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Human, Social and Political Sciences Reading List

For prospective students

There is no expectation that applicants for Human Social and Political Sciences will be studying subjects such Politics, Sociology or Social Anthropology at school. Interviews will draw on, amongst other things, what you have done in your studies, your stated interests, and your motivations for applying for the course. There is an expectation that if you have expressed an interest in something that is not covered in your studies, you will have taken steps to pursue that interest.

For offer holders

Congratulations on your offer of a place at King's. We wish you well in any remaining examinations you still need to take, and we look forward, if all goes well, to welcoming you here to begin your studies in HSPS. You can find a suggested reading from the faculty via the links at the bottom of this page. Below is a list of suggested readings for the main subjects in the course. Some of these will be new to you, so it is a good idea to use some of the time you have before coming to Cambridge to sample some new subjects. This will help to inform your choice of first-year courses when you arrive.

Do not be alarmed by the length of these reading lists. There is no expectation that you will necessarily have read anything like all of the books. They are designed to give you plenty of choice, and to be useful for once you begin your studies here, as well as for general reading in advance. Most should be readily available in paperback, or from a library.


  • Timothy Darvill (2010) Prehistoric Britain. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

  • Clive Gamble (2000) Archaeology: The Basics. London: Routledge.

  • Ian Hodder (2012) Archaeological Theory Today. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Barry Kemp (2005) Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

  • Colin Renfrew and Paul Bahn (2012) Archaeology: Theory, Methods, and Practice. 6th Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

  • Chris Scarre (1998) Exploring Prehistoric Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Chris Scarre (2009) The Human Past: World Prehistory and Development of Human Society. 2nd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

  • Barbara Bender et al (2007) Stone Worlds: Narrative and Reflexivity in Landscape Archeology. Left Coast Press.

  • Martin Jones (2008) Feast: Why Humans Share Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Marc Van de Mieroop (2006) A History of the Ancient Near East. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Robert Wenke (1999) Patterns in Prehistory 4th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Biological Anthropology

  • Robert Boyd and Joan Silk (2012) How Humans Evolved. New York: Norton.

  • Robert Foley & Roger Lewin (2003) The Principles of Human Evolution. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson (2004) The Fetal Matrix. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Matt Ridley (2004) Nature via Nurture. New York: Harper Collins.

  • Chris Stringer (2012) The Origin of our Species. London: Penguin.

  • Frans de Waal (2001) Tree of Origin: what Primate Behavior Can Tell Us About Human Social Evolution. New Edition. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.  

  • Matt Ridley (2003) Nature via Nuture. Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human Fourth Estate.

  • Larsen, Clark Spencer (2011) Our Origins: Discovering Physical Anthropology Wiley.

  • Mark Jobling, Edwards Hollox, Matthew Hurles, Toomas Kivisild and Chris Tyler-Smith (2013) Human Evolutionary Genetics 2nd Edition Garland Science, Abingdon and New York.

  • Jared Diamond (1997) Guns, Germs, & Steel W. W. Norton.

  • Frances Ashcroft Life at the Extremes Harper Collins.

  • McMichael, A. J. (Tony) Human Frontiers, Enviroments and Disease: Past Patterns, Uncertain Futures Cambridge University Press .

  • Muehlenbein, M. P. (ed.) (2010) Human Evolutionary Biology Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Laland, K. N. & Brown, G. R. Sense & Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour 2nd Edition Oxford: Oxford University Press.


  • Benedict Anderson (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origins and Spread of Nationalism. London: Macmillan.

  • Headley Bull (1977) The Anarchical Society. London: Macmillan.

  • John Dunn (2005) Setting the People Free: The Story of Democracy. London: Atlantic.

  • Niccolo Machiaveilli (2003) (1532). The Prince. London: Penguin.

  • James Mayall (2000) World Politics: Progress and its Limits. Cambridge: Polity.

  • David Runciman (2006) Politics of Good Intentions: History, Fear, and Hypocrisy in the New World Order. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • James C Scott (1998) Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Adam Watson (1992) The Evolution of International Society. London: Routledge.

  • Anthony Best et al (2008) International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond. 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

  • Chris Brown & Kirsten Ainsley (2009) Understanding International Relations. 4th Edition. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Bernard Crick (2002) Democracy: A Very Short Introduction Oxford: Oxford Univeristy Press.

  • David Runciman (2014) Politics Profile books.

  • John Dunn (1992) Western Political Theory In The Face Of The Future (revised edition) Cambridge University Press.

