History | University of Oxford
Poppies growing in a field.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).


The study of History at Oxford combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time with more focused work on smaller groups, shorter periods and particular problems. It provides a distinctive education by developing an awareness of differing political, cultural, social and economic structures in past societies and their interrelationship. It combines vigorous debate over questions of interpretation with rigorous attention to the source materials. Its constant enrichment by cross-fertilisation from other disciplines leads to new questions about the past.

Oxford is celebrated for the broad chronological sweep of its courses and the enormous amount of choice offered to students. Students can study options on any part of British and European history from the declining years of the Roman Empire to the present day. The geographical range is also broad: there are options on North American, Latin American, Asian and African history (see History website for further details). Students are encouraged to adopt a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to their work, and the faculty is strong on intellectual and cultural history options. The Oxford History Faculty is at the forefront of research.

A typical week

Students are expected to attend about five lectures a week during the first year, participate in regular meetings with tutors to discuss work, research in libraries and write at least one essay a week. In the second and third years students choose from an enormous variety of lectures and their regular tutorials are supplemented by faculty classes where they discuss work with a larger number of students. The thesis gives all students the opportunity to engage in a piece of independent research. Throughout the course, students are very much in charge of their own timetable.

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 although the more popular classes may include up to 30 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:

  • History of the British Isles
  • European and world history
  • Historical methods (choice of Approaches to history; Historiography: Tacitus to Weber; Quantification; one of several foreign text papers)
  • Optional subject (choice of around 20 including: Theories of the state; Making England Protestant, 1558–1642; The rise and crises of European socialisms, 1881–1921; Radicalism in Britain, 1965–75)


First University examinations: Four written papers

2nd and 3rd years


Six courses are taken:

  • History of the British Isles
  • European and world history
  • Further subject (choice of about 35, including: China since 1900; The Near East in the age of Justinian and Muhammad, c527–700; The Middle East in the age of empire, 1830–1971; The authority of nature: Race, heredity and crime, 1800–1940; Culture, politics and identity in Cold War Europe 1945–68; Britain at the movies: Film and national identity since 1914)
  • Special subject: a paper and an extended essay (choice of about 30, including: The Norman conquest of England; Politics, art and culture in the Italian Renaissance, Venice and Florence c1475–1525; The Scientific Movement in the 17th century; English architecture, 1660–1720; Race, religion and resistance in the US, from Jim Crow to Civil Rights; Britain in the seventies; Terror and forced labour in Stalin’s Russia; From Gandhi to the Green Revolution: India, independence and modernity, 1947–73; Nazi Germany, a racial order, 1933–45; The Northern Ireland troubles, 1965–85)
  • Disciplines of history
  • Thesis
For the latest information on all course details and options see the History website.


Final University examinations: Four written papers; one portfolio of submitted essays; one extended essay; one thesis; an additional thesis may be offered
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.

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. Please see how to apply for further details.

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.

If these requirements cause any problems, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at your college of preference. Note that in selecting work for submission you should choose a piece which has enthused you and on which you are willing to talk. Do not worry if you have changed your mind on the topic since writing it. Tutors are impressed by candidates who remain intellectually engaged with their work.

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 you are shortlisted, your submitted work and UCAS personal statement may form starting points for discussion in your interview. Some colleges may require you to read a short passage of historical writing 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 historically.

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

Suggested reading

The best way to prepare for a History degree is to read the history books which interest you, either related to your school work or ranging beyond it – and be prepared to discuss your views of those books and their arguments.  To find such material, you might want to follow up on references made in your school or college text books, or your History teacher may also be able to recommend particular works for you to read on topics that you find most interesting.

One good way of broadening your historical horizons is to read one of the popular History magazines: History Today or BBC History, which has weekly podcasts. You may like to look at the books which are being reviewed in the press.

You may also like to explore the websites of public institutions which have excellent links to historical materials, such as the British Museum or BBC Radio 4 archives.

Lastly, delving into some historical sources can be a great way to develop your ideas and understanding. You could try exploring literature, art, music or even films produced by different societies, and consider what these can tell us about the people of that time.


Hannah Boston 

Hannah Boston

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


'In the past year I’ve studied a wide range of topics on aspects of history I’d never even considered before, spanning from monasticism in the 11th century to the French Revolution and Napoleon. I also did some papers in sociology and art history, which helped me find new perspectives and ways to approach my work. I love the diversity of my courses, and the fact I have control over every term’s study. The tutors are flexible too, meaning I can choose essays on topics which interest me.

The library provision for History is amazing: wherever I work, I feel like I’m inside a historical attraction rather than just reading about them! My American History paper this term has meant I used the library at the Rothermere American Institute, as well as my college library and the History Faculty library. I’ve also had the opportunity to use the Theology faculty library, the Sackler library, the Ruskin library and many more in only a few terms here – testament to the breadth of the course as well as the massive number of books available in Oxford.

Joining societies and clubs is a great way to expand friendship groups, and positions on committees have given me some impressive experiences to add to my burgeoning CV. Plus it occasionally leads to invites to other colleges to sample their formal dinners!'


‘Since graduating I have worked as assistant brand manager on Pringles and Braun at Procter & Gamble. My degree taught me analytical skills, time management and the ability to think critically, all of which are crucial in my role.’


First job after graduating

Working at a bank in the City

Current job

Researcher to an MP in Parliament.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

My course gave me strong written and research skills and the confidence to debate issues with experts in the field.

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

I firmly believe that studying at Oxford got me my current job. Its reputation speaks for itself and the tutorial system is perfect practice for job interviews!


History graduates go on to follow careers in fields such 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 graduates include a civil servant at the Department of Health, an investment management associate and a barrister.

Edward, a curator, says: ‘My degree helped me acquire a position with the Pendle Heritage Centre and then at Historic Scotland. Afterwards I became a curator for the National Museum of the US Navy.’

David is a history teacher at Taunton School. He says: ‘A History degree was a prerequisite to teaching history to A-level and IB, but the Oxford degree accelerated my career path, allowing me to step straight into a position at an academic school. I use my degree on a daily basis, in teaching a wide range of historical topics as well as advising students about Oxford.’

Robin is the Managing Director of Schneider-Ross. He says: ‘On graduating, I joined Esso UK. Having met my wife there, in 1989 we decided to set up our own consultancy, Schneider-Ross, specialising in global diversity and inclusion. I feel History gave me all the skills I’ve called on to analyse data, make arguments and convince people of the need to change… and the confidence to work at board level with FTSE 100 companies (it’s just like a tutorial really).’

Sian says: ‘Since graduating I have worked as assistant brand manager on Pringles and Braun at Procter & Gamble. My degree taught me analytical skills, time management and the ability to think critically, all of which are crucial in my role.’

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

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

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

Was this page useful?*