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Why study History and Modern Languages at Christ’s?

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Many prominent historians have flourished here, including J. H. Plumb (33rd Master of Christ’s), David Cannadine, Linda Colley, Quentin Skinner and Simon Schama. The College’s track record in Modern Languages is equally distinguished, indeed the Modern Humanities Research Association, which today plays a critical role in promoting the study of European languages and literature, internationally, was founded in a room in the College shortly after World War One. Our 36th master was Malcolm Bowie, the renowned specialist in modern French literature (Mallarmé and Proust in particular) who is commemorated by the student-run Malcolm Bowie Society for languages.

The College has a lively welcoming community which arranges parties and dinners including student-run inititiatives such as the MML Dinner. As well as the languages society, undergraduate historians from Christ’s can get together at the many events hosted by the Seeley Society. Our Old Library has a fascinating collection of early printed books and manuscripts to consult, and our first-years often take trips to explore museums and historical sites outside Cambridge.

The Christ's Awards include generous financial support with dissertation research or language-learning programmes at Cambridge University Language Centre and abroad.

Course structure and content

The joint degree in History and Modern Languages combines the best of both subjects. It offers 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; options in some languages also include film and contemporary politics. Students will also develop analytical skills in History through studying topics in British, European, American and World history, as well as the history of political thought. There will be opportunities to work with historical sources in foreign languages.

The languages available for study are:

  • French (post A Level)
  • German (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Spanish (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Italian (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Portuguese (from scratch)
  • Russian (from scratch or post-A Level)

The History and Modern Languages degree (or ‘tripos’) is a four-year degree. You spend third year studying or working abroad, immersed in the language, culture, history and politics of a foreign country. Please visit the University website for full details of the History and Modern Languages course content and structure, including the course film. You will also find information on the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics page for prospective applicants. If you have further questions about course content, please contact 


Supervision with Dr Harriet Lyon
Supervision with Dr Harriet Lyon (History)

You have lectures at the Faculty of History and Faculty of Modern Languages, plus small-group teaching sessions known as ‘supervisions’ here in College. These are organised by your Director of Studies to provide personalised feedback on your work. And to support your studies, you have access to Cambridge’s world-class libraries and their extensive collections of foreign language films. 

The Christ’s Director of Studies on this course is Dr Ksenia Zanon.


What do our students think?

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

Read about the experiences of Eebbaa  and Nik who studied History and Modern Languages here at Christ's.

You may also find it helpful to read profiles by students studying History (Alice, Max, Isobel, James and Sathya) and Modern and Medieval Languages (Juliette and Ethan).

Ossie applied for History and Modern Languages but later switched to studying History,

If you’d like to hear from other 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.

  • If you are considering an application in October 2024 for October 2025 (or deferred Oct 26) entry, we recommend that you sign up for the next College Open Day, which will include a History and Modern Languages meeting.
  • College registered assessments can change from year to year. We will have further information on the Admissions Assessment by the end of March 2024.

Subject requirements

All applicants should be studying at A-Level, IB Higher Level, Scottish Advanced Higher or equivalent in the language for which they are applying (unless you will be studying a language from scratch), and A-Level, IB Higher Level or equivalent in History. 

Applicants proposing to study a language from scratch must offer a modern or classical language at GCSE or equivalent.

We encourage students to attend one of our regular Subject Matters webinars for help with choosing Post-16 subjects for competitive university applications. This webinar is pitched for students aged 14-16 though it is also possible to attend when you have started sixth form. 

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. One piece of work should be relevant to History, the other should be in the language for which you have applied (except for ab initio languages, in which case you should send an essay written in English). 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).


