Every undergraduate taking the BA Single Honours in History must complete a thesis of no more than 12,000 words from original research. Undergraduates taking joint degrees with Ancient History, Economics or Politics may choose which of their two schools to produce a thesis in. Students studying joint History with English or Modern Languages may also, if they wish, submit an optional thesis.
The thesis is potentially a very exciting element of the Final Honour School. It offers the opportunity to engage in primary research on a subject of students’ own choosing, and to arrive at independent conclusions, rather than a synthesis of the conclusions of others. Students have a chance to work as a historical scholar in their own right and to get a taste of the kind of academic work undertaken professionally by your tutors. Some undergraduate theses are so good that they are ready to be published as they stand. Almost all theses however give their authors considerable personal satisfaction, and will be looked back on with pride long after the authors have left Oxford and, in most cases, the study of history.
The exercise is challenging, and intentionally so. For those who continue their education in Oxford or elsewhere as graduate historians, the thesis will represent a first opportunity to test their abilities as creative and independent researchers, able to define and explore a historical problem on a large scale. For others a successfully-accomplished thesis is a clear indication to employers and the outside world that they possess a capacity for organization, self-discipline and the ability to structure a substantial and complex piece of research very largely on their own initiative.