History and Politics

Course length: 3 years

Number of students admitted each year: approximately 2 

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University Admissions Website


History and Politics at Cambridge is an exciting Honours degree which offers options from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers that allow you to explore the space between the two disciplines. Students on this course develop skills in analysing the operation of power across institutions and societies around the world, and explore how different forms of evidence can be used to understand the past and the present. You can choose from a wide range of topics in British, European, US and World history, the history of political thought, international relations, and comparative politics, and many of these subjects are taught within the College by Christ’s fellows.

Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics and International Relations together. Both Faculties are widely regarded as world-leading and are consistently top-ranked in research and teaching assessments. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) is a rapidly growing department with particular research strengths in political thought, comparative politics, and international relations, and close links with the other social sciences.

Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political history, the origins of contemporary politics and international relations, and the history of political ideas. This 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.

The course content, lectures and examinations are the responsibility of the University Faculty, and are the same for every student reading History and Politics at Cambridge. In College, your Director of Studies oversees your progress and organises teaching for you in small groups called supervisions. Much of your work will be reading and preparing essays which you then discuss with your supervisor.

Course structure

First-year History and Politics students take four papers:

One Interdisciplinary paper Two Politics and International Relations papers One History paper
  • Evidence and Argument
    This is an introduction to key concepts,
    approaches and methods from across
    the two disciplines. 
  • The Modern State and its Alternatives
  • International Conflict, Order and Justice

You choose one paper from:                                             

  • British Political History, 1485 - 1714
  • British Political History, 1688 - 1886
  • British Political History since 1880
  • European History 1715 - 1890
  • European History since 1890
  • North American History from c. 1500 - 1865

Course descriptions for these papers and details of the second and third years can be found on the History and Politics course page

History and Politics at Christ’s

Director of Studies: Dr Sam James

Other Fellows in History:

In Politics and International Studies:

Christ’s is one of Cambridge’s leading ‘History’ colleges, owing to the size and strength of its community of historians, and it also has a strong presence in Politics and International Studies. Much of the College’s reputation for History has been based upon work in either political history or the history of political thought — Linda Colley, Sir John Plumb, and Quentin Skinner are among the distinguished historians of politics who have been either students or fellows of Christ’s — and Christ’s today remains an ideal college in which to study for the new joint Tripos.

The current fellowship in both History and Politics includes a number of scholars with interests in both subjects: Professor David Reynolds is a leading historian of both British and American politics and international relations; Dr Duncan Bell is a historian of Empire as well as a student of contemporary political theory; and Drs Joel Isaac and Samuel James have interests in both political history and the history of political ideas. The College is therefore well-placed to cater to a broad range of interests within the remit of the History and Politics course.

The College also boasts a particularly active student-run History Society – the Seeley Society – which provides an opportunity for all members of the Christ’s historical community to socialise at talks and debates, as well as the annual History dinner. Christ’s academic staff are particularly actively engaged in the intellectual community in both History and Politics, in College and across the university

Christ’s has generous educational and travel funds, to which students can apply for support for independent study. This has enabled History students in the past to pursue research for a wide range of Part II dissertations: recent examples include studies of the US invasion of Grenada, women in Classical Athens, and President Nixon’s strategy for attracting young voters. Students have received financial support for research trips to the presidential libraries of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, as well as other European and British archives and libraries.

Christ’s also has a specific Humanities fund entitled The Levy-Plumb Fund. This awards book grants to first-year undergraduate students and study grants for second- and third-year undergraduates, which allow them to reside in College for limited periods during the vacations to undertake reading and dissertation research. Also available are Levy-Plumb Creative Arts Awards (e.g. for costs of materials, lessons, courses, other projects in visual arts, writing, composition or performing arts); awards for Humanities Research (including travel where necessary); and Humanities Study Awards (for example for language and culture courses). Students undertaking short language courses in the University Language Centre can apply to have up to 50% of the course fee refunded by the Levy-Plumb Fund.

Career prospects

As well as providing students with a broad and detailed understanding of the past, a History and Politics degree from Cambridge also equips graduates with a number of important transferable skills. In particular, leading graduate employers value History and Politics graduates’ capacity to:

• research, organise and synthesise complex material quickly

• think critically about existing analyses

• communicate clearly, both orally and in writing

meet challenging deadlines week in, week out.

