History and Politics

Bodley's Court

Bodley's Court

Welcome to the History and Politics subject page at King’s! Here you will find an overview of History and Politics at King’s, the Cambridge course, King's academics with historical and political interests, and information about applying to study History and Politics as an undergraduate.

History and Politics at Cambridge

History and Politics at Cambridge is an exciting new Honours degree which offers subjects from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which will allow students to explore the space between the two disciplines. Students will develop skills in analysing the operation of power and politics across histories, institutions, and societies around the world. Students will also be able to build strengths in understanding the nature of evidence, methodology, and approaches in both History and Politics. They will be able to choose from a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history and politics.

The West Room in Cambridge University Library

The West Room in Cambridge University Library

Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics and International Relations together. Both Faculties are widely regarded as world-leading. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) is a medium-sized department with about 30 academics with a huge range of specialisms. It has particular research strengths in international politics, international history and international law, comparative politics and political thought.

Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political and international history, the origins of contemporary politics and international relations, and the history of political ideas. This new degree balances a strong grounding in the two component subjects with the opportunity to explore the ways in which historical and political understanding together illuminate the modern world.

History and Politics at King's

Archive Centre

The King's Archive Centre holds many personal papers from former members of King's.

King's is a friendly and exciting place to study History and Politics, following a distinguished College tradition in both subjects. In the middle of the twentieth century, King's was pioneering in economic history: Sir John Clapham was a lecturer, and Eric Hobsbawm an undergraduate. In recent years, the college has been particularly distinguished in the history of political thought, numbering among its Fellowship John Dunn, Istvan Hont, Michael Ignatieff, Tony Judt, Melissa Lane, Michael Sonenscher, and Gareth Stedman Jones, who between them have rewritten the subject from Plato to the present day. Economic history and political engagement continue to be the hall-marks of History at King’s, which hosts the Centre for History and Economics.

King's will suit you wherever your interests lie within the History and Politics course. It is in College that students normally make their closest social and intellectual friendships. Many students at King's (across all the subjects) have an interest in political discussion and debate. There's a thriving student-run society, King's Politics, which provides a platform for students and academics alike to engage in debates on pressing political issues, with the arguments presented by experts in the field. These discussions arise from and continue through informal, spontaneous discussion in the bar, over dinner, and sat outside in the summer - you never know what you're going to end up discussing! The intellectual community and support and respect for difference in College is a particulalry helpful and enjoyable aspect of College life for historians and politics students, and complements the strong community of students and academics in History, Politics and related subjects such as Human, Social and Political Sciences and Economics.


King's Avenue, on your way to and from the Sidgwick Site.

King's is conveniently one of the closest Colleges to the History Faculty and the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) on the Sidgwick Site, a few minutes' walk away, where lectures and seminars take place (see map). Students also find the proximity to the University Library just behind the Garden Hostels very useful. In College, King's Library is available 24/7 and provides a very pleasant place to study and work on essays and dissertations (you might like to look around King's Library using the virtual tour). King's Library is well-stocked for students, and the library staff are happy to order additional books when this would be useful. The King's Archive Centre is an exciting resource to explore too.

Societies: In addition to King's Politics, the College History Society is the oldest in the University. Its activities and vitality depend upon the interests and enthusiasm of its members, and it variously forms a venue for reading groups, for talks on their research by graduate students and for papers by invited outside speakers.

The History and Politics Tripos (Tripos = course)

In the first year, you choose from a rich selection of courses offered by the History Faculty and the Department of Politics and International Studies, and you also take a course unique to the History and Politics degree, entitled ‘Evidence and Argument’. This has been specifically designed for the first year of the programme and will bring together key thinking from both disciplines.

Students will also have the chance to conduct intensive study in political science, the history of political thought, a wide variety of modern British, European, American and World history, conceptual issues in political science, and quantitative methods. In the third year, you will be able to choose from a wide range of subjects offered in Politics, International Relations and History and may also do an optional dissertation.

Further detail is available on the History Faculty website.

How you are taught

History Faculty

The History Faculty (you'll have University lectures and classes with historians from all Colleges here)

You will be taught in a combination of University-based lecture courses and College-based supervisions. The relationship between the two is co-ordinated by the College’s Director of Studies in History and Politics, who arranges your supervisions each term and oversees your historical and political education.

Student perspectives


Although History and Politics is a new course, you may find the following student accounts helpful. Abdulla, Hannah (pictured left) and Fiona have written about their experiences of studying History, whilst Ceylon, Eleni, Michaela and Juan discuss Politics in the Human, Social and Political Sciences course. Although some course details may differ, these accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying these subject areas at King's is really like. 

