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History at Cambridge

Cambridge has one of the largest and best history departments in the world, and the course we offer reflects this quality and breadth of interest. We can offer you a huge range of options that span three millennia and circle the globe. Our course also reflects the rich diversity of modern historical writing, with cultural, social and intellectual history figuring as prominently as political or economic history, and with global history sitting alongside British and European history. In fact, you will have the opportunity to investigate practically any period or aspect of history that interests you.

At the same time, our course has clear, tightly focused, objectives. It will equip you with a broad range of historical knowledge and understanding. It will teach you to evaluate critically the significance and usefulness of primary and secondary material. It aims to instil in you the confidence to undertake self-directed learning – in other words, to define your own questions, and to go about answering them using the analytical and research skills you have picked up. And it emphasises the importance of assembling, organising and presenting your ideas clearly and coherently. Studying history will provide you with a multifaceted insight into human experience and help you to make sense of a complex, globalising world.

What are we looking for?

There is no such thing as an ‘identikit historian’ and so there is no simple answer to this question. 

Apart from history, you do not need any particular subjects at A' level. A foreign language is certainly useful but not necessary. However, you should enjoy making analytical judgements, be able to think laterally, discriminate critically, enjoy reading, and have a burning curiosity about the past.

What are we offering?

Our greatest strength is our staff 

One of our professors has recently been awarded a knighthood for his work on German history. Another has recently completed a biography of the early medieval emperor, Charlemagne, while three of our colleagues have put together a groundbreaking exhibition on changing fashion trends from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. You may well be taught by any or all of these people.

Cambridge prides itself on being a teaching university, and none of the academics who work here is considered as being ‘too exalted to teach’. So the Faculty’s major resource is this international body of experts, numbering about 90. We continue to achieve top ratings in research assessments of university history departments in the UK and outstanding teaching ratings in surveys by the UK national press.

Unparalleled libraries 

Our other great strength is the Seeley Library, one of the largest student libraries dedicated to history in the world, recently rewired for full internet access. Nearby is the University Library, which is unique among copyright libraries in storing most of its volumes on open shelves, available to undergraduates. In short, finding the right book is rarely a problem.

Languages

There are other benefits to studying here. Undergraduate historians are encouraged to embark or brush up on foreign languages, and have access to both the University Language Centre and specialist language teaching. And most Colleges have travel grants for students who wish to study the history of another country or who are doing research for their dissertation.

Specialist teaching and informal interaction 

Teaching is spread between the Faculty and the Colleges. The Faculty devises the options, sets the examinations and provides lectures to cover course content. On average, you attend eight to ten lectures each week. Themes and Sources, in Part I, and Special Subjects, in Part II, are taught through Faculty classes. The Colleges arrange supervisions for the other papers in Parts I and II and this gives you the opportunity to engage in intense debates with senior historians. These weekly one-hour discussions are the focal point of your academic week and the core of the History course. You write an essay for an expert supervisor, who then discusses it with you either individually or in a small group. This system of teaching ensures that you get plenty of guidance, support and feedback. All Colleges are experienced in organising specialist teaching across the full range of historical topics.

The aim of studying history at university is to further your understanding and knowledge of the past and your ability to present that understanding and knowledge with clarity, insight and discrimination. The historian has to mine a large body of material efficiently; to evaluate its significance and utility in answering important questions about societies, institutions, cultures and individuals; and to order her or his thoughts on these matters succinctly, clearly, yet with sensitivity. The teaching that you will receive over the next three years is designed to develop these skills. Homerton takes about 8-10 students for History each year.

 

Homerton History Staff:

Dr William Foster is Vice-Principal of Homerton while continuing to serve as Director of Studies for History and College Lecturer. Dr Foster has taught History in Cambridge for over ten years and also has extensive teaching experience in the US, most notably at the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell. He teaches modern American and modern European History and is currently writing a one-volume history of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Miss Rosemary Grey is occasional Supervisor in American History. A 2009 graduate of Homerton, she was a Thouron Award Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania where she received an MA in American History in 2011. Along with William Foster, she is currently researching a multi-generational biography of the Earls Grey of Howick and Fallodon and their significance in British imperial and American history.

Director Of Studies:

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Applying to read History at Homerton is straightforward. Application is through UCAS with a deadline of October 15th. You will need to register to take the pre-interview History admissions assessment, however, before that. For details of this assessment, which is to be taken by all applicants for the subject, please see here.

We will ask for written work to be submitted (one or two school essays already completed and marked). Homerton tends to interview the vast majority of applicants. These will have two interviews, both with two specialists in the field. One of the interviews will require applicants to read some source material in advance of the interview, to be discussed. The standard offer is A*AA (IB 40-42 pts with 776 in HL subjects, or the equivalent).

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