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 offer you a huge range of options that span two millennia and circle the globe. Our course also reflects the rich diversity of modern historical writing, with cultural and social history figuring as prominently as politics and economic development. In fact, you’ll have the opportunity to investigate practically any period or aspect of history that interests you.
The History degree at Cambridge is divided into two parts: Part I is taught over two years through a combination of outline courses and thematic source-based options in the widest possible range of fields, from ancient and medieval history in Europe and Britain to world history. Part II is normally a one-year course, and is more closely focused, offering Special Subjects and a wide range of other papers on specific themes, regions and periods, from which you can choose with great freedom.
Final-year students also have the option of writing a dissertation on a chosen topic. Caius undergraduate historians have recently researched topics such as:
- Visual Religion, Ecclesiastical Art and the Reformation in Rural Norfolk, c.1500-1553
- The Moderate Newsbook: Popular Print and the Construction of National Dialogues in the Second Civil War
- Small Powers and the League of Nations Council, 1919-1926
- Policing the Black Dance Hall: Leisure, Surveillance and Uplift in the African-American City, c.1900 to c. 1930
- Depictions of historical women in advertisements, film and the popular press in 1920s America
- The Effects of Political Systems on Financial Legislative and Regulatory Responses to the Great Depression
- Contending Visions: An oral history of the American University in Cairo
- Queer Women of Colour and Community Building in Britain, 1970-1995
- Jerry Falwell and American Politics, c.1970-2000
The History Faculty provides lectures and sets examinations and the College provides supervisions. The Faculty has an outstanding international reputation, and has received the highest score from external assessors both for its research and for its teaching. Caius historians play an active role at the History Faculty, and the College's location allows convenient access both to the faculty and to the outstanding University Library.
History at Caius
Making a decision about where to study History can seem a daunting task. Luckily, Caius not only has a long and distinguished tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages of fostering historical research, but also has an unmatched network of historians who will teach and inspire you no matter what your interests. Our expertise covers modern, early modern, and medieval; British, European, American, South Asian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, African history; economic and social history, material culture, history of science, imperial history, political thought, and the history of humanitarianism. In other words, although you will have supervisions from Fellows of other colleges, you will have the ability to explore an enormous range of historical approaches and fields within the college itself.
- The large number of History Fellows allows in-house supervision across a range of topics from Aristotle to modern Islamic revivalism.
- Caius also has an unusually large number of undergraduates in history (usually 15 in each year including Joint degree students). This makes for a lively exchange of ideas; it also means that historians at Caius often have the company of other students taking the same papers as their own within the College.
- The College has an active student-run History Society, recently renamed in honour of the medievalists Christopher Brooke and Rosalind Brooke, with historically-themed events running throughout the terms, an annual History Society Dinner, and other social events.
- We offer generous book and travel grants.
- The magnificent college library houses an outstanding collection of books including many manuscripts and early printed books that have been with the College for many centuries. Caius historians find that many of the books on their reading list can easily be found in their own College library.
Caius has two Directors of Studies in History, one for Part I (the first two years) and the other for Part II (the final year of the degree), so undergraduates find a wealth of support for their studies at College level. The Directors of Studies – Dr Melissa Calaresu for Part I and Dr Bronwen Everill for Part II – provide detailed assistance to all students to ensure they make the most of the options available to them in their study towards a degree in History. They also run fortnightly classes for the year group as a whole on the broader themes of history and practice. Undergraduates in History usually receive a one-hour supervision each week, normally one-to-one, where they discuss their weekly essay with a supervisor, who may be a History Fellow of Caius, or a Fellow of another college.
The University also provides lectures and some classes for all papers in the History degree, and these are given mainly in the History Faculty building. There is good rapport within and across individual year groups in History at Caius. Many Caius historians go on to post-graduate study in History, while others go on to careers in a vast range of areas, including international development, arts administration, the media, publishing, business, law and government.
The College has produced some of the most important historians of modern times, including Quentin Skinner, the great historian of political thought and former Regius Professor; the modern European historians Norman Stone, Richard Overy, Orlando Figes and David Reynolds; the biographer and modern British historian Andrew Roberts; the medievalist and BBC broadcaster, Helen Castor; the Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, Sarah Foot; the historian of the secret services, Christopher Andrew; and the historian and novelist, Simon Sebag-Montefiore.
Some of the History Fellows’ work in the public domain will give a sense of their research activities, which in turn motivate their teaching.
Melissa Calaresu co-curated the 'Feast & Fast' exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum
Bronwen Everill on a BBC ‘In our time’ episode on the Zong Massacre
Mike Joseph for a podcast series about calypso in Britain after the Windrush
Peter Mandler is interviewed for the Channel 4 News podcast, ‘The Fourcast’, ‘History: What Is It Good For?’, 19 Apr. 2021
Sujit Sivasundaram gives the Prothero Lecture at the Royal Historical Society Prothero Lecture in July 2019 on 'Waves Across the South: Monarchs, Travellers and Empire in the Pacific'.
Joint degrees with History
Applicants can also apply to study History as a Joint degree course with either Politics or Modern Languages. Students taking these joint programmes will join the large community of undergraduates at Caius studying History, while also benefiting from the rich exchange amongst Fellows in the humanities here. The College is especially well-served in both Modern Languages and Politics, and Fellows in these subjects have intersecting interests with History Fellows, so Caius is an ideal place to study the new joint courses. History and Politics is anchored in a first-year paper called ‘Evidence and Argument’ in which Caius Fellows play a central role. ‘History and Modern Languages’ picks up on long-standing interest in early modern and modern European history at the college, including attention to histories of Italy, Germany and France. Dr Bronwen Everill is the Director of Studies for the Joint Degree in History and Politics and Dr Melissa Calaresu is the Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages.
Admissions decisions are driven to a considerable extent by candidates' academic records at point of application. We expect you to be achieving very highly in academic subjects. We're looking for hard-working students who have a genuine interest in the past and a good ability to interpret the information they gather.
All applicants are asked to submit two pieces of written work, and all applicants invited to interview will sit a written assessment shortly before their interview. Candidates for History should expect two interviews with History fellows of the College. The interviews are a discussion between the interviewer and the candidate, and we do our best to make them as relaxed and agreeable as possible.
If there are any points concerning admissions in History that you wish to raise, please do not hesitate to contact Dr Melissa Calaresu, one of the Directors of Studies in History.