History and English | University of Oxford
History and English
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History and English

A joint degree in History and English requires students to think critically about how we define ‘history’ and ‘literature’, and about how the two disciplines interrelate and, in large measure, overlap. Close attention is given to changing methodologies, to the nature of evidence and to styles of argument. It is assumed that historical documents are just as much ‘texts’ as are poems, plays or novels, and are therefore subject to interpretation as works of narrative, rhetoric and, fundamentally, language. Equally, it is assumed that poems, plays and novels represent historically grounded ways of interpreting a culture.

The History and English Faculties are the largest in Britain, with long and distinguished traditions of teaching and research. Students are offered a great deal of choice in the course over their three years, and whether their interests are in the medieval period, the Renaissance or the later periods, intellectually fruitful combinations are always possible.

The course structure at Oxford is intended to enable students to relate literary and historical ideas as effectively as possible in the investigation of their chosen historical periods, topics or authors, while recognising that some students will wish to opt for variety rather than close congruity between their historical and literary papers. Interdisciplinarity is embedded in each year of the course with dedicated classes in the first year as part of the Introduction to English Language and Literature paper, a bridge paper taken in the second year and examined by extended essay, and an interdisciplinary dissertation in the final year.

Oxford possesses exceptional library provision for both subjects in the Bodleian Library, the History Faculty and English Faculty libraries, other faculty libraries and the college libraries.

H&E Careers

By studying this degree you will acquire a range of skills valued by recruiters, including the ability to work independently, to evaluate the significance of evidence and to present arguments clearly and persuasively. Graduates from this course have worked in the media, legal professions, public administration, teaching and finance.

Related courses

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

A typical weekly timetable

Most students have up to two tutorials a week and are often, but not always, working on two papers simultaneously. Most students attend three to four lecture courses a week. In the first and second years, students will also attend interdisciplinary classes with both English and History tutors present, in preparation for the interdisciplinary bridge paper. For the final-year dissertation they will have an adviser from each discipline.

1st year

Courses

Four papers are taken:
  • Introduction to English Language and Literature
  • One period paper from single honours English Language and Literature
  • One British history paper from single honours History
  • One of: Approaches to history; Historiography; optional subject (from single honours History)

Assessment

Three written papers form the First University Examination, together with a submitted portfolio of two exam essays of 2,000 words for Introduction to English Language and Literature.

All exams must be passed, but marks do not count towards the final degree.

2nd and 3rd years

Courses

Seven papers are taken:

  • One interdisciplinary bridge essay (6,000 words)
  • Two of papers 1–6 from single honours English Language and Literature
  • One British period paper from single honours History
  • Either:
    One History Special Subject (counts as two papers)
    Or two from:
    1. General history paper from single honours History
    2. Further subject from single honours History
    3. British history period paper from single honours History
    4. One of papers 1–6 from single honours English Language
    and Literature
  • Interdisciplinary dissertation (10,000 words)
The curriculum for this course is currently under review and is likely to change. For the latest information on all course details and options see the History and English websites.

Assessment

Up to four papers for the Final Honour school can be examined as coursework (extended essays and dissertation). Between three and five papers will then be examined by final written examinations at the end of the third year.

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

Candidates are expected to have English Literature, or English Language and Literature, to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or any other equivalent. It is also highly recommended for candidates to have History to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent.

All candidates must also take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details. 

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.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2016.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,000£0£9,000
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,000£0£9,000
Overseas£15,295£7,135£22,430

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

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 2016/17 are estimated to be between £970 and £1,433 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

Home/EU

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

In 2016 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £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 grants and loans.  See further details.

Islands
(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

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support 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 History and English

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 how to apply. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written work

Candidates will be required to submit one piece of written work for History on an historical topic, and two pieces for English, both by 10 November 2016.

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

Written test

All candidates must take the History Aptitude Test (HAT), normally at their own school or college, on 2 November 2016. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2016. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. See further details about the History Aptitude Test.

Candidates for this joint course are not required to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT).

What are tutors looking for?

Shortlisted candidates will usually be given at least two interviews, one with the History tutor or tutors in the college, and one with the English tutor or tutors. In the English interview, the candidate may be asked to discuss a piece of prose or verse, provided before or at the interview. Successful candidates will read widely, will enjoy writing and talking about history, literature and language and will be interested in pursuing a comparative approach to historical and literary texts.

Selection criteria

Candidates may wish to refer to the selection criteria for History and for English.

Suggested reading

Please see the information for History and for English.

Apply

Zoe Tyndall, 3rd year

Josie, 2nd year

'My degree allows me, above all, to keep studying both the subjects I love, but also to tie them together in interesting ways: by looking at the development of literature during the periods of history I study, as well as by taking bridge papers which are specifically designed to bring the two subjects together. I’m really glad I took the challenge of applying for a joint honours course, as having the opportunity to be taught by experts in both fields is so rewarding. I’d tell people who love two different subjects that not only do you NOT have to choose between them, but also studying them jointly allows you to get even more from your degree.

I’m the first person in my family to go to university, and applying to Oxford was daunting, but I got a lot of encouragement from my school, a state grammar in Essex. Even the interview itself was a rewarding experience as I got to discuss my subjects with leading academics, as well as staying in Oxford and getting a taste for the city. I love everything about Oxford: the city itself, which is so beautiful and vibrant (with quirky shops like ‘Octopus’ where I’ve bought such amazing items as an umbrella shaped like a cat, complete with furry tail!); my college which is the friendliest, closest community ever, set in the most gorgeous location imaginable; the social life within college and the University; and of course the academic side of things: I’m enjoying watching my thinking, writing and arguing skills improve week by week. Oxford has developed me as a student and as a person, as I’m now also a Welfare Representative for my college, another enjoyable challenge. Oh, and I’ve made the most amazing friends here as well!'

Jo, who graduated in 2008, says:   

‘Since graduating, I have worked in the City in both finance and law. I joined the London office of Skadden Arps, a US firm, in September 2011 as a trainee solicitor. ’

Erin, History and English, who graduated in 2011

The most unexpected thing about my course:

'In History there is so much flexibility; I can study Early Modern Witchcraft in Europe during one term and then the Anglo-Saxons in the next.'

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

'The extent of the interdisciplinary modules that are compulsory when studying History and English.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Oxford introduced me to coxing! I started coxing at Pembroke as a Fresher, was Captain of Coxes in my Second Year and coxed for W1. I now cox with the development squad at OUWBC.'

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'I have a lot of amazing memories of Oxford but I think my favourite memory is Matriculation... everyone is in their sub fusc and I think it is the first time that everyone realises that they have done it, they have got into Oxford and there is a buzz of excitement about what the coming years might bring.'

I'd just like to add:

'Oxford is my favourite place in the world; it has beautiful architecture, fantastic people and resources to die for. I never want to leave!'

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