If we invite you for interviews, these usually take place in early December. At Christ's we continue do all of our interviews online, as we have done for the last three years. You can have your interviews either at home (most applicants do this) or at school (if easier). 
Those invited for Cambridge interviews are normally interviewed for 35-50 minutes in total. At Christ’s, we usually split the time into two interviews with academics in History and Modern Languages, one in each subject. Applicants should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow. Further, more general information about interviews (including two useful films) is available in the Cambridge interviews section, and it's worth also having a look at supervisions (short film here), as interviews are similar to what you do every week as a Cambridge student. We also recommend this film in which current Cambridge History students discuss their interview experiences. Remember that your interviews may cover different things to the students speaking.

Written Assessment in Modern Languages

Assessment details are confirmed by July each year, but note that applicants for History and ML who are selected for interview are normally asked to take either the MML Admissions Assessment or the History and Modern Languages ab initio Admissions Assessment at the end of November (last year's date was 28 November). Which assessment you are asked to take depends on whether the language you are applying for is one you're already studying for A level, IB Higher or equivalent, or whether it's a language that you plan to start from scratch at Cambridge. You complete the relevant assessment remotely and upload your work - you will not need to travel for it. Details of how the assessment will work are given to students selected for interview by email.

Information about the format and content of the assessments are available in the  Undergraduate History & Modern Languages course information. See the entry requirements tab. There are sometimes changes to assessments from year to year - any changes are confirmed by the July before you apply.


We define the terms of each offer individually, but our typical conditional offer for History and Modern Languages is A*AA at A-Level including History (and a Modern Language unless you are applying for an ab initio language) or 42 points overall in the IB with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects including History (and a Modern Language unless you are applying for an ab initio language).

You can look up other qualifications in the offer levels for other exam systems and international entry requirements, and if you are applying from outside the UK please read the Christ's international students section for further information and check the country pages.

If you will have finished school when you apply, please also read about post-qualification applications, taking a gap year, and, if relevant, applying from a university.

Helpful Resources

Sample lecturesFrom a languages open day, including one for History & ML (scroll down).
History Virtual ClassroomFrom the Cambridge Faculty of History, and including History reading advice
History reading advicefrom the Faculty of History
HistoryExtraBBC Magazine
Further History resourcesHistory resources on the Christ's History page
Developing your interest in languagesAdvice on the Christ's Modern and Medieval Languages page
Online newspapersA comprehensive directory of European newspapers
Online lecturesThe Novel as Political History - Stendhal's Le rouge et le noir
German historical memory and national identity
History essay competitions
E.g. Vellacott; Robson; Sheffield; Julia Wood
Entering an essay competition is a good way to find out more about a topic and get some extra practice in writing a convincing and well-structured essay.
HE+ History
HE+ Languages
Websites for secondary school students who want to explore History / languages
CamGuidesIntroducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you work.

Events (online / in person)

Our open days and events page advertises regular online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge. If you can, sign up for a College Open Day (our October, February and September events normally include a meeting with a subject specialist). As part of our outreach programme, we run an annual taster series for students from UK state schools who are interested in History - see Lady Margaret Beaufort - the mother of all Tudors for details and the eligibility criteria. It's also worth keeping a look our for the languages faculty Open Day in March. Between February and August we also run regular webinars:

  • Subject Matters: The importance of post-16 subject choices (this one is also run Sept - Nov)
  • Cambridge for Beginners
  • Christ's College: A look at the Grounds and Facilities
  • Personal Statements and preparing for an application

Further subject-specific opportunities you might wish to consider include Subject Masterclasses organised by Cambridge Admissions Office, and subject-specific talks in the July Cambridge Open Days. If you are a UK student from a background where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education, you can apply to attend a Sutton Trust Summer School or to shadow a current undergraduate studying History and Modern Languages via the Cambridge SU Shadowing Scheme (do be aware that there's a high proportion of applicants to places for both of these last two opportunities so please don't be discouraged if you don't get a place).

Want to know more?

For a fuller picture of what the course involves, take a look at Undergraduate History and Modern Languages admissions on the University website and visit the Faculty course information too.

If you have any other queries at all, please contact us at and we’ll be happy to advise.


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