History and Politics

Introduction

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.
 

Why study History and Politics at Christ’s?

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; Professor Duncan Bell is a historian of Empire as well as a student of contemporary political theory; and Dr Joel Isaac has 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.

 

Course content and 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.

 

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.
 

Teaching

Director of Studies: Professor David Reynolds

Other Fellows in History:

In Politics and International Studies:

Student Q&A film
  Watch the Christ's student Q&A film

What do our students think? 

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. You may also find it helpful to read profiles by students studying History (Alice, Max, Isobel, James and Sathya) and students studying Politics via the HSPS course (Roslynn, Jack, Fred, Rufus, and Diana). If you would like to hear more from Christ's students, please watch the Christ's student Q&A film, and visit our Student Profiles page.
 

How to apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

News

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can.

At Christ's we have a page for Coronavirus disruptions and applying this year - we recommend reading and then keeping an eye on it.

Students applying for History and Politics in October 2020 will not sit a pre-interview Admissions Assessment (this is a change from last year). Applicants selected for interview at Christ's will be asked to take an "at-interview" History written assessment remotely. See below. 


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.

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).

Interviews

University-wide statement: In order to minimise Covid-related risks to our applicants, students and staff in the coming undergraduate admissions round, we are making plans to interview applicants this year without requiring them to travel to Cambridge in December. We will release further details about alternative arrangements as soon as we can. This does mean that there may be changes to the details of interviews below (which sets out what normally happens).

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

Written Assessment (at interview)

Applicants selected for interview at Christ's will be asked to take an at-interview History written assessment remotely. We will confirm arrangements as soon as we can - information will be updated here in due course.

Offers

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.
 

Helpful resources

Reading suggestions Suggestions to help you develop your interests
History Virtual Classroom Online resources from Cambridge Faculty of History
HistoryExtra BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine
Gresham College lectures Online lectures available in History and Politics
HE+ resources Helpful enrichment resources if you’d like to explore topics beyond the school curriculum
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.

 

    Open Days and Online Events

    Online events: Our open days and events page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge.

    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.

     

    Want to know more?

    We recommend that you also read:

    Please feel free to email any queries you have to the Christ's admissions team: admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk.
     

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