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.
The undergraduate course 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.
Undergraduates who join us from 2021 will study a substantially new and significantly enhanced course. At present, the Tripos (the historic name for a Cambridge undergraduate degree) consists of a two-year Part I (the first and second years of study) and then a one-year Part II (the third year of study). In future, the programme will be divided into three discrete years: Part IA (the first year), Part IB (the second year), and Part II (the third year). Part II is not affected by this change. Further information regarding the course structure from 2021 can be found on the History Faculty website.
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.
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.