Tim Mossholder archival photos/Unsplash

History

The History course in Cambridge offers a very wide range of papers to choose from and is unique in its chronological and geographical scope.

Faculty of history building seen reflected in windows

The course at Cambridge covers every period of history from the most ancient to the most modern and ranges geographically from Britain, Ireland and the continent of Europe to America, Africa and Asia. Cambridge has long enjoyed a distinguished reputation in the field of political history and it has also played a leading role in the development of social and economic history. More recently it has become a major centre for the study of intellectual history and has developed strengths in cultural and global history.

Woman looking at roman busts Cristina Gottar/Unsplash

The undergraduate course is divided into two parts and is designed to make the most of this large reservoir of expertise and to enable students to develop their own special interests as they move through each of the three years.

Throughout the course there is ample scope to pursue your personal interests and to engage with different historical approaches. Specialist papers allow you to work with a variety of source materials, from medieval coins to modern newspapers.

Alumni featibal, woman showing m an a photo of olde Cambridge by Sir Cam

Academic Requirements

There is no single combination of subjects that is especially good for students wishing to study History. It is highly desirable, but not essential, that you be taking History A level (or equivalent). Successful applicants take all sorts of subjects from Mathematics and the sciences, to arts and social sciences. All of these teach skills that can be useful to the undergraduate historian. It may be useful to have a second essay-based subject alongside History. No subject is absolutely undesirable.

See also the University entrance requirements for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

What we are looking for

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

You need to be able to present your ideas clearly, sharply and accurately, and above all to be able to write analytically. We are not looking for the ‘finished article’, but for people who have the ability and desire to learn.

Interview

Candidates invited to interview will be asked in advance to submit two marked essays or other written work. This should be in a related discipline which the candidate is studying/ has studied. Candidates will also be asked to sit an essay based test before interview. At interview, engagement with and enthusiasm for the subject will be explored by the course Director of Studies and Admissions Tutor.

The best preparation for applying to Wolfson, and for interview, is to read as widely as you can. This can be both in History and in related fields such as literature and current affairs. There are no ‘set texts’ that we prescribe, but try and extend your reading around what you may have studied at school, and look beyond it to other periods and places. Follow your own interests and develop them. An enthusiasm for the subject is vital to studying History at university, and, when you apply for a place, reading is the best way of demonstrating this.

The Director of Studies is Dr Emily Ward.

Find out more about the History course in the University Undergraduate Prospectus and the Faculty of History website.

Marie-Louise Van Spyk
Bredon House

Wolfson College is one of the most relaxed, welcoming and diverse colleges in Cambridge. I was home-educated throughout secondary school before attending sixth form at a state school. Like many, I was certainly apprehensive before arriving. Now in the third year of my degree, I have absolutely loved my time here. Wolfson has grown to feel like home, with beautiful gardens, comfortable accommodation and good kitchens. The staff at Wolfson are consistently friendly and happy to help, and the academic and pastoral mentors become your surrogate family.

However, it is the other students who really make the college stand out. Students here come from such a wide range of backgrounds, both academic and cultural, and come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Mealtime conversations are never dull! As a first-time undergraduate, I was also surprised by the number of fun young people here, misled by the appellation ‘mature college’. I have certainly made many friends for life, not to mention meeting my boyfriend of two years.

Studying at Cambridge can seem overwhelmingly daunting, but I found the workload manageable, leaving enough time to be involved in societies. The benefit of supervisions is that you cover so much historical ground during your degree. You will also find that your ability to write, to think and to discuss improves considerably. It almost goes without saying what a privilege it is to be lectured and supervised by so many distinguished academics and authors at the History faculty, albeit a bit surreal at times! We were told at the faculty’s welcome session that for the next three years we had a license to obsess about history – it is a wonderful opportunity, and I would honestly choose this all over again. Take it if you can.

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