Human, Social and Political Science

Human, Social and Political Science combines the study of politics, sociology, and social anthropology in a stimulating, varied course. The flexibility of HSPS at Cambridge allows you to explore a variety of subjects, many of which may be new to you (such as International Relations or Biological Anthropology), before pursuing advanced study in one or two specific subjects in your second and third years. Alternatively, if you already know the subject(s) in which you want to specialise, you can tailor the course to suit your interests right from the start while retaining the option to take individual papers in other subjects as well. You'll graduate from Cambridge having specialised in one or two subjects but will also have the advantage of a broad background across the human, social, and political sciences.

 Faculty website:

With two fellows in HSPS, St Catharine’s is the ideal place to read this subject.  (please see the Teaching Fellows tab for full biographies):

  • Dr Harald Wydra is the Fellow in Politics and International Relations, a subject that explores not only the nature of political relations within and between nations but also deals with issues such as democracy, war, conflict-resolution, capitalism, human rights and others.
  • Dr Hazem Kandil is the Fellow in Sociology. This subject is concerned with the analysis of societies, including issues such as social change, the nature of economic systems such as capitalism, class relations, inequality, public health, nationalism, gender, or major social transformations.

Every Fellow researches in particular specialised areas but are very committed to putting their expertise and long-standing teaching experience to the service of St Catharine’s students who can be assured not only the highest degree of individual attention but also top-quality teaching in small groups (or individual) supervisions. They also provide the students the necessary guidance in choosing their first-year options as well as their specialised tracks in the 2nd and 3rd years.

For this subject there are no required subjects at A Level,  but competence with languages and history is an advantage for all disciplines. Most important to your success in being offered a place is a demonstration of willingness, aptitude, interest in and enthusiasm for exploring the unique opportunities offered by the inter-disciplinary Cambridge course.

At present applicants receive two twenty-to-twenty-five minute interviews on the same day, each with either one or two interviewers. Both interviews are largely subject-based, although more general questions may also be asked.

Suggested reading

These titles are given as a guide to help prospective students gain some background to the subject-matter that will be covered in detail in texts and references provided in the first first-year courses. They are not intended to be preparatory reading for applicants and interviewers will not expect candidates necessarily to have read any of these titles.

Biological Anthropology

  • Boyd, R. & Silk, J. (2006) How Humans Evolved. W. W. Norton & Co.
  • Lewin, R. & Foley, R. (2003) Principles of Human Evolution. 2nd ed. Blackwell Scientific Press.
  • Ridley, M. (2003) Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human. Harper Collins
  • Stringer, C. & Andrews, P. (2005) The Complete World of Human Evolution. Thames & Hudson

Social Anthropology

  • Barnard, A. & Spencer, J. (Editors) (1996) Encyclopaedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. Routledge.
  • Eriksen, T. (1996) Small Places, Large Issues. Pluto.
  • Kuper, A. (1983) Anthropology and Anthropologists. Routledge.
  • Layton, R. (1997) An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology. Cambridge University Press

Social & Political Sciences

  • Crick, B. Democracy: a Very Short Introduction (Oxford: OUP, 2002)
  • Crick, B. In Defence of Politics (2000) Continuum
  • Geuss, R. History and Illusion in Politics (2001) Cambridge University Press
  • Turner, B. Classical Sociology (1999) Sage

Social Psychology

  • Burchell, B., Fraser, C., Hay, D. & Duveen, D. Introducing Social Psychology (2001) Polity
  • Durkin, K. Developmental Social Psychology (1995) Blackwell


  • Alexander, J. C. and K. Thompson (2008), A Contemporary Introduction to Sociology; Culture and Society in Transition. London/Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.
  • Peter L. Berger. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1999) Anchor Books.
  • Giddens, A. (2009) Sociology, 6th edition. Cambridge: Polity Press
  • Sennett, R. (2006) The Culture of the New Capitalism. London/New Haven: Yale University Press

Find out about the general advice for anyone applying for undergraduate courses at St Catharine's.

Catz is the best place to study Human, Social and Political Sciences as it has a number of Fellows and thus expertise across the whole course. The course offers a wide range of choices, allowing you to answer questions from whether time exists to whether Hobbes was right. In first year you do four papers from four disciplines - popular choices are Politics, International Relations, Sociology and Social Anthropology, but it's quite possible to specialise in Archeology instead! There is usually quite a large number of students studying HSPS at Catz so you can have a lot of course friends and can work together if you are find anything tricky. A big sense of community within the subject ensures your term is full of fun! Additionally, in the first year lectures are just a three-minute walk away, which makes the early mornings much easier!

Harriet Macleod, current undergraduate