History (Ancient and Modern) | University of Oxford
History (Ancient and Modern)
Colosseo and Venus temple columns from Roman forum, Italy.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

History (Ancient and Modern)

This course enables students to study history from the Bronze Age Mediterranean and Near East, through the Roman Empire, middle ages and early modern period, right up to British, European and world history in the present day. Fruitful comparisons between societies abound, and the methods by which we study them are mutually illuminating.

This Oxford course offers an extraordinary range of choices (more than 90 options) reflecting the breadth of interests of those who teach here. The Oxford Classics and History Faculties are world famous for teaching and research. The people who will teach you here will be leading researchers in their field, and lecturers are encouraged to put on new courses which reflect their own interests.


Oxford historians typically move on to careers in fields as varied as law, investment banking and consultancies, advertising, accountancy, the Civil Service, publishing, journalism and the media, global charity work, museums, librarianship and archive work, and teaching.

Recent Ancient and Modern History graduates include a civil servant, a librarian and a charity campaign manager. Mary-Kate says: ‘Through my joint course I developed skills in working flexibly and under pressure, enhanced my analytical skills and learnt to be independently minded. These have all proven to be invaluable assets in my career as a Fast Streamer for the Home Office. Being a Fast Streamer means that you follow an accelerated training and development graduate programme.’

Heather now works as a Lecturer in British History at the Humboldt University in Berlin. She says: ‘Learning to work independently and under time pressure as an undergraduate was the perfect preparation for an academic career. It gave me the skills I needed to teach successfully at a university level and the self-confidence necessary to publish and present my research before my peers.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Archaeology and Anthropology, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, Classics, other History courses or History of Art.

A typical week

Your work is divided between lectures and classes, tutorials (one or two a week) and private study (including preparing essays for your weekly tutorials). Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. There would usually be no more than around 12 students.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are studying at doctorate level. 

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Four courses are taken:

  • One period of either Greek or Roman history
  • One of the periods of European/World history offered
  • The world of Homer and Hesiod; or Augustan Rome; or one of the History optional subjects
  • A text-based paper on Herodotus; or Sallust; or Approaches to history; or Historiography: Tacitus to Weber from the History syllabus or Greek/Latin language paper


First University examinations: Four written papers

2nd and 3rd years


Six courses are taken:

  • A period of Greek or Roman history
  • A period of European/World history or one of the periods of the history of the British Isles
  • Further subjects including work on primary sources, textual or archaeological
  • A choice of further subjects (at least one of the further or the special subjects must be ancient) from the History syllabus; or an ancient further subject, including:
    • Athenian democracy in the classical age
    • Politics, society and culture from Nero to Hadrian
    • Religions in the Greek and Roman world c31 BC–AD 312
    • The Greeks and the Mediterranean world 950–500 BC
    • Art under the Roman Empire AD 14–337
    • The Hellenistic world: societies and cultures, c300 BC–100 BC
  • Special subjects (at least one of the further or the special subjects must be ancient) (including work on primary sources, textual or archaeological). A choice of about 30 special subjects from the History syllabus or an ancient special subject, including:
    • Alexander the Great and his early successors
    • Cicero: politics and thought in the late Republic
    • The Greek city in the Roman world from Dio Chrysostom to John Chrysostom
  • Disciplines of history
  • Thesis
  • Optional Greek/Latin language paper
For the latest information on all course details and options see the History and Classics websites.

Assessment (2nd year)

Final University examinations:

Six written papers and one thesis; (or five written papers, one extended essay and one thesis); (or four written papers, one portfolio of submitted essays, one extended essay and one thesis); (optional additional language paper)
Some essays are submitted in year 2.

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

It is highly recommended for candidates to have History to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent. A classical language, Classical Civilisation and Ancient History can be helpful to students in completing this course, although they are not required for admission.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

All candidates must also take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) as part of their application. 

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Ancient and Modern History

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written test

All candidates must take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Wednesday 31 October 2018. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is Monday 15 October 2018. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Changes to HAT for 2019 entry: The HAT will consist of one question based on an extract from a primary source, to be answered in one hour. The format of this question will be similar to question 3 of past papers which are available on the HAT page

For everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, see the HAT page.

Written work

All candidates are required to send in a marked essay of A-level, or equivalent, written in their own time as part of their normal school or college work by Saturday 10 November 2018. The essay may deal with a topic from ancient or modern history.

For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors are keen to find out whether you can demonstrate the skills needed by History undergraduates. Even if you have not previously studied ancient history or classics, it is important to show some awareness of and interest in the ancient world, including its material remains.

Some colleges may require you to read a short passage of historical writing which they will ask you to discuss during your interview.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the History website.

Suggested reading

There is no reading list for students applying for Ancient and Modern History, as we encourage students to read as widely as possible about any period of history, ancient and/or modern, that they find interesting. (See the 'Suggested reading' section on the History course page). For the ancient world, you may also wish to explore websites which have excellent links to historical materials, such as the British Museum or Oxford’s own Ashmolean Museum, or the BBC Radio 4 archives, for example for the programme ‘In Our Time', covering material from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.


Helen Bentley

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.


'Choosing to study Ancient and Modern History was, for me, a pretty easy decision. I’d just read Robert Graves ‘I, Claudius’ and I was studying some Ancient History at school and really enjoying it so I thought, why not? The Ancient and Modern History course offers a great range of options and allows me to study some of the most important aspects of European history. The lecturers and tutors are experts in their field which is a huge benefit and the variety of the libraries, including a specialist Ancient History library, the Sackler, built in true imposing neo-classical style, means I am never unable to find, or be forced to buy, a book for my course. 

One of the best things about being in Oxford is learning by talking to other undergraduates about their subject – just being in Oxford, surrounded by other Oxford students, broadens the mind. You only have to spend a week here to learn that while people do work hard, it’s not all work and no play, and with the incredible variety of things to do in Oxford it would be ridiculous to think we spent our entire lives working!

I’ve loved my time at Oxford, getting involved with drama as well as student radio, a choir and my college sports teams! There is always someone doing something enjoyable in Oxford. This ensures there is an atmosphere of inclusivity as well as excellence: for example, college sports teams cater for many levels of ability – so anyone who wants to play, can play. The course here at Oxford is stimulating and the atmosphere of the University and the city exciting.'


She now works as a Lecturer in British History at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany. She says:   

'Learning to work independently and under pressure as an undergraduate was the perfect preparation for an academic career. It gave me the skills I needed to teach successfully at a university level and the self-confidence necessary to publish and present my research before my peers.’


The most unexpected thing about my course:

'The most unexpected thing about my course was how my tutors were not just there as tutors, but as mentors and even friends.'

I wish they'd told me when I was applying to university...

'That it's possible to study at Oxford and have an amazing social life, brilliant friends, and a support network (both academic and emotional) that is the best in the world.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'The best thing that Oxford did for me academically was question the world and what people say about it. The best thing that Oxford did for me personally was show me that I could be myself.'

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'Exiting my final exam in prelims and being overwhelmed by loving friends and raucous celebration. I have never felt so appreciated or supported.'

I'd just like to add:

'Apply to Oxford. It's the best decision you'll ever make in your life.'

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

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