History reading list

For prospective students

Student reading in the Library

Studying in King's Library

We advise you to read the History page thoroughly. For reading and preparation advice, you will find the following sections particularly helpful:

Do also keep an eye on the subject resources, which provide more general guidance and examples for developing your academic interests.

For offer holders

We are looking forward to welcoming you at King's. When you come into residence you will be told in detail about the history course. In the meantime, you can get a good idea of what the study of history at Cambridge involves from the History Faculty website. I will be in touch later in the year about the options for first year History.

Mark Smith, Director of Studies in History

English History: suggested introductory reading

(Select a period according to your interests)


  • S Reynolds: Kingdoms and Communities
  • J C Schmitt: The Holy Greyhound
  • J Holt: Robin Hood
  • F Barlow: The Feudal Kingdoms of England 1047-1216
  • D Douglas: The Norman Achievement
  • D Douglas: William the Conquerer:The Norman Impact on England
  • R Hilton: Bondmen Made Free
  • G Holmes: The Later Middle Ages 1272-1485
  • J R Lander: Conflict and Stability in 15th Century England
  • R W Southern: The Making of the Middle Ages
  • A Gurevich: Categories of Popular Medieval Culture
  • S Shahar: The Fourth Estate: Women in the Middle Ages

Early Modern

  • C Russell: The Causes of the English Civil War
  • P Laslett: The World we have lost
  • J H Plumb: The Growth of Political Stability in England
  • J C D Clark: English Society 1688-1832
  • K Wrightson: English Society
  • J Brewer: The Sinews of Power


  • E P Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class
  • E J Hobsbawm: Industry and Empire
  • P Clarke: The Keynesian Revolution in the Making
  • P Clarke: Hope and Glory: Britain, 1900-1990
  • M. Desai: Marx's Revenge
  • J. Baten (ed.): A History of the Global Economy 1500 to the Present
  • P.J. Cain and A. G. Hopkins: British Imperialism 1688-2000

Classical Narrative Histories

  • Gibbon: Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Livy: Histories
  • Macaulay: History of England
  • Tacitus: Annals
  • Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War
  • Trotsky: History of the Russian Revolution

NB: You may not again have the leisure and inclination to read some of these, so you should certainly do so now if possible.


  • Balzac: Lost Illusions
  • Cervantes: Don Quixote
  • Conrad: Nostromo
  • Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment;The Brothers Karamazov
  • George Eliot: Middlemarch
  • Henry James: The Bostonians
  • Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain
  • Solzhenitsyn: Cancer Ward
  • Stendhal: The Red and the Black
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina;War and Peace
  • Turgenev: Fathers and Sons
  • Zola: Germinal

Studies of particular societies and epochs

Particularly useful for widening your sense of the range of historical enquiry:

  • J Bossy: Christianity in the West 1400 - 1700
  • F Braudel: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the World of Philip II
  • E Genovese: Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made
  • E Hobsdbawn: Primitive Rebels
  • J Levinson & F Schurmann: China: An Interpretative History
  • K Thomas: Religion and the Decline of Magic
  • E P Thompson: Whigs and Hunters
  • J Womack: Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
  • P Woodruff: The Men who ruled India
  • N Davis: Society and Culture in 18th Century France
  • C Ginzburg: The Cheese and the Worms
  • D MacCulloch: Reformation

Works of General Interest

Those marked with an asterisk will be particularly useful for thinking about general historical problems:

  • N Bloch: The Historian's Craft
  • R G Collingwood: The Idea of History*
  • M Foucault: Madness and Civilisation*
  • E H Gombrich: Art and Illusion
  • C Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures*
  • J Keegan: The Face of Battle
  • G Lichtheim: Marxism
  • A D Lovejoy: The Great Chain of Being
  • A Macintyre: A Short History of Ethics
  • Benedict Anderson: Imagined Communities
  • Barrington Moore: Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy
  • W H Walsh: In Introduction to the Philosophy of History
  • Max Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism*
  • J Tully & Q Skinner: Meaning and Context*
  • J Scott: Gender and the Politics of History
  • A Hirschman: The Passions and the Interests*

Reading lists | For offer holders | Undergraduate study