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History and English

An extremely wide-ranging course exploring the breadths and depths of these two disciplines.
โŒ›๏ธLast updated: July 7, 2020, 9:29 a.m.

Course Resources

Here are some general resources related to History and English.

Overview

Overview ๐Ÿ”— This is the History and English section of the University undergraduate prospectus. The most important information about the course is here, including entry requirements, course structure, and prerequisites.

Faculty website ๐Ÿ”— This is the official Faculty webpage for prospective undergraduates, which links to various resources. The most important of these is the first year handbook ๐Ÿ”— ๐ŸŒŸ, which gives a general overview of what studying History and English at Oxford is like.

Alternative Prospectus ๐Ÿ”— This is an unofficial prospectus put together by the Oxford Student Union; itโ€™s written based on studentsโ€™ perspectives and gives a better sense of what the day-to-day experience as a History and English student is like, compared to official materials.

More

History and English are perhaps two of the most complimentary subjects you can think of! Naturally, exploring how they cross over and interact is therefore an incredibly intriguing and fruitful area.

One of the biggest appeals of studying History and English at Oxford is the breadth of the course. While the pure History and pure English courses typically only allow you to begin choosing what you want to study from second year onwards and are dominated by compulsory papers, with the History and English course you are able to tailor your course exactly to your tastes.

As well as exploring the breadths of both disciplines - from Medieval to Modern English AND History papers as well as a huge number of broader, thematic topics - an interdisciplinary aspect is woven throughout your degree. In the first year on top of taking two History Papers and two English papers, you also take an interdisciplinary paper, exploring why the interdisciplinary approach is so valuable. At the end of the year, you take examinations called โ€˜Prelimsโ€™ or Preliminary Examinations to assess your work over the year, some of which are coursework based - but donโ€™t worry, these donโ€™t count to your final degree mark!

In second and third year the interdisciplinary aspect continues to be intertwined in your studies through two papers; the History and English coursework Bridge paper, submitted after the Easter holidays of second year, and the History and English interdisciplinary thesis, submitted after the Easter holidays of your third and final year. You also take five other papers chosen from the History or English side - a mixture of coursework and exam-based options which are typically sat in Trinity (third term) of your final year.

Because this is a joint-honours course, work can fluctuate in intensity quite a bit! Often, there will be two many lectures that are relevant to your course or interest you for you to attend all of them, so you have to learn to be selective. In a typical week however you will probably go to about 5 lectures, one or two classes (almost all the interdisciplinary papers and a few of the English ones are taught in classes of around 5-10 students), and two to three tutorials. A tutorial normally lasts an hour and is usually with one other student, although sometimes you may have tutorials alone. They can vary across different colleges (although most tutorials are college-based, you will occasionally have specialist tutors from other colleges) and across the History and English faculties but generally a tutorial will involve you talking about the essay youโ€™ve submitted that week. In terms of essays, one (and occasionally two) a week is normal.

The first hurdle you'll probably encounter is the lack of preparation you are given before tackling an essay question. At school (at least for me) we normally read around the general topic before tackling the specifics with an analytical or evaluative question but at Oxford this balance is tipped the other way. Instead, they definitely like throwing you in the deep end and you are normally given very specific questions about and expected to formulate views on a topic you might never even have heard anything about!

Do not fear! Because of this, the demands of the tutors are very different from school and they are nearly always amazingly understanding and patient. The purpose of writing the essay becomes less of an exercise in regurgitating what you know and creating a perfect piece of writing which showcases all your skills, but a work in progress, a process of working out what you personally think - something which is always open to adjustment and re-evaluation later in tutorials.

Application Resources

Reading Lists ๐Ÿ”— ๐ŸŒŸ These are the reading lists for the papers that first-years take. Donโ€™t be intimidated by how long they are; theyโ€™re intended to be worked through over the course of a full academic year, and honestly no one reads everything anyway.

History Admissions Test ๐Ÿ”— All applicants are required to sit the History Admissions Test (you do not need to take the English Aptitude Test as well), sat usually at your school in late October/early November.

FAQ ๐Ÿ”— ๐ŸŒŸ Some useful answers to common questions about the application process.

InsideUni History and English interview experiences ๐Ÿ”— ๐ŸŒŸ Current students talk about their interview experience, as well as sharing some tips. Weโ€™re biased, but we think theyโ€™re useful!

Image credit: Gonville and Caius by Akil Hashmi