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Cambridge CB2 1RX
History at Cambridge is unique. The selection of papers is extensive and you’ll cover a range of topics in your first two years, from the ancients, to the History of Africa, to the political thought of the world’s greatest thinkers. First year historians have an advantage over students in nearly every other subject: there are no official first year exams, leaving time to adjust to the Cambridge system of lectures and supervisions. This leaves freedom to develop your own interests, whether sporting, academic or theatrical. You can even spend time getting to grips with a foreign language, and even put those skills into historical practice.
One of the best things about History here really is the range of topics. Depending on your decided speciality, there are opportunities to get your hands on statistics with Social and Economic History, get inside the minds of some of the world’s greatest thinkers with the Political Thought modules, and you get a chance to write a 15,000 word dissertation in the third year. Of course, no exams in the first year means that you will be tested on two years’ work in the second year. The third year is more an exercise in specialisation – using the more generalised content to try and narrow down your historical interests. This is probably when becoming a true historian comes into play. Equally, if you don’t like dusty archives and find the idea of 15,000 words quite off-putting, it is by no means compulsory (as it is in Oxford). Again, there are a wide range of alternative papers on offer.
“ There are no first year exams, leaving time to adjust to the system and develop your own interests ”
The Cambridge course really gives you the freedom to study what you find interesting. This same diversity is reflected in the make up of the lecturers and students alike: History is an international subject, and there are people from around the world, with hugely varying interests. If there is an expert on a certain historical area, it is likely they will be in Cambridge.
In the first two years, you will concentrate on one paper per term which means you can devote adequate attention to eight essays per term – one essay per week in an eight week term. One-on-one supervisions are usually preceded by handing in your essay, so that it can be discussed in the supervision. There is significant freedom in how you schedule your week, and usually just involves e-mailing your supervisor to arrange a day that suits you, testament to the excellent teaching structure here and the support networks offered. Ultimately, studying History at Cambridge provides you with an intellectual challenge, a range of possible options and an excellent set of skills applicable to the world post-academia.
Best thing? Diversity of the subject
Worst thing? Don't let them lie to you that it's a work of architectural genius. The History Faculty building is just ugly!