History and Politics

What makes the History and Politics course at Cambridge so special?

History and Politics at Cambridge is an exciting new Honours degree which started in October 2017. It offers subjects from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which allows students to explore the space between the two disciplines. Students will develop skills in analysing the operation of power and politics across histories, institutions, and societies around the world. Students will also be able to build strengths in understanding the nature of evidence, methodologies, and approaches in both History and Politics. They will be able to choose from a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history and politics. 

Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics and International Relations together. Both Faculties are widely regarded as world-leading. The History Faculty (http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk/) is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. 

The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) (http://www.polis.cam.ac.uk) is a medium-sized department with about 30 academics with a huge range of specialisms. It has particular research strengths in international politics, international history and international law, comparative politics and political thought. 

Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political and international history, the origins of contemporary politics and international relations, and the history of political ideas. This new degree balances a strong grounding in the two component subjects with the opportunity to explore the ways in which historical and political understanding together illuminate the modern world. 

Why choose Newnham for History and Politics?

Newnham’s pioneering work in the development of women’s education began in 1869, with a series of lectures set up by Henry Sidgwick. Women were formally admitted to full membership of the University in 1948, and Newnham’s continued academic success is reflected in the number of students who gain University prizes and Research Fellowships, and the wide variety of their chosen careers.

Newnham has a long tradition of valuing teaching as an integral part of College life. Its current Fellows continue to uphold the ideals of their forebears in taking teaching seriously and seeking the most effective teaching methods for an individual’s style of learning. Newnham was one of the pioneers of the supervision mode of teaching, still the mainstay of any humanities degree, and an important element of the Director of Studies’ job is securing the best supervisors for students. 

History and Politics students will be supported through their degree by a Director of Studies for both the History and Politics sides of the course. They will also be fully integrated into the ‘history’ cohort through College-based classes and events, which provide an important chance for students to exchange ideas, experiences, and share what they have discovered in their own particular papers. Contact across year groups is fostered not only informally but also (for example) by an afternoon of presentations by third-year students on their dissertations. 

Newnham students in History and Politics benefit from the excellent resources provided by the College as well as the University. The College runs an unusually well-stocked undergraduate library. Whilst this provides a quiet working environment both inside and outside term time, students at Newnham live within minutes of the History Faculty and from the University Library, a copyright library. 

First year History and Politics students at Newnham have the opportunity to develop language skills through classes in French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Latin, among others. A student in any year may take advantage of the presence of a Royal Literary Fund Fellow in College who provides assistance with writing skills outside the formal confines of supervisions. 

How many places are available for History and Politics at Newnham?

We normally aim to admit three students for History and Politics. 

How will I be taught at Newnham?

The degree is taught through a mixture of departmental lectures, seminars and classes, and college ‘supervisions’, in which students discuss their ideas with a senior academic individually or in very small groups. First-year students at Newnham also enjoy weekly language classes funded by the College. 

Can you tell me more about the History and Politics fellows?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for History and Politics, please visit our teaching webpages.

Are there any A level subjects that are particularly useful?

You can apply with a variety of relevant examination qualifications, and these do not necessarily have to include both politics and history; you will be expected to demonstrate an interest in both subjects and will be assessed on your potential to succeed in them. A student does not have to take History at A-level in order to read it at university, but an applicant who has not taken History would naturally be expected to account for this, and offer positive reasons for their choice of course. Students previously admitted have combined History with other essay-based subjects or mathematics or natural sciences. 

Can I take a gap year?

We are happy to offer deferred places to applicants who have plans for a year out. Gap year projects in the past have included taking a job to build up financial resources, working or travelling abroad to improve language skills and experience another culture. Most gap year students feel they have benefited from the experience, and have no trouble getting back into the swing of academic work once they arrive; maintaining some sort of a connection with your subject is always encouraged, even if only through reading. 

What does the application process involve? How can I prepare?

You will have two interviews, one in each subject. Be prepared to discuss your relevant interests and potential directions you may wish to follow. 

Applicants will also be asked to submit two pieces of written school work.  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: https://newn.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduates/how-to-apply/ 

Is there an Admissions Assessment for History and Politics?

Applicants who are shortlisted for interview may be required to take an assessment. Any assessment will not require registration and the College will provide the details directly to you. More information will be available in summer 2024.

Where can I find out more?

Further information on this course is available on the University website or on the Faculty of History and Politics page

The History Subject Overview and Politics Subject Overview on the ‘My HE+’ website also provides information and resources for exploring your subject. 

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