History

Like most other subjects, History at Cambridge is taught at both Faculty and College level. The History Faculty is responsible for lectures and examinations, but the main focus of teaching activity is the College. The College organizes your weekly supervisions and monitors your academic activities; it is also likely to be the centre of your academic and social life. This means that your choice of College is very important.

Faculty website: http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk

During the three years you spend studying History at St Catharine's (or 'Catz'), you will be taught by Fellows of the College and, where appropriate, other specialists with a record of teaching excellence. In the event that you require supervision in one of the subjects outside the fields covered by the Fellowship, the Director of Studies will ensure that you receive the best teaching the University has to offer. In addition to supervisions and lectures, History undergraduates at St Catharine's attend College seminars. These are intended as opportunities for the relaxed discussion of specific historical issues. Since most of the history teaching at Cambridge consists of one-to-one supervisions, the seminars are a valuable forum for discussion with your peers.

St Catharine's has an attractive and spacious library with excellent resources in history. The history section is regularly updated with new publications in the main fields of undergraduate study and is regarded by undergraduates from other Colleges as one of the best in Cambridge.

The College History Society is run by undergraduate historians. It invites historians from Cambridge and beyond to address the Society and meet our students. The tone is informal and friendly. The Society also organizes the annual History Dinner, and an annual historians’ garden party - occasions for Fellows and undergraduates to get to know each other outside of formal teaching.

If you come to interview at St Catharine's, we hope that you find the whole experience welcoming and not too nerve-racking. We are looking for students who can show us their enthusiasm for history, their intellectual curiosity, and their ability to think on their feet. We ask challenging questions, but only in the interests of seeing how thoughtful or flexible the response is. We may give you a text to look at, which might be from any period, but we are not expecting you to have any particular background knowledge. Candidates are invited to submit a couple of essays in advance; these will form a part of the discussion in interview. We'll also be interested in what you've been reading - and an appetite for reading is essential to getting the most out of History at Cambridge. Overall, coming to interview should be a chance for you to 'shine', and we will be giving you every opportunity we can to do that.

Our history graduates go into an enormous range of careers, ranging across politics, law, journalism, government and a variety of private sector occupations. A number of historians from the College have gone on to take a doctorate in History, and to distinguished academic careers. 

The History course is brilliantly flexible. You can essentially study whatever you want. The Themes and Sources paper gives you the chance to do extended writing, and if this is something you enjoy, there’s a further chance to do a dissertation in third year.

The Fellows at Catz are all really approachable. We have arguably Cambridge’s best department, including Chris Clark, the Regius Professor of Modern History. You’ll develop a strong working and pastoral relationship with your Director of Studies, who you’ll meet in group classes every week. Most of the time someone else in your year will be studying the same paper as you, which means there’s always someone to chat to and discuss essays and ideas with. This also allows you to get to know your year really well and develop discussion skills.

Lectures are really worth going to most of them are useful for weekly essays and even if you don’t end up doing topics you’ve had lectures on they’re still really interesting. The Sidgwick site is also super-close to both Catz and Chad’s, which is really nice.

Because there is usually only one deadline a week, the way you go about work can be pretty flexible – there’s definitely enough time for you to commit to all kinds of activities including sport, drama and music. The regularity of weekly work allows you to learn your optimal working patterns. You can do work on your terms and the college has a 24/7 library.

The intellectual benefits of engaging in one on one discussion with top academics cannot be exaggerated. Supervisors manage to push you and subtly bring your standard of thought and expression far further than you may have believed possible. The range of Fellows at Catz means that you will often be able to have supervisions in college, as well.

Asher Rosen and Sarah Hess, second-year Historians