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 It is assumed that historical documents are just as much ‘texts’ as are poems, plays or novels, and are therefore subject to interpretation as works of narrative, rhetoric and, fundamentally,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 among 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. All interdisciplinary elements of this course are co-taught or co-supervised by a historian and a literary scholar.

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.


Studying this degree provides you with the opportunity to 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 week

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 lectures 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. 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 usually 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:
  • 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)


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


Seven courses are taken:

  • One interdisciplinary bridge essay (6,000 words)
  • Two papers 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. European/World 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)
For the latest information on all course details and options see the History and English websites.


Final University examinations: between two and four written papers will be examined at the end of the third year; plus a combination of one portfolio of submitted essays; one or two extended essays; one bridge essay; one interdisciplinary dissertation. 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.) 

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.

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 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 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

Candidates will be required to submit one piece of written work for History on an historical topic, and two pieces for English, both by Saturday 10 November 2018.

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?

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

Selection criteria

Suggested reading

Please see the information for History and for English.


Zoe Tyndall


'I cannot imagine studying two subjects that more perfectly complement and enhance one another. I love the constant opportunity to explore the crossover between History and English, be it in the unique interdisciplinary module, or throughout my tutorial essays. The variety of papers is also beyond compare, allowing you to mix and match topics, or specialise completely in one period. My first year papers were as diverse as 20th century literature and Early Modern European witch hunts - the degree is as extensive as you want to make it!'


'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!'


‘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. ’


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!'


First job after graduating

Schools Liaison and Recruitment Officer for Churchill College, Cambridge

Current job

I am a historian at Cambridge, writing up my PhD on clothing in early modern London.

At Oxford, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to pursue a career in academia, but after working in outreach for a year, I was keen to return to studies. I was fortunate to be awarded a Frank Knox Fellowship to Harvard, and there I began an interest in material culture studies. I pursued an MA in New York at the Bard Graduate Center, and am now writing up my PhD thesis.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

My PhD thesis topic - clothing in early modern London - came from reading and discussions during my final year at Oxford. I wrote about anxieties about dress for the History and English 'bridge paper' about 'Representing the City', and that research interest has stayed with me ever since. I am sure that the writing skills, tutorial discussions and the interdisciplinary college community formed a foundational role in my current research and approaches.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

Oxford taught me how to discuss ideas with people from completely different disciplines. Learning to communicate my ideas to a physicist or philosopher at a college dinner, rather than just speaking to those within my own field, was enormously helpful in clarifying my own work. I also discovered a lot of fascinating things from them too!

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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