Recent Christ’s graduates in either History or Politics and International Relations have entered a wide range of professions, including law, public policy (civil service), banking, management consultancy, media, higher education, teaching, administration and public relations.

Student Profile

Victoria has just completed her first year of History and Politics here at Christ's College, Cambridge. She has written about her experiences of studying History and Politics in this student profile. If you would like to read more accounts from Christ's students, please see the student profiles page. 

How to Apply

Details of the application process including the dates and deadlines are given on our how to apply page. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you will be applying from outside the UK, we recommend that you also read our dedicated section for international students. The following details supplement this with information specific to History and Politics applications. 

Subject requirements

We expect students to have studied History as one of their post-16 subjects, but otherwise there is no ‘ideal’ combination of subjects.  Successful applicants have taken a range of subjects from Mathematics and sciences, to arts and social sciences. All of these teach skills that can be useful to students studying History and Politics as an undergraduate. 

We aim to admit students who enjoy reading, writing and thinking about the historical and political world in all its forms; who are willing and able to undertake independent study; who enjoy working alone and with their peers; and who relish the opportunity to engage in discussion and debate. 

Pre-interview Admissions Assessment

All applicants for History and Politics at Cambridge must sit a History pre-interview admissions assessment for History called the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment (AHAA). This will take place in your school, college or local testing centre on 30 October 2019. The same assessment is used regardless of which College you have applied to. The Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment examines your academic abilities, knowledge-base and potential, and forms part of our holistic admissions process: there is no set score that we are looking for. When applying, it is important to be aware of the registration and assessment dates:

  • All History and Politics applicants applying in 2019 must be registered to take the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment by 18:00 UK time on 15 October 2019. See how to be registered. Please note that open centres may set an earlier deadline for accepting entries, and it is your responsibility to check if this applies at your centre.
  • All History and Politics applicants applying in 2019 sit the assessment on 30 October 2019.

Information about the assessment including example papers and subject content is available on the University Admissions website from March each year. Note that this History assessment is administered with four other subjects within the Arts-Humanities Admissions Assessment question booklet. Section 1 will have identical questions. Section 2 will have subject-specific questions. Please ensure you answer the appropriate question or questions for History in Section 2.

Written work

After your application is received, you will be asked to send us two essays that you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. This should be work which has been prepared during the normal course of your studies and has already been marked by a teacher. We request that one essay is written under timed conditions, while the other should not exceed 2,500 words. We recommend that you keep copies of the work you send for your own reference as it may be discussed at interview. Full written work guidelines will be provided as part of the current applicants section on this website (published by 20 September each year).


Applicants invited for interview in Cambridge are usually interviewed in early December; normally you will have one interview in History and another in Politics, with different Christ’s fellows. One interview will normally include a discussion of your written work and the other will be based around a text (or texts) that you will have had a chance to study beforehand on the day of your interview. Applicants should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow on the course. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section.

We also hold interviews in a number of locations overseas. If this may be relevant for you, please see the international students section


For those selected for a conditional offer at Christ’s, the precise conditions will be assessed individually. The typical offer is A*AA at A-level including History, 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects including History, or the equivalent for other examination systems. The international students section has further information about typical offers for other qualifications.

If you will have already finished school when you apply, please see the page for post-qualification applications.

Reading and resources

Here are a few books you might enjoy reading as an introduction to some of the material in History and Politics.

  • Richard Evans, In Defence of History (1997; paperback edition, 2001)
  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (2004)
  • David Cannadine (ed.), What is History Now? (2002)
  • Ulinka Rublack (ed.), A Concise Companion to History (2012)
  • Stefan Berger et al. (eds.), Writing History: Theory and Practice (2003; second edition, 2010)
  • Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels, Democracy for Realists (2016)
  • Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics (1962 and subsequent editions)
  • Russell Dalton, Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies (1996 and subsequent editions)
  • Iain McLean, Public Choice: An Introduction (1987)

Please note: if you decide to apply and are invited for interview we don’t expect you to have read all of these.

Do also see the History Virtual Classroom.

Gresham College lectures in History and Politics.

Further Information

If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about Christ's and studying History and Politics here in person. If you are not able to come, please feel free to email any queries you have to the Christ's admissions team: admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk.

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