University of Cambridge




Our History course offers a huge range of options that span two millennia and circle the globe. In fact, you have the opportunity to investigate practically any period or aspect of history that interests you.

UCAS code V100 BA/H

Duration Three years

Colleges Available at all Colleges

2013 entry Applications per place: 3
Number accepted: 190

Open days and events 2015 College open days
Cambridge Open Days

Related courses
Contact details 01223 335340


Across centuries and continents

Cambridge has one of the largest and best history faculties in the world and the course we offer reflects this quality and breadth of interest. Our course gives you opportunities to look at the past through many disciplinary lenses - including political, economic, social and cultural - and to explore how history has been influenced by other disciplines like anthropology, literature and archaeology.

There's ample scope throughout to pursue personal interests and experiment with different historical approaches. Some paper options are shared with other courses, such as Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic; Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; and Classics, and specialist papers allow you to work with a variety of source materials such as music, art, cartoons and coins.

Facilities and resources

Our major resource is our international body of more than 100 experts. The Faculty has achieved outstanding teaching and research ratings in surveys by the UK national press, and was ranked first for History in the QS World University Rankings 2013.

The Seeley Library, one of the largest history libraries in the world, as well as the nearby University Library, mean that finding the right book is rarely a problem, and there is a wealth of rare materials and manuscripts within collections in Cambridge suitable for students' research. Undergraduate historians are also encouraged to take up or improve foreign languages; they have access to both the University Language Centre and specialist language teaching. Many Colleges have travel grants for students who wish to study the history of another country.

Changing course

The flexibility of the History course, and the fact that some Part II options are shared with faculties such as Modern and Medieval Languages and Classics, means that few students wish to transfer out after Part I. Law and History of Art are favourites among those who do transfer. About 10 students each year take a two-year Part II in History, usually after a one-year Part I in a subject such as Economics.

Careers and research

Cambridge historians acquire a range of skills that are attractive to employers: the ability to work independently, to evaluate evidence, to discriminate, and to present arguments clearly and persuasively.

In the past, our graduates have had no difficulty in securing rewarding jobs in a wide variety of occupations - for example, one graduate is a television news reporter, and another pursued further study and is now a child psychologist. Other graduates pursue careers in business and finance, in law and public administration, in journalism and broadcasting, in teaching, and in research.

Course outline

Teaching is provided through Faculty lectures and classes to cover course content, and College supervisions. On average, you attend eight to 10 lectures each week.

Your weekly supervisions, for which you typically write an essay, give you the opportunity to debate and develop your ideas with a senior historian and expert supervisor.

Years 1 and 2 (Part I)


Part I lasts two years (six terms) and comprises six papers, the first five of which are chosen from 23 papers on offer. You study one each term for the first five terms and sit a written examination in each at the end of Year 2.

  • You take at least one paper on a period of British political history and at least one paper on a period of British economic and social history.
  • For the other three papers it's possible to study any period of European history from the Greeks to the present, periods of world history, the history of the USA, and/or the history of political thought. If you wish, you can specialise, for example in ancient and medieval papers, or almost entirely in the twentieth century.

For the compulsory sixth paper, Themes and Sources, you submit a 5,000 word essay. There's a wide choice of topics, typically investigating a major comparative theme in history (such as emigration and immigration, money and society, religion, or film). The essay is written over a period of some months and involves individual research and Faculty classes.

Most students also sit a Preliminary Examination towards the end of their first year. This doesn't count towards your final degree but aims to give you an informal sense of your achievement to that point.

Year 3 (Part II)


Students who have taken History Part I then take a one-year Part II. (The two-year Part II is for those who have taken a one-year Part I in another subject.)

You take five papers, three of which are compulsory:

  • Historical Argument and Practice – a general philosophical paper that reflects on the broad issues of historical argument and practice arising out of work throughout the degree course
  • a Special Subject – consisting of two papers (assessed by a long essay and a written examination) and giving the opportunity for advanced in-depth study of an important historical process or problem (with access to primary materials)

For your remaining papers, you can choose two Specified Subjects from a selection of topics or comparable themes in history. These papers often arise from cutting-edge research being undertaken in the Faculty.

If you wish, you can substitute one of the Specified Subject papers with a dissertation of 10,000-15,000 words.

Entry requirements

Typical offers require
A Level:
IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level
For other qualifications, see our main Entrance requirements pages.

Course requirements

Essential No specific subjects
Highly desirable A Level/IB Higher Level History

There is no single combination of subjects that is especially good for students wishing to study History. It is highly desirable, but not essential, for you to 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.

Check College websites for College specific requirements. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

Admissions tests and written work

The table below sets out the ways in which each College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.

College Assessment of applicant for this subject
Christ's School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Churchill School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Clare School/college essays
Corpus Christi School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview; Test at interview
Downing School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Emmanuel School/college essays; Preparatory study before interview
Fitzwilliam School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Girton School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Gonville & Caius School/college essays
Homerton School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Hughes Hall Test at interview

School/college essay; Test at interview

King's School/college essays
Lucy Cavendish School/college essays; Pre-interview reading; Test at interview
Magdalene School/college essays
Murray Edwards School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Newnham School/college essays; Preparatory reading at interview; Test at interview
Pembroke School/college essay; Written test at interview; Preparatory reading at interview
Peterhouse School/college essays; Test at interview; Preparatory reading at interview
Queens' School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview
Robinson School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview; Test at interview
St Catharine's School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
St Edmund's Reading before interview
St John's Test at interview; Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA); School/college essays
Selwyn School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Sidney Sussex School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview; Test at interview
Trinity School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview
Trinity Hall School/college essays
Wolfson School/college essay; Test at interview
How to apply

If you are interested in applying for this course, please see our Applying section for more details.

Further Resources

Find out more about History at Cambridge

  • Course website - Explore History in more detail on the course website.
  • Course guide - A detailed guide to the History degree.
  • Facilities - Information about the facilities available to History students.
  • Teaching style - Information about the styles of teaching used in the History degree course.
  • Staff profiles - Find out more about the people who'll be teaching you during your History degree.
  • Course FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions about the History course.

Improve your knowledge of History

  • Virtual classroom - Get a taste of what it's like to study History at Cambridge and improve your skills too in the Virtual Classroom.
  • Preparatory reading - Guidance on preparatory reading for applicants interested in History.

Tools to help you with your History application

  • Mock interview - A mock interview for admission to study History – get a flavour of the application process.
  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) Preparation - Resources to help prepare for the TSA (required for History at some Colleges). Includes practice tests, suggested textbooks and further reading.

History and your future

  • Career opportunities - Information about the careers opportunities available to you after studying History at Cambridge.
  • Transferable skills - A guide to the transferable skills you can develop during the course of a History degree.

The student experience

  • Student profiles - Some recent students describe their experience of studying History.

Unistats info

Contextual Information

From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.

However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.

We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.

You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.

  1. The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.

    Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.

  2. Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.

  3. The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.

  4. Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.

  5. Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.

The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.