History

Cambridge has one of the largest and best history faculties in the world, and our course reflects the quality and breadth of interest of our teaching staff. The History degree gives you the opportunity to explore the past from many different angles – including political, economic, social and cultural history – and to explore  the interaction between history and other disciplines, such as politics, anthropology and archaeology.

 


 

Course Structure

In the Cambridge History Tripos, you begin by building a broad base of historical knowledge over the first two years (Part I of the Tripos). During this time you take at least one British political and constitutional history paper, at least one British economic and social history paper, and up to four more papers in European history, extra-European history or the history of political thought. You also choose one ‘Themes and Sources’ option, which is taught in University classes and examined by an extended essay.

In your third year (or Part II), you apply your skills to very specific historical issues and problems, working closely from primary sources in a range of what are known as ‘special’ and ‘specified’ subjects. You may substitute a 10,000 word dissertation on an approved subject of your own choice for one specified subject paper. You also reflect more broadly on what you have learned in a paper on historical argument and practice. Undergraduates who transfer to the History Tripos from other subjects may take Part II of the Tripos over two years, instead of one.

History is taught at Cambridge by way 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 who arranges your supervisions each term and oversees your historical education. You will also be advised by an expert supervisor for your dissertation.

History at King's

King's is a friendly and exciting place to study History, following in a distinguished College tradition in this subject. 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 co-hosts the Centre for History and Economics. King’s historians also join in the College’s long tradition of archaeological and anthropological studies, drawing upon interdisciplinary methods to advance historical research in society, culture, gender and belief.

King's will suit you wherever your interests lie within the History course. Academics at King's currently teach Greek and Roman history, medieval history both early and late, European history from 1715 to the present, world history, and the history of political thought from Plato and Aristotle to Rousseau and Marx. For other areas of the course the Director of Studies arranges teaching with specialists in other Cambridge Colleges.

King's is conveniently one of the closest Colleges to the History Faculty on the Sidgwick Site, a few minutes' walk away, where historians have lectures and seminars. 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, as well as being well-stocked for historians. The King's Archive Centre is a rich resource of medieval to modern documents and records about the College, its members and their research.

Outside of formal study, the College History Society is the oldest in the University, and variously forms a venue for reading groups, talks on their research by graduate students, and  papers by invited outside speakers.

ProfessorJohnArnold
Professorial Fellow

Medieval religion and culture in Europe; heresy; inquisition; gender and sexuality; historiography; popular uprisings.

DrMarkSmith
Ordinary Fellow

Modern European history; the history of the Soviet Union; housing, property, welfare and human rights; East-West links during the Cold War.

DrCarolineGoodson
Ordinary Fellow

History and archaeology of Early Medieval Europe, especially Italy and North Africa; Material Culture; Urbanism; Environmental History.

ProfessorGarethAustin
Professorial Fellow

Comparative and global economic history in the 19th and 20th centuries; economic history of Ghana and West Africa more widely.

DrFreddyFoks
Junior Research Fellow

Modern British history; imperial history; history of the social sciences; racism; migration; white supremacy; settler colonialism.

ProfessorRichardBourke
Professorial Fellow

The history of political thought; enlightenment intellectual history; political theory; modern Irish history.

DrMichaelSonenscher
Life Fellow

18th and 19th century European history; French political thought; the French Revolution; origins of political economy.

DrMeznaQato
Junior Research Fellow

History of education, development, class and popular mobilisation in the Arab world; refugee and exile communities; politics of archives.

ProfessorRobinOsborne
Professorial Fellow

Greek political, social, economic and cultural history; the history of Greek art; classical archaeology.

MrPeterJones
Ordinary Fellow, Fellow Librarian

Medieval and early modern science and medicine; medical books; alchemy; the circulation of medical information.

ProfessorJohnDunn
Life Fellow

Modern political thought; the historical development and significance of democracy; liberal and socialist conceptions of political value.

Applying for History at King's

King's historians come from all educational backgrounds and we welcome applications from international students as well as those at school in the UK. The numbers admitted in History vary from year to year, but we rarely admit fewer than seven or more than ten undergraduates.

Subject Requirements

History is a required subject for students applying for History at King's. You could be taking A-level History, Higher Level History in the International Baccalaureate, or equivalent.

For a strong application in History, you need a curiosity not just about the past but about how we can know about the past. Applicants will be expected to demonstrate interest in History and will be assessed on the potential to succeed in this subject.

Pre-Interview Assessments

All candidates for History are required to take the pre-interview admissions assessment for History, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres. You must be registered in advance to take the assessment.

Written Work

Once History candidates have applied through UCAS, they are asked to submit two recent History essays. These are to be essays completed as part of your A-Level or equivalent studies in History (please don't send work from other subjects) and they must contain your teacher's comments or marks.

Interviews

If you are asked to attend interviews in Cambridge in early December, we will seek to explore areas of history that are familiar to you, but also problems that are unfamiliar. You may be asked to say something about the type of history that interests you and to explain why it does. The aim of the interviews is to give you a chance to show the sort of historical curiosity and motivation that will allow you to take advantage of the opportunities for original thinking and independent work provided by studying History at King’s.

The subject choices that you make at school can have a significant impact on the course options available to you at University - find out more.
Find out about how to register for your pre-interview assessment and see specimen papers from previous years.
Candidates for some subjects are required to submit written work as part of the application process - see more here.
It's completely normal to be nervous about coming to interview, but here's some practical advice about how to prepare for the process.

Student Perspectives

Abdulla, Hannah and Joel have written about their experiences of studying History at King's, including what attacted them to the course, the transition from sixth form, the teaching, their choice of papers, timetable and workload, sports and social life, and the application process. These are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying History at King's is really like.

Hannah is from Durham and studied History from 2014-17. She did A-levels in History, English Literature and Religious Studies.
Abdulla is from Bromley and studied History at King's from 2015-18. He did the IB with European History, English and Chemistry at Higher Level.
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Joel is from Sutton Coldfield and studied History from 2015-18. He did his A-levels in History, English Literature and Government & Politics.

Reading, Resources and Events

There is no required reading material for History applications but if you would some specific material to think about, the Director of Studies in History has provided some examples of historical writing, linked to below. You will find further reading advice, a virtual classroom and some online lectures on the faculty website.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, CU Masterclasses and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

Preparatory reading for applicants who have already been given an offer, or prospective students thinking of applying.
Find out more about our Open Days, visiting King's at other times and informal meetings with our Admissions team, or take the virtual tour!

Recent News

Contributions to College life rewarded with the Provost’s Prize

The Provost's Prize has been awarded to four students who have made a significant contribution to the College community

History of Art student hired by Dallas Museum of Art

King's PhD student Julien Domercq (KC 2007) has been appointed as the new Assistant Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art in Texas.

Student composition broadcast on BBC Radio 3

MPhil student Joshua Ballance's 'St Pancras Magnificat' has been performed as part of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.