History and Modern Languages | University of Oxford
History and Modern Languages
Grand Canal and Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

History and Modern Languages

In recent years history has experienced a ‘linguistic turn’ while literary studies have undergone a ‘historical turn’, making this combination of subjects stronger than ever. Knowledge of the past contextualises literary artefacts, while the forensic literary skills of the linguist are vital for interrogating historical documents. Historians have to be aware of genre, plot and rhetorical techniques in the creation both of their sources and their own arguments, while linguists need to appreciate the social and political concerns that are woven into literary works. This degree brings these two skill sets together.

Oxford has a long and enduring commitment to the teaching of European history and European languages, leading to a particularly rich environment in terms of staff expertise, library resources, language training and overseas contacts. The fullness and variety of the curriculum means that students can combine papers from the two faculties in stimulating ways. The two parts come together most directly in a bridge essay, where students can make their own innovative contributions.

HML Careers

Employers value language skills combined with the many transferable skills of a History and Modern Languages degree.

Recent graduates from this course are employed in international institutions such as the UN and the EU, by NGOs as well as by national governments. They work in the media, publishing, law, banking, consultancy, teaching, research, commercial industry and many other sectors.

Matthew, now an investment manager, says: ‘I enjoyed the sheer variety and choice of a History and Modern Languages degree. I benefit hugely in my professional life from the skills I learned from historical argument and literary criticism, not to mention the ability to speak French. Every time I tell my clients how politics and financial markets might affect their investments, I draw on the analytical and presentational skills I acquired at Oxford.’

Related courses

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

International opportunities

History and Modern Languages is a four-year course with a compulsory year abroad in your third year. Please see Modern Languages for further information. Students are encouraged to travel and speak their specialist language in the vacations, and travel grants and scholarships may be available to assist.

A typical weekly timetable

Your week’s work will include:

  •  tutorials in history and in the literature and culture of the language you study
  • language classes involving different skills, eg translation, oral and grammar
  • about three or four lectures for each subject
  • preparing essays for your weekly tutorials.
1st year


Six courses are taken:


  • European/World history (four options: 370–900; 1000–1300; 1400–1650; 1815–1914)
  • Either a British history period, or a historical methods paper, or a foreign text or an optional subject

Modern Language

  • Practical language work (two papers)
  • Two literature papers


First University examinations:
Six written papers

2nd and 4th years (3rd year spent abroad)


  • A period of European/World history
  • Either a special subject in History (two papers, see History), with one additional history or literature option; or three papers selected from history (British history, further subject, thesis) or literature (special subjects, prescribed authors, extended essay)
  • An optional additional thesis in History
  • Practical language work (two papers)
  • A period of literature
  • A paper on one of a wide range of options
  • A bridge essay
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 Modern Languages websites.


Final University examinations:

Between six and nine written papers; between one and four submitted essays, including the compulsory bridge essay; oral examination in the modern language

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.

It is highly recommended for candidates to have History to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB, or another equivalent. For History with Czech, French, German, Italian, Modern Greek, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish, candidates would usually be required to have that language to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another academic equivalent. The Beginners’ courses allow students to start studying one of these languages from scratch.  We expect you to have taken and passed any practical component in your chosen science subjects.

In Czech, Italian, Modern Greek, and Portuguese, beginners will receive additional language support, but study together with those who already have A-level (or equivalent) and take the same first year exam.  

All applicants
All candidates must take the History Admissions Test (HAT) and the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) 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.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2017.

This information is currently unavailable: please check back again soon

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.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of 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 2017 are estimated to be between £1,002 and £1,471 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 full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for Home (UK) students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

Tuition fee support arrangements for EU students commencing their studies in 2017 have not yet been confirmed by the UK government. Information will be updated on this page as soon as it is announced.

In 2017 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 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 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 Modern Languages

During the year abroad, students pay significantly reduced fees. For students who started an undergraduate course from 2016, who are going on their year abroad in 2017, the tuition fees are:

  • Home/EU/Islands students: £1,385 for the year.
  • International students: £7,880 for the year.

We recommend that students begin to research their year abroad options – including the financial implications – as early as possible in the second year of the course. There is plenty of support, information and advice to help you. You may choose to work or study during your year abroad, or you may do both. Students undertake a range of activities while on their year abroad, some activities may receive a salary and thus - depending on individual choices - it is possible for the year abroad to be cost neutral. Actual costs (such as course fees) and living costs will vary depending on the destination and the activity undertaken.

You will need to pay for living costs during the year abroad, including accommodation and travel expenses. Students taking part in Erasmus study exchanges will not need to pay tuition fees to other institutions. However, if you decide to study outside Erasmus you will be liable to pay tuition fees to the relevant institution.

You may receive salary payments or grants to offset some or all of these costs. Also, if you receive government funding for the rest of your course, you will still be entitled to government support during your year abroad. Hardship funds are available from the Faculty of Medieval & Modern Languages for students who can demonstrate particular difficulties related to their year abroad. These are awarded through a termly application process.

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 both the History Aptitude Test (HAT) and the relevant section of the Modern Languages Admissions Tests (MLAT), normally at their own school or college, on Thursday 2 November 2017. Separate registration for both tests is required and the final deadline for entries is Sunday 15 October 2017. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests.

Please refer to the pages for History and for Modern Languages for further details. Please check Modern Language Tests for details of which section to take.

Written work

Candidates must submit written work by Friday 10 November 2017 for each of the subjects forming this joint course. For more information on what to send, please see the pages for History and for Modern Languages, and for more general information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

During the interview, your submitted work may be a starting point for discussion. Some colleges may also ask you to read and discuss a short text in English and/or the modern language. Tutors wish to test your capacity for independent thought, your flexibility, your skills in conceptualising and relating ideas, the precision of your thinking and your oral competence in the language.

Selection criteria

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

Suggested reading

Please see the information for History and for Modern Languages.


Matthew Shearman

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


'I loved both History and German at A-level, and couldn’t imagine not studying either, so when I discovered that Oxford offered a course that would enable me to study both in greater detail, I decided to apply. "Greater detail" turned out to be an understatement! One of the great things about History and Modern Languages is that I can choose how much the subjects work together.

You can study the literature and the history of a period at the same time, or (like me) you can keep the two separate – my papers this year cover everything from 19th-century Britain to medieval German literature, modern linguistics and the Cold War.'

KIS data linksUCAS codes
History and Beginners' CzechVR1R
History and CzechVR17
History and French VR11
History and German VR12
History and Beginners' Modern GreekVR1X
History and Modern GreekVQ17
History and Beginners' Italian RU31
History and Italian VR13
History and Beginners' PortugueseVR1N
History and Portuguese VR15
History and Russian VRC7
History and Spanish VR14

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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