History

Teaching and learning

The Oxford History Faculty is the largest in the British Isles, probably the largest in the world.  This means that an unparalleled range of historical expertise is available in Oxford, covering not only all historical periods but also all parts of the globe.  We teach political history, economic history, social history, cultural history, military history, intellectual history, the history of science, the history of sexuality and of the emotions...  History at Oxford draws on the other sciences of human behaviour and production -- economics, political science, history of art, anthropology, archaeology...

Variety, therefore, is the hallmark of history at Oxford.  The aim of the History degree is to combine breadth of knowledge -- through the outline British and General History courses -- with the depth of understanding derived from close and detailed study of particular events and periods through the documents created at the time. The range of documents we use in our research and teaching is also very varied: history can be studied at Oxford through letters, literature, art, architecture, music, popular song, film, in fact the whole panoply of the past’s cultural production. 

Oxford historians study the past, but they also study how that past has been understood, and how new themes and new approaches emerge in our contemporary engagement with the past.  Historians need to know what happened, but they also have to explain what it meant, and why it matters.

To think like a historian is to appreciate both how change occurs, but also how the past weighs on the present.  It means understanding the limitations on human action as well as how those limitations can be transcended.  Historians apprehend the way the past is used in the present, and can combat its misuse.

In the process of becoming a historian, students acquire many skills that will have application well beyond the field of historical enquiry.  They learn how to conduct research; they learn how to process and control large amounts of data; they learn how to marshal evidence; they learn how to differentiate what matters from what is incidental (while always being aware that what matters may change in a new context); they learn that one question may have many answers; they learn how to make arguments that can be tested; they learn how to present ideas that will convince.  Above all they learn how to communicate.  These skills serve Oxford History graduates well in whatever field they go into: the media, policy, government, the Foreign Office, law, financial services, the arts and many, many more.

Subject facts

Course duration: 3 years (4 in case of History and Modern Languages)

Student intake: Up to 10 in History; up to 6 in History and joint schools with Modern Languages, Politics and Economics.