Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic

What makes the Cambridge course in Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic so special?

The Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Tripos is unique to Cambridge. The Tripos offers students a wide and unique range of options in the history, languages and literatures of the British Isles, Ireland and Scandinavia in the period from the end of the Roman Empire to the end of the Middle Ages. The Tripos is also unique in offering undergraduates the opportunity to study palaeography and codicology (manuscript studies).  Undergraduates have a free choice of papers and may range as they wish across the historical and literary papers and across Germanic and Celtic papers and palaeography. They may also borrow complementary medieval papers from certain other Triposes, such as Archaeology, the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and Linguistics (MMLL), and English. All the papers lay much emphasis on acquaintance with the primary sources in order to understand medieval literature and history. While no previous knowledge of any of these subjects is required, motivation and commitment are essential.  It is a two-part Tripos, taken over three years, with a Preliminary examination at the end of the first year, Part I at the end of the second year and Part II at the end of the third year. 

The Department is small and close-knit, and there is also a lively Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Society run by the undergraduates which organises evening seminars, regular lunches and excursions. 

Why choose Newnham for Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic?

Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic studies have a long and lively history at Newnham, with some of the most famous scholars in the field – Mary Bateson, Nora Chadwick, Dorothy Whitelock and Kathleen Hughes – having been Fellows here. The commitment of Newnham to the subject is strong, and the library provision in College, built up over the years, is excellent. 

How many students take ASNaC at Newnham and what options do they choose?

In recent years two or three students per year have been admitted to read this subject but there is no official limit. 

Within the scope of the ASNaC Tripos, students are free to place the focus of their studies where they please. It is possible to concentrate on language and literature papers, or on historical papers; it is also possible to concentrate on Celtic (Irish and Welsh) options, or on Germanic (Anglo-Saxon and Norse) options. It is generally the case, however, that Newnham students, like ASNaCs across the University, select a combination of historical and literary options, and mix Celtic with Germanic. Popular choices in recent years have been: 

Language and literature: Old Norse; Old English; Medieval Irish; Medieval English literature papers ‘borrowed’ from the English Tripos; 

History: Scandinavian history in the Viking Age; England before the Norman Conquest; the Gaelic-speaking peoples from the fourth century to the twelfth; the Brittonic-speaking peoples from the fourth century to the twelfth. 

Paleography: Covering all aspects of manuscripts. 

Students have also ‘borrowed’ papers from MMLL, from English and from Archaeology. 

How will I be taught at Newnham?

Teaching is provided through a combination of lectures, classes and individual supervisions.

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, please visit our teaching webpages.

What jobs do Newnham ASNaC students go on to do?

The linguistic and analytical skills that this Tripos encourages can be used in a wide range of careers. In addition to the more obviously related careers in academic research and university teaching, translation, publishing, museum work and librarianship, past students have also pursued careers in the civil service and the army, computing, theatre management and performance, journalism, advertising, circus, and law.

Are there any A-level subjects that are particularly useful?

There are no subjects which are specifically required, but it is highly desirable to have studied a modern/classical language, and either English Literature or History.

Can I take a gap year?

Of course. We neither encourage nor discourage students from doing this – everyone’s circumstances are different. If you are planning to take a gap year, please give some thought to how you will maintain your academic interests.

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

We want to hear you talking in a relaxed manner about the things that interest you, and why they interest you. We won’t assume that you have studied any of the subject areas in any depth, but we will expect you to be able to demonstrate how you have pursued your interest in one or more of the areas. We do need to be sure that you are well suited to the Tripos and that you are prepared for the work involved.

As part of your application, you will need to submit two pieces of written schoolwork.  We recommend that you keep copies of this work and re-read them along with your personal statement as they may be referred to at interview.  More information regarding written work requirements can be found at:

Is there an Admissions Assessment for ASNaC?

In the 2024 admissions cycle, there is no admissions assessment for ASNaC. 

Where can I find out more?

Information for prospective applicants can be found on the Departmental website.

Recommended Reading?

Reading lists for each of the papers can be found on the Departmental website at:

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