surname. In the case of works without an author, it is done by title, but these are in the same alphabetical listing.
  3. Put a full stop at the end of every bibliographical entry.

Section II: Example of good practice: recommended style conventions for footnotes and bibliography

As explained in the introduction to this document, whereas the rules in Section I are compulsory, the style conventions given in this section (Section II) are recommended only. Section II outlines a style which you may choose to adopt for footnotes and bibliography, but you are not required to do so. You may alter the style for your own purposes so long as you are consistent (for example, medievalists and early modernists often omit the name of the publisher as this is either irrelevant or unknown for manuscripts and for early printed books). Alternatively, you may use any other consistent and documented style that you choose so long as you adhere to the requirements in Section I. At the risk of repetition, it must be stressed that the crucial issue is consistency within a single piece of work.

A.   Footnotes

The style convention for footnotes given here is to give a full reference at the first citation, and then author-plus-short-title in subsequent citations. The examples below use lower case in titles except for proper nouns; this should always be followed in the case of French and Latin titles, but in English and German titles either upper case or lower case may be used for non-trivial words in book titles.


1. First (or ‘full’) reference to books, articles, and manuscript source may be given as in the following examples (you may choose between giving authors’ names exactly as in their works, and using initials-plus-surname for all authors), giving where relevant the specific page number(s) to which you are referring:



Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish kings and culture in the early middle ages (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995).

A. T. Runnock, Medieval fortress building, new edn, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), vol. I, pp.135-7.

[Here ‘pp.135-7’ are the specific pages to which reference is being made; there is alternatively a different convention, of dropping the ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ when a volume number is cited, as here.]

G. S. Rousseau and Pat Rogers (eds.), The enduring legacy: Alexander Pope, tercentenary essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 44.


[Here ‘p.44’ is the specific page to which reference is being made. CUP style permits the ‘p.’ here, but its use is not mandatory, and you may choose to omit it so long as you do so consistently.]

Chapter in edited volume:

Charles Taylor, ‘The hermeneutics of conflict’, in Meaning and context: Quentin Skinner and his critics, ed. James Tully (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 218-28.

[Here ‘218-28’ is the complete page range of the chapter.]


Journal articles:

Elizabeth Salter, ‘Piers Plowman and the pilgrimage to truth’, Essays and Studies 11 (1958), 34-48.

[Here ‘11’ is the volume number, which must be given, and ‘34-48’ is the complete page range of the article. As the Salter example shows, it is not necessary to give the journal issue number or month in addition to the volume. If you do decide to adopt a convention of giving either issue number or month (which must be done consistently), omit the other: so either Journal of American History 91:4 (2005), or Journal of American History 91 (March 2005), but not Journal of American History 91:4 (March 2005).]


Arthur Jerrold Tieje, ‘A peculiar phase of the theory of realism in pre-Richardsonian fiction’, PMLA 28 (1913), 213-52, at p.214.

[Here PMLA would have to have been explained in an abbreviations list, otherwise spelt out here at first reference.]


Printed primary sources:

The reference should begin with the author’s name, as below, and the editor or translator’s name, if available, should be provided after the title.


Gregory I, The Letters of Gregory the Great, trans. J. C. Martyn, 3 vols (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2004).

Einhard, Vita Karoli, c. 12, ed. O. Holder-Egger, MGH SRG (Hanover: Hahn, 1911), p. 15.

Calendar of the Patent Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office, 1216-1509, 54 vols (London: Public Record Office, 1891-1916).

Pepys, Samuel, The Diary of Samuel PepysA New and Complete Transcription, eds. W. Matthews, W. Armstrong, R. Latham, 11 vols (London: Bell, 1970-83).

Manuscript material:

Richardson to Lady Bradshaigh, 15 December 1748, ‘Richardson / Bradshaigh letters’, Forster collection, XI, fol. 7, Harvard University.


Unpublished theses or dissertations:

H. R. Southall, ‘Regional unemployment patterns in Britain, 1851 to 1914’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge (1984), p. 72.


Films, sound recordings, music videos, television programmes:

Use common sense to construct a consistent system of referencing. Include the date produced and for films, the country and director. Example:

Kate Nickerson [Arnold Manoff nom de plume], writer, and Sidney Lumet, director, ‘The Death of Socrates: 399 B.C.’, episode of ‘You Are There’, CBS, national USA broadcast, 3 May 1953.


2. Short reference

After the first mention, references to the source in the notes should take a shortened form. A shortened reference includes only the last name of the author and an improvised short title for the book (containing the key word or words from the main title, so as to make the reference easily recognisable and not to be confused with any other work), followed by the page number of the reference. Thus:


Rousseau and Rogers (eds.), Enduring legacy, p. 45. 
Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p. 74.


Salter, ‘Pilgrimage to truth’, pp.34-5. 
Tieje, ‘A peculiar phase’, p.75.


Manuscript material:
Southall, ‘Regional unemployment’, p. 72.
‘Richardson / Bradshaigh letters’, fol. 116.
BN 20628 (Thiers Papers), fol. 279.


3. Miscellaneous

The author may be separated from the short title, e.g. in footnote formulations such as:

As Runnock observes, the fortress inevitably had a secondary religious function. Medieval fortress building, p. 134.

You may choose to use ‘Ibid.’ [no italics] to refer to the work mentioned in the immediately preceding reference, so long as there is no danger of confusion.

Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p. 134. Ibid., p. 108.


But not:

Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p.134; ‘Richardson / Bradshaigh letters’, fol. 116. Ibid., p.108.


B.   Bibliography

  1. A bibliography should generally contain all the sources cited in the text and notes and any other important titles that you have consulted or used in preparing the submission.

  2. The form of entries in the bibliography is similar to that for the full reference, except that the author's surname and first name or initials are inverted. The bibliography does not give references to specific page numbers where information can be found, but rather lists pages only where they are the full page range of a journal article, book chapter, or other similar section of a larger whole.

  3. Whatever style is adopted, items in a bibliography should have what is called a ‘hanging indent’, that is, the first line is flush with the left margin, but subsequent lines are indented three or four spaces. (This is as shown in the examples below.)

Examples for books and articles:

Runnock, A.T., Medieval fortress building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Salter, Elizabeth, ‘Piers Plowman and the pilgrimage to truth’, Essays and Studies 11 (1958), 30-48.

Tieje, Arthur Jerrold, ‘A peculiar phase of the theory of realism in pre-Richardsonian fiction’, PMLA 28 (1913), 213-52.


Examples for archival and manuscript sources:

In the case of primary manuscript sources, if few sources have been used, the alphabetical listing is by the name (surname or first word of organization) of the individual item and its manuscript collection, as follows. You will note that, with classical, medieval and early modern manuscripts, it is common for collections to be numbered as well as named, and (unlike modern sources) usual to list individual manuscripts, although not down to the level of the individual folios referenced.

James Madison Papers. Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

National Fountain Pen Association Papers. Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI.

Jemima O’Rourke Diary. Alamance County Historical Society, Graham, NC.

Rawlinson MS D. 36. Papers on learning collected by Francis Turner. Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Donald Rumsfeld Papers. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.


However, an alternative to the above convention is widely used by medieval historians: this is to give the alphabetical listing by the place, followed by the library, and then the shelf mark of the collection. Medievalists should follow this convention and others may choose to do so on the advice of their supervisor.


Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MS D.36. Papers on learning collected by Francis Turner.

 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm. 14000 (s.ix², court school of Charles the Bald)

London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero D.IV (s.viiex, Northumbria, Lindisfarne Gospels)


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