History and Politics | University of Oxford
History and Politics
Graffiti on one of the remaining sections of the Berlin wall, Germany.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

History and Politics

The History and Politics course aims to bring together complementary but separate disciplines to form a coherent and stimulating programme. The degree not only enables students to set contemporary political problems in their historical perspective, but also equips them to approach the study of the past with the conceptual rigour derived from political science.

The special feature of the Oxford course is the chance to choose subjects very broadly across the two disciplines, so that it is possible to combine medieval historical options with the analysis of contemporary political systems. The expertise of a number of Oxford’s political theorists and historians in the history of political thought, the thematic approach taken to the teaching of general history in the first year, and the emphasis placed on interdisciplinarity in a number of both politics and history papers strengthen the intellectual rigour of this course.


While some History and Politics graduates go on to further study and research to become professional historians, others move into different areas. Recent graduates have started their careers in accountancy, advertising, archive work, finance, the Civil Service, consultancy, international charity work, the media, the law, librarianship, management consultancy, museums, politics, publishing, research, social work, teaching and the theatre. Graduates include a PhD researcher in political science, a senior account executive in public relations and a civil servant.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Archaeology and Anthropology, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, other History courses, History of Art or Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE).

A typical week

You will be expected to attend about five lectures a week during the first year, participate in regular tutorials to discuss work, research in libraries, and write at least one essay a week. You will be required to submit a thesis which will enable you to do a piece of independent research during your second and third years. Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose, but there would usually be no more than around 20 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 examination papers and a short piece of assessed coursework:

  • Either any one of the seven periods in the history of the British Isles or any one of the four periods of European/World history
  • Introduction to the theory of politics or Theories of the state
  • One optional subject:
    • choice of:
    • Quantification in history
    • Approaches to history
    • Historiography: Tacitus to Weber or any of the optional subjects (see History) except Theories of the state) or any one of six foreign texts
  • The practice of politics
  • Quantitative methods: political analysis (not examined)


First University examinations:
Four written papers

2nd and 3rd years


The course has seven components:
  • A period of the history of the British Isles
  • A period of European/World history
  • Any two of the five core subjects in Politics:
    • Comparative government
    • British politics and government since 1900
    • Theory of politics
    • International relations
    • Political sociology
  • One of the following combinations:
    1. A special subject in History (two papers) and an optional subject in Politics (either a core paper not yet taken or a further subject)
    2. A further subject in History and two optional subjects in Politics
    3. A further subject in History, one optional subject in Politics and one special subject in Politics
  • A thesis in either History or Politics
For the latest information on all course details and options see the History and Politics websites.


Final University examinations:
Five written papers; one portfolio of submitted essays; one thesis in
History or Politics
or four written papers; one portfolio of submitted essays; one extended essay; one thesis in History or Politics
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 any other equivalent. Sociology, Politics or Government and Politics 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 History and Politics

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 an essay, on an historical topic, of A-level, or equivalent, written in their own time as part of their normal school or college work 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?

If your application is shortlisted, submitted work and your UCAS personal statement are likely to form starting points for discussion in your interview. Some colleges may require you to read a short piece of prose or other material, which they will ask you to discuss as part of the interview process. The tutors are not so much interested in the level of your knowledge as in your ability to think analytically.

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

Suggested reading

Politics is a very wide-ranging subject. In addition to newspapers and weeklies, Jonathan Wolff’s An Introduction to Political Philosophy is recommended; and also, for interesting and up-to-date insights into recent political developments in a number of countries, the series of texts produced by Macmillan at regular intervals called Developments in British (French, German, East European etc.) Politics.

You may also like to read the blog OXPOL.

Please see also the information for History.


Thomas Meakin

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


'I specialised more in Politics than in History. The ‘Introduction to the practice of Politics' paper at Prelims provided me with an excellent foundation for studying specific countries at Finals level. I was able to use the knowledge I obtained here, and apply it within several political contexts - from Japan to South Africa! I especially loved writing my thesis, where I was able to analyse the political challenges of the past with reference to the leading political models of the present.'


'I had always loved history and politics at school, and found it very difficult to choose between them, so studying History and Politics at Oxford has given me an enormous amount of freedom to study the things that excite me most. I have constructed my course around papers that really interest me, tackling issues ranging from the American War of Independence to the modern-day political culture of the Czech Republic. Both the History and Politics faculties attract leading researchers at the cutting-edge of their fields who work intensively with students, and I have found the intensive engagement with academics one of the most challenging and exciting aspects of life at Oxford. It means that the quality of support and academic feedback is very impressive, and has helped me to constantly evolve and develop new ideas and skills.

Academic life aside, the social experience at Oxford has been amazing. The collegiate system has enabled me to settle in easily, and to feel part of a really strong community. Oxford is full of interesting people from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and it is a great place to meet new people and hear new stories. There are hundreds of societies to get involved with, and countless opportunities to pursue the things you’re most passionate about – I’ve been involved with the Student Union as Access Officer, and have co-chaired my College’s Ball Committee, organising our triennial Big Ball.


She is now an Assistant Brand Manager at BP. She says:    

‘I have worked in sales and marketing roles. I joined the sales and marketing graduate scheme at a fast moving consumer goods company, Reckitt Benckiser, and upon completion took a role at BP as Retail Marketing Manager for their Castrol brand in the UK. I am now working in a brand management role across Europe and Africa. The skills I acquired at Oxford allow me to rationalise and make the right business decisions that look at alternative routes and views.’


The most unexpected thing about my course:

'The choice! Joint honours courses enable you to have an enormous amount of freedom over what you study - you can choose to specialise or to cover a huge variety of areas. I feel like the independence has helped me to develop in ways I would not have predicted.'

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

'Don't worry. Yes, it's a lot of work; yes, it's easier if you get organised early. But studying should be both manageable and interesting, if you choose a subject you genuinely care about. Tutorials aren't trials, they are opportunities to meet intelligent and fascinating people.'

The best thing that Oxford did for me:

'Studying at Oxford has given me confidence in myself and my ability to think. I know I can learn and develop new ideas and deal with a great deal of information; I also know that I enjoy doing this.'

My favourite Oxford memory is...

'Picnics in university parks after exams. The combination of general relief and euphoria, sunshine, wine and friends make for long and perfect afternoons!'

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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