History and Modern Languages

History and Modern Languages is an exciting new joint degree course at Cambridge. Students will enjoy the opportunity to develop near native-speaker skills in a foreign language while studying a range of papers relating to the culture and history of the relevant language area. The Cambridge course provides insight into the cultures of other countries, and understanding of the past and present in international contexts.

Course Structure

The History and Modern Language course lasts four years. First year students take core language papers (including writing, translation and oral skills), and a paper exploring cultural topics in your chosen language. On the historical side, you also take two history papers chosen from a broad variety covering different periods of European and world history and political thought. In second year, you continue to develop your language skills through further core papers, and combine these with a) a paper chosen from a wide range of literary, historical, cultural or linguistic topics in your language area, b) a history paper, and c) a further specialist paper from either subject. It is possible to submit two essays of 3,500-4,000 words instead of taking a written exam in some of the language papers.

Your third year is spent abroad, either studying or working, and you will also work on a project of 8,000 words relating to the culture, thought, history or politics of your language area. Having spent the year immersed in your language, you then have an oral examination when you return from your year abroad, just before the start of fourth year. In your final year, you take five papers: two core language papers, a third paper on an area of culture or history related to your language, a history paper focusing on a particular period, region or theme, and a fifth paper that can be a specialist paper from either your language area or from history. If you prefer, you can replace one of the three latter papers with a 10,000 word dissertation.

History and Modern Languages 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 who arranges your supervisions each term and oversees your academic studies.

History and Modern Languages at Cambridge

Undergraduate students and staff talk about studying History and Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge. To find out more about this course, see www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this video is accurate at the time it was uploaded, changes are likely to occur. It is therefore very important that you check the University and College websites for any updates before you apply for the course by…

History and Modern Languages at King's

King's is a friendly, culturally diverse and exciting place to study History and Modern Languages. We have a good number of international students, which makes the College a particularly rich environment for students with an interest in languages and cultures across the world. In an average year, there are normally some native speakers of most languages taught on the course, and travel grants are available to help fund visits to other countries during the vacations.

It is in College that students normally make their closest social and intellectual friendships. King's linguists and historians are very supportive of each other and also benefit from the strong community of students and academics in related subjects such as HSPS, Linguistics and Economics.

King's is conveniently one of the closest Colleges to the Sidgwick Site where both the History and Modern and Medieval Languages faculties are. So you'll only have to walk a few minutes to get to lectures, languages classes and seminars. In College, King's Library is available 24/7 and provides a very pleasant place to study and work on essays and dissertations, and the Archive Centre is an exciting resource for historians to explore too.

Fellows at King's in History and MML:

Professorial Fellow

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

Ordinary Fellow

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

Ordinary Fellow

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

Professorial Fellow

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

Professorial Fellow

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

Life Fellow

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

Emeritus Fellow

Medieval French and Occitan literature; troubadour poetry; gender and sexuality; psychoanalysis and literary theory.

Professorial Fellow

German culture and literature; German-Jewish writers; contemporary women’s writing; the city in literature; aesthetic theory.

Ordinary Fellow, Tutor

19th and 20th century Colombian culture and history; post-Boom Latin American literature; cinema; the history of the Magdalena River.

Professorial Fellow

Spanish and Latin American literature; cinema, photography, and art; theories of modernity; critical theory; queer theory; post-colonial studies.

Life Fellow and Fellow Librarian

19th century French literature, culture and aesthetics; semiotics; cultural materialism; Marcel Proust.

Life Fellow

19th and 20th century Russian intellectual history; Slavonic literature; Bakunin; Dostoevsky, Herzen; Chekhov; Bakhtin.

Applying for History and Modern Languages at King's

King's students come from all educational backgrounds and we welcome applications from international students as well as those at school in the UK. You can currently choose one of the following languages to study in the History and Modern Languages course:

  • French

  • German

  • Italian

  • Portuguese

  • Russian

  • Spanish

Subject Requirements

If you choose French, an A-level, IB Higher or equivalent qualification in French is a requirement.

If you choose German, Spanish, Italian or Russian, this can be studied either from scratch or after an A-level, IB Higher or equivalent qualification in the language.

If you choose Portuguese, this can only be studied from scratch.

You do not have to have studied History at school, but 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 both history and modern languages and will be assessed on the potential to succeed in them.

Written Work

Once History and Modern Language candidates have applied through UCAS, they are required to submit:

  • two History essays. If you are taking History at school, these are to be essays completed as part of your A-Level or equivalent History course and they must contain your teacher's comments or marks.

  • a third essay written in the language you are applying for. Candidates applying for a language from scratch do not submit a third essay.

We will provide information on how to submit this after 15th October. 


Most (but not all) candidates are invited for interviews in King's, which take place in early December. Candidates for History and Modern Languages have two interviews, one with History specialists and another with a specialist in your chosen language. For the language interview candidates are asked to prepare some material which they are given half an hour before the interview. This may be a text written in one of the languages you plan to study at Cambridge (in English if you are applying for a language you have not studied before), or some grammar questions to think about.

Written Assessment

If you are invited for interview and are applying for a language that you have already studied at A-level or equivalent, you will also be asked to take the Cambridge-College registered written assessment for MML, which lasts one hour. You do not need to register for this written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview. Students applying for languages from scratch do not take this assessment.

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 written 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

Although History and Modern Languages is a new course, you may find the following student accounts helpful. Although the course details will differ, these accounts are well worth reading to get a sense of what studying these subject areas at King's is really like.

Ellen is from Worthing and studied Modern and Medieval Languages at King's from 2014-18, specialising in French and Spanish.
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.
Hannah is from Durham and studied History from 2014-17. She did A-levels in History, English Literature and Religious Studies.
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 and Modern Languages applications but if you would some specific material to think about, the Director of Studies in History has provided some examples of historical writing. You will also find further reading advice, a virtual classroom and some online lectures on the History faculty website. You may find the guidance for Modern Languages students useful, especially if you are planning to take Russian from scratch.

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!

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