Undergraduate Admissions

 

The most striking thing about History at Oxford is its extraordinary range and the enormous amount of choice offered to students (there are over 100 different options), reflecting the breadth of interests and expertise among those who teach here. Oxford is rightly celebrated for the broad chronological sweep of its courses. You can study options on any part of British, European and Global History from the fading years of the Roman Empire to the present day. All undergraduates are encouraged to confront periods and concepts beyond those encompassed by a narrow chronological focus. Students are given the opportunity of seeing things not just in their immediate context but also in the perspective of long-term developments. History can be studied either as a Single Honours course, or as a Joint Honours course in combination of one of five other subjects: Ancient History, Economics, English, Modern Languages, and Politics.

 

Every undergraduate is a member of a college, under the personal guidance of a tutor who is also a lecturer in the Faculty of History and an active research historian. Your tutor will take a keen interest in your welfare and intellectual development, organizing your teaching to ensure that you are directed to the appropriate experts. Because individual tutors are more closely involved in the selection of undergraduates than in most other universities and because colleges exist in a friendly rivalry, tutors are committed to realizing the full potential of their students.

What you need to know

The Tutorial System

Tutorials are at the heart of undergraduate learning at Oxford. Students have at least one tutorial per week, for which they are expected to write an essay, which is then discussed with a specialist. Tutorials usually involve pairs of students working with a tutor, and they therefore offer an opportunity for an in-depth mutual exploration of a topic. 

Although Oxford historians believe that there is no substitute for the intellectual rigour of the tutorial system, tutorials are complemented by seminars and lectures. Seminar groups in Oxford are small (usually between eight and sixteen members) and give students an opportunity to discuss each other’s work by the presentation of papers in turn to the group. Lectures are provided on the Faculty’s courses, and the size of the Faculty means that on many of your options you will be able to hear a variety of contrasting viewpoints. History at Oxford is therefore a subject of energetic debate: debate between your tutor and yourself, debate between you and your fellow students; and debate between your tutors themselves. 

Depth and Breadth of Courses

Broad Geographical Range

In addition to Oxford’s specialists in British and European history, recent appointments have been made in non-European fields, and this is reflected in popular student options on North American, Latin American, Asian, and African themes. Oxford historians have also been in the vanguard of the assault on a narrowly Anglo-centric approach to British History, and there are new options on the English and the Celtic peoples in the later twelfth century, on Irish Nationalism from 1870 to 1921, and on the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Interdisciplinary Approaches

Oxford historians are also encouraged to adopt a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to their studies. Among the more popular first year options is a course on Approaches to History which explores the cross-fertilisation between history and other disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, economics, archaeology, art history, and gender studies. 

Emphasis on Historical Theory

For those who are interested in the development of historical thought a first-year option looks at the work of historical writers from Tacitus, the chronicler of the corruption of early imperial Rome, to Max Weber, the founder of modern sociology and second only to Marx in his influence on historians. 

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