Social Anthropology

  • Lila Abu-Lughod (1986) Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Adam Ashforth (2005) Madumo: A Man Bewitched. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  • Rita Astuti, Jonathan Parry, and Charles Stafford (2007) Questions of Anthropology. Berg: Oxford.

  • Thomas Boellstorff (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • John R. Bowen (2007) Why the French Don't Like Headscarves: Islam, the State, and Public Space. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Michael Carrithers (1993) Why Humans Have Cultures. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Sharon E. Hutchinson (1996) Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War, and the State. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Jean La Fontaine (1998) Speak of the Devil: Tales of Satanic Abuse in Contemporary England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Joel Robbins (2004) Becoming Sinners: Christianity and Moral Torment in a Papua New Guinea Society. Berkeley: University of California Press.

  • Michael Stewart (1997) The Time of the Gypsies. Colorado: Westville Press.

  • Yunxiang Yan (2009) The Individualization of Chinese Society. Berg: Oxford.

  • Adam Kuper (2014) Anthropology and anthropologists: the modern British school. Routledge.

  • Michael Carrithers (1992) Why Humans Have Cultures: Explaining Anthropology and Social Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1996) Small Places, Large Issues. Pluto Press.

  • Wacquant L.J.D (2004) Body & Soul: notebooks of an apprentice boxer. Oxford University Press.

  • BBC series From Savage to Self,

  • The Cambridge Anthropology Podcast


  • Nicholas Abercrombie (2004) Sociology. Cambridge: Polity.

  • Anthony Giddens (2006) Sociology (5th edition). Cambridge: Polity.

  • Anthony Giddens (1973) Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • J.A. Hughes, W.W. Sharrock, and P.J. Martin (2003) Understanding Classical Sociology. London: Sage.

  • C. Wright Mills (1959) The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • K.J. Neubeck and D.S. Glasberg (2005) Sociology: Diversity, Conflict, and Change. Boston: McGraw Hill.

  • W. Outhwaite (ed) (2003) The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Richard Sennett (2006) The New Culture of Capitalism. New Haven: Yale University Press.

  • Jeffery C. Alexandet et al (2011) A Contemporary Introduction to Sociology: Culture and Society in Transition. London: Paradigm Publishers

  • Ulrich Beck (1992) Risk Society: Toward a New Modernity. London: Sage.

  • Anthony Giddens and Phillip Sutton (2013) Sociology. 7th Edition. Polity Press.

  • Anthony Smith (2013) Nationalism 2nd Edition. Polity.

  • Jack Goldstone. ed. (1994) Revolutions: theoretical, comparative, and historical studies. Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

  • Kristin Surak (2012) Making tea, Making Japan: Cultural nationalism in practice. Stanford University Press.

  • Nira Yuval-Davis (2011) The politics of belonging. Intersectional contentions. Sage.

  • R W Connell (2009) Gender 2nd Edition; Polity.

  • Richard Sennett (2012) Together: The rituals, pleasures, and politics of cooperation. Yale University Press.

  • Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2010) The spirit level: why equality is better for everyone. Penguin.

  • Zygmunt Baumant (2001) Thinking Sociologically 2nd Edition; Wiley-Blackwell.

International Relations

  • Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainsley (2009) Understanding International Relations . 4th edition; Palgrave Macmillian.

  • Henry Kissinger (1994) Diplomacy; Simon & Schumuster.

  • James Mayall (2000) World Politics: Progress and its Limits; Polity.

  • Jussi Hanhimaki, Jospeh A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best (2008) An International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond 2nd Edition; Routledge.

  • Saskia Sassen, (2014) Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy; Belknap.


  • H Ruldolph Schaffer (2006) Key concepts in developmental psychology; SAGE.

  • Michael Hogg and Graham Vaughan (2010) Essentials of social psychology; Prentice Hall.

  • Michael W. Wysenck and Mark T. Keane (2010) Cognitive psychology: a student's handbook; Psychology Press.

  • Richard J. Gerrig, Philip Zimbardo, Frode Svartdal and Tim Brennen (2012) Psychology and Life; Allyn & Bacon.

  • Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Willem Wagenaar, Barbara Fredrickson and Geoffrey R. Loftus (2009) Atkinson and Hilgard's introduction to psychology; Cengage Learning.

For more information on the HSPS Tripos and the subjects within it, see the links below.


For Offer Holders

This page contains information for applicants at King's college, who were successful in receiving an...

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