Studying history at Cambridge is inspiring. People often think that the history course here would be restrictive due to Cambridge being a ‘traditional’ university, but it’s actually the opposite: you get an amazing amount of choice and variation right from your first term. History is taught in your college and in the History Faculty. The faculty includes lecture rooms, seminar rooms, a spacious history library called the Seeley Library, and a little café. It’s one of the bigger faculties in terms of the number of students, so there is never a shortage of new people to meet and new ideas to explore.
What about the History course at Cambridge appealed to you?
What makes the Cambridge course unique is that you get to do what you personally enjoy as soon as you start. I chose modern British social & economic history, and modern British political history, because I knew I wanted to know more about that period. For my European paper I chose to do Ancient Greece, because it was something completely new to me! I also wanted to get a more global perspective, so for Themes & Sources I am studying Southern African race, class and culture since 1850. My favourite thing about the course is that you are encouraged to take risks in your essays, twisting the question and trying new things to find your own style.
How have you found the structure of the course?
The course is very broad, which allows you much choice of what you can study across both space and time. Forget about the dictators and wars that can often put off many from pursuing History further (although there is nothing wrong with these subjects, but due to the limits of curricula they are often taken as the main focus of the discipline). From Greeks to postcolonialism, there is bound to be something that you will be interested in. Even though we have to take two compulsory British history papers in the first year, the time period to explore is up to us, and there will be plenty of other topics left to study, over choice of which you will have an increasing liberty as the course will go on.
What is your faculty/department like?
The History Faculty is a lovely department that is home to one of the biggest number of the subject academics in the world. Most of the lectures are extremely engaging, and I find the lecturers to be open to both questions and emails. Although, it might sometimes feel solitary studying the subject, there are ways to connect across years and colleges, by, for example, joining CLIO (University History Society), or any other from a different college. If you find yourself keen about engaging in a bit of politics, you can stand for becoming a student faculty representative, to have a chance of getting your fellow historian voices heard and pursue change. Also, the faculty regularly sends a list of forthcoming events, about which I get especially excited, as you can join almost every single one of them, regardless of your knowledge.
What types of work do you have to do?
The part and parcel of History course is reading and writing essays, but do not fear the monotony, as you will be doing a different topic for every one of your weekly supervisions. As I am currently in my first year, diversity to my usual types of works adds the Themes & Sources paper, where you get a chance to look closely at primary sources of your chosen topic and have discussions and debates in biweekly classes. For instance, next term I will also have a few trips to Cambridge museums, to explore their collections as part of my subject :). As for books, you’ll be able to find them in your college library, the Faculty library or the one of the University, the latter of which many find intimidating mostly due to its size, but I promise you, it is awesome!
Do you have career plans?
I have no specific career plans, but what is reassuring about doing a history degree is that you learn skills that are applicable to a wide variety of jobs. Writing one essay per week and discussing it with your supervisor means that you learn how to quickly digest a lot of information and think on your feet. Once you do have some ideas for jobs, or need help on where to get started, the Careers Service here is really helpful – you can have free one-on-one meetings for advice, as well as find out about summer opportunities (such as internships) that might give you experience in the world of work.
What about your course would you change?
What has been going on at History?
- Recent Events -
Last week Eva Clarke gave a talk at Selwyn College, which history students were invited to. She talked about her story as a Holocaust survivor, and lessons we can learn from it.
A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture Tim Whitmarsh on: 'Atheism and Christianity: An Ancient Tango’?: A talk by Professor Whitmarsh about his book ‘Battling the Gods’, which explores the degree of novelty of atheism and its place in the public debate
Annual History in Question panel event
A wonderful opportunity to ask questions to a group of academics regarding practice of History, Faculty affairs, or any other queries about the subject and your interests within it.
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