King’s Fellows with interests in History and Politics

John Arnold

John H. Arnold is professor of medieval history, and has worked on various aspects of European society and culture, including inquisition, heresy, doubt and scepticism, gender, sexuality, bells, and popular uprisings. He has particular interests in southern France (prior to the Black Death), and later medieval England. His research mostly focuses on what ordinary medieval people did, thought, felt and believed.

No photo available

Gareth Austin is a Professor of Economic History. He researches african, comparative and global economic history, and his primary research focuses on Ghana and other parts of West Africa, mainly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

John Dunn

John Dunn is an Emeritus Professor of Political Theory. He works on a wide range of issues in modern political thought, including the historical development and current significance of democracy in different parts of the world.


Caroline Goodson is a University Senior Lecturer in Early Medieval History. Her research examines the formation of early medieval societies in the post-Roman world, especially Italy and North Africa. She works with both archaeological and material evidence as well as the written record, and is interested in people's experiences of the material world of the early Middle Ages,  and how those experiences shaped political power and religious belief

Rachel G. Hoffman

Rachel G. Hoffman works on modern European History. Her research focuses on assassination plots and attacks, revolutions, conspiracy, and, more generally, violence and politics, and state attempts to maintain order in the modern age.

Peter Jones

Peter Jones works on the history of medieval and early modern science and medicine, including research on medical books and the circulation of medical information.

Robin Osborne

Robin Osborne is a professor of Ancient History, and works on aspects of Greek history to which material evidence is relevant.  His research is known for its use of the evidence of art and material culture to address historical questions.

Mezna Qato

Mezna Qato works on the history of education, development, popular mobilisation, and class in the Arab world. Her current research is on Palestinian students and teachers in exile and their relationships with governments, international regimes, and each other.

Jude Browne

Jude Browne (Gender Studies) specialises in gender, sex segregation, political and social theories of equality, social dialogue, modern economies and capabilities, as well as social and human rights.

Sharath Srinivasan

Sharath Srinivasan (Politics) works on Africa's international relations, politics of international intervention (human rights, humanitarian, peace and security), political violence and armed conflict, the politics of the Horn and East Africa (especially Sudan), ideas and practice of democracy in the developing world, governance, new technologies and political activism.

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Mark B. Smith teaches modern European history. His research has focused on the history of the Soviet Union, especially on such topics as housing, property, welfare, and rights: it asks how people lived their lives and why the dictatorship endured. He is the author of the blog Beyond the Kremlin.

Mike Sonenscher

Michael Sonenscher teaches European history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the history of political thought. He has an interest in French political thought in the eighteenth century, the history of the French Revolution, and the history of modern political ideologies.


To apply to study History and Politics

applying for history and politics

Applying with limited support?

King's students come from all educational backgrounds and we welcome applications from international students as well as those at school in the UK. A list of our standard offers is available on the entrance requirements page.

The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly in combination with the details below about subject requirements and interests for History and Politics, sending school essays, the written assessment and interviews.

Subject requirements

We recommend that students take History or Politics at A level, IB Higher Level or in one of the other qualifications listed on our entrance requirements page. For your other subject choices, do also read the general advice on subject choices.

You will need a curiosity not just about the past but about how we can know about the past. During the application process, you will be expected to demonstrate an interest in both History and Politics and will be assessed on your potential to succeed in them at Cambridge. 

pre-interview assessment

All candidates for History and Politics are required to take the pre-interview admissions assessment for History, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres on 2 November 2017. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment. The registration deadline is 15 October 2017 and there is a deadline of 30 September if you normally get exam adjustments for a disability/Specific Learning Difficulty/long-term illness. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment (you can't register yourself).

Brief information about admissions assessments
History Admissions Assessment (HAA) format and specimen papers
Important: If you're not registered by 15 October (30 Sept for special arrangements) you won't be able to take the assessment. Unfortunately, this would mean that your application is not valid.

Your performance in the assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

written work

Once History and Politics candidates have applied through UCAS, they are asked to submit three essays, including at least two essays on History. If you are taking History at school, your two History essays should be essays completed as part of your A Level or equivalent History course and they must contain your teacher's comments / marks.

For those looking early, written work guidelines are published in September as part of the Applicant Information. All applicants will receive an email shortly after the 15 October deadline sending you to this information. The deadline for written work will be in early November (see how to apply) and essays must not be sent before 15 October.


Most (but not all) candidates are invited for two interviews in King's, which take place in early December. The aim of the interviews is to give you a chance to show the sort of historical and political curiosity and motivation that will allow you to take advantage of the opportunities for original thinking and independent work provided by studying History and Politics at King’s.

Information about the interview options for international candidates are in the International Students section.

Introductory reading and resources

Further information

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