Average student intake: 10 (including Joint Schools)
Course length: 3 years
As a History student at Hertford, you will be part of one of the largest and most diverse communities of historians and researchers in the world. The Oxford History Faculty teaches global history from the fall of the Roman Empire to the present day, and as a student here you’ll be able to study the periods, areas and approaches which inspire you most. You will study the past, but also how the past has been understood, and how that understanding weighs on the present.
We welcome History students with a desire to learn and a determination to work hard. Most of your academic time will be spent reading and making notes, which means you can have a lot of flexibility but need to be disciplined about how you organise your time. If you’re a self-starter who welcomes the opportunity to explore new ideas, you’ll feel at home in our friendly and intellectually-stimulating community, working alongside like-minded undergraduates, postgraduates and tutors to explore and share the ways in which the past is important today.
The resources available to you within a stone’s throw of Hertford are outstanding – the Bodleian Library has been situated just across the road from Hertford since the 16th century, while the History Faculty Library is just around the corner, housed in the iconic Radcliffe Camera. You will be able to work in these spaces and make full use of the libraries’ historic and contemporary resources, alongside 24/7 access to the college library at Hertford. The world’s first public museum – the Ashmolean – is a short walk away too, as are the Museum of Natural History, Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum. The Examination Schools, where most of your lectures and exams are held, are also just a five minute walk from college.
Teaching and learning
Variety is the hallmark of a History degree at Oxford, and you will be encouraged to combine wide-ranging knowledge with the depth of close and detailed study. You can study History through a whole range of cultural artefacts here – letters and literature, art and architecture, music and film. We value the diversity of our course and will give you the opportunity to learn from recognised experts in your field, whether based here in Hertford or at other colleges. Your learning will also be supported by the University’s internationally-recognised museums and specialist libraries, like the American Studies library at the Rothermere Institute or the Commonwealth and African Studies manuscript collection at the Bodleian Library.
Tutorials, organised by your tutors here at Hertford and across the wider University, will help you to delve into your chosen subjects and hone your critical thinking skills. For each course you study, you will write weekly or fortnightly essays which you’ll discuss in tutorials with expert tutors and fellow students. While we’ll provide you with initial reading lists and give you feedback on your work, tutorials aren’t lectures or exams – they are your opportunity to make and defend arguments, to reassess your thought processes, and to deepen your understanding of the topics under discussion.
Throughout your degree at Hertford we will give you the opportunity to gain skills which have applications well beyond the field of historical enquiry. You will learn how to conduct research, marshal evidence, and process large amounts of data. You will learn how to test arguments and present convincing ideas, and that one question may have many answers.
Our former students pursue a wide range of careers after leaving Hertford, from politics and journalism, to law, charity, and the arts. Here they explain how studying History at Hertford prepared them for their careers, and how their experiences continue to mean something to them, whatever they went on to do.
Alice Thornton (2008 – 2011), Senior Impact and Evaluation Manager at the social enterprise Renaisi says:
“I’ve found – perhaps paradoxically – that my degree has become more useful, the more my career has progressed. The experience of writing my undergraduate thesis (about the development of humanitarian thought in the 20th century) taught me valuable skills in research, and remains a key asset on my CV, demonstrating my academic interest in the sector.”
Thomas Fletcher (1994 – 1997), Visiting Professor at New York University and former diplomat says:
“In my case, the curiosity provided by a Hertford history degree has taken me to most countries in the world, and to homes in Nairobi, Paris, Beirut and beyond. The scepticism has – I hope – given me an independence of spirit when it comes to policy making, and a greater readiness to take risks. And the confidence has – I hope – helped me to challenge assumptions, and to take on roles I would not previously have contemplated. Hertford is no academic conveyor belt.”
Carol Sennett (1982 – 1985), Commissioning Editor at the BBC says:
“In tune with Hertford’s long-standing commitment to broadening access, my cohort of Hertford historians was, with one exception, entirely female, and predominantly state educated. The tutorial system offered all of us, from the most diverse of backgrounds, the opportunity to engage one-to-one with the best minds in the world […] And so it was the confidence and intellectual rigour, provided by a Hertford History degree that enabled me to pursue the career of my dreams in the audio-visual world of BBC radio and television.”
Making an application
Alongside your UCAS form, we will use submitted written work and the results of the HAT admissions test to decide who to shortlist for interviews – you can find past papers for this online. You can find the timetable for sitting tests and the written work requirements on the History Faculty website.
If you are successfully shortlisted, you will have two interviews at Hertford. Each will be with two members of the college teaching team, so you will have a good opportunity to get to know us. If you are a joint honours applicant, your second interview will be with tutors in the joint subject. While we expect you to have a good knowledge of the history you’ve studied and beyond, we’re not looking to just test your knowledge in interviews. We want to see your ability to think like a historian, and for you to share your passion for the subject.
This degree brings two disciplines and their respective skill sets together: the contextual, social and political concerns of History, with the linguistic and literary analysis skills of Modern Languages. Our commitment to teaching European history – and the specialisms of our professors in French history – supplement the teaching of languages particularly well.
The Oxford History Faculty is the largest in the world, while our Modern Languages Faculty is one of the largest in the UK. This huge wealth of expertise and resources opens many avenues to you, offering you wide and diverse course choices and supporting your intellectual curiosity.
These complementary subjects allow you to share skills and knowledge between disciplines, bringing a thorough historical perspective to contemporary politics and a conceptual political understanding to the study of the past.
Like the BA in History, this interdisciplinary course promotes diversity in the topics you can study. It’s perfectly possible to satisfy a wide breadth of research interests across disparate concepts and periods – studying, for example, medieval history alongside contemporary political systems.