History is a large and flourishing subject at Fitzwilliam. In recent years History has ranked as a strong subject academically within the College.
Number of students
We typically admit between seven and nine undergraduates per year.
At Cambridge history teaching consists of lectures provided by the university and supervisions provided by each college for its own members. This pattern stresses learning rather than teaching.
In Part I of the Tripos undergraduates are examined in six papers. One, "Historical Themes and Sources" is examined by a long essay (approximately 5,000 words) submitted during the second year. The remainder of the Part I examination consists of five 3-hour papers sat at the end of the second year. These papers are selected from about twenty covering British, European, North American and 'Third World' history, usually in periods of 200-500 years; there are also options in political thought, one of the strengths of the Cambridge History Tripos. In total the timespan of Part I is very long, candidates being able to study (if they want) both Ancient Greece and the twentieth century, taking in medieval political thought on the way. Two British history papers - one political, one economic & social - need to be taken from the five available periods. But other constraints are very few, and the History syllabus at Cambridge is remarkably open and unprescriptive. The only chronological requirement is that at some point in the three years students must take one European paper and one paper falling mainly before 1750. Undergraduates are able to construct their own course - so that of the several hundred who take history in Cambridge in any one year, only a handful will make the same selection as somebody else. Such freedom places a large responsibility on undergraduates and is one reason why Cambridge is looking for students who are strongly self-motivated and capable of taking control of their own learning.
Most history in Part I is outline and 'broad sweep' in nature. In Part II there are some opportunities to take papers of the same character (particularly in the field of extra-European history) but the strength of Part II is the opportunity it gives for work in depth with original sources - notably in the Special Subjects, but also in focusing on a limited theme or question, such as 'The American Experience in Vietnam'. A very wide choice is again available - with up to forty options on offer each year. Undergraduates may also choose to write a dissertation instead of an unseen paper, and it is the policy at Fitzwilliam to encourage this option, since students find that undertaking a piece of original research is often the most enjoyable part of the course.
The benefits of History at Fitzwilliam College
Fitzwillliam’s History Fellows cover between them a wide range of popular subjects, allowing a significant proportion of the weekly supervisions to take place ‘in house’. At Fitzwilliam we encourage co-operative learning and group discussion. All first year undergraduates meet together in their first term for general discussion of historical method and broad historical themes (which is also useful preparation for the Historical Argument and Practice examination taken in the third term). For other papers undergraduates are supervised in ones or twos, by Fitzwilliam Fellows where their specialisms are involved or by colleagues from other colleges. The Director of Studies, who arranges the supervisions, is always on hand to offer help and advice.
There is a strong history section with the Fitz library and the librarian welcomes requests from students for the purchase of books relevant to their courses.
Fitzwilliam is home to a flourishing History Society, in which students of history, and other subjects are able to come together for a varied progamme of academic talks. Open to students across the wider university, the Society's events stimulate discussion and further engagement with historical topics, as well as providing all those with an interest in history with an opportunity to socialise together.
The admissions process
All applicants for History are required to take a History Admissions Assessment prior to interview.
Those called for interview are asked to submit two pieces of written work prepared as part of their school work. Candidates should normally expect two interviews, within the interview itself they will be asked to read and then discuss with the interviewers a piece of historical writing.
Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A-level or 40-42 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB. We may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.
The A* does not necessarily need to be in History, but ideally in a relevant Humanities subject. In addition to A Level (or equivalent) History, applicants might have studied a broad range of subjects, including humanities, languages, social sciences, maths and science. As the study of history itself changes, these subjects increasingly complement it and we welcome the wide intellectual background of Fitzwilliam historians. Most importantly, we also look for intense and enthusiastic commitment to historical study, and a desire to put it first in the undergraduate years.
Directors of Studies
Dr Rosemary Horrox
Dr Gabriel Glickman
Dr Julia Guarneri