The life of a successful Cambridge History student is a very busy one. You will be expected to attend up to eight lectures a week and participate in one or two classes (for which preparation is necessary); and each week you will have to read extensively and intensively on a specific subject and write an essay. This essay (typically 2000 words in length) is not formally assessed as it might be at other universities. Rather, it forms the basis for discussion in your weekly supervision. Your supervisor will be less interested in what you know than in the ideas thrown up by your reading.
History at Churchill
Historians try to reconstruct the lives, minds, and cultures of people in the past, and historians at Churchill are no exception. Studying History here involves imagination and a good measure of scepticism, requiring you to keep questioning and testing the limits of what we can reasonably know about other societies and eras. These are questions you can explore on a broad canvas: examining the experiences of the powerful and the weak; imagining long-lost mental worlds, whether political, philosophical or mystical; from empires to cities to villages; in Mexico, Mozambique, or Manchester. You can investigate why people killed for Christ in the Crusades, why they hunted witches in the seventeenth century, why they voted for Thatcher in the 1980s, or what the Victorians thought about sex. These diverse topics all present searching problems about how we should understand our ancestors and ourselves in time.
For the first two years of the course you will tackle such problems, weighing up the validity of historical sources: the scribal, the literary, the visual, the oral. By your third year you will reach the frontiers of professional historical research in a Special Subject using primary sources, or in a dissertation based on your own archival research – perhaps using papers in the Churchill Archives Centre, with its 3000 boxes of the great war leader’s papers and over 570 other collections besides.
History students at Churchill can expect to draw upon considerable strengths of expertise and experience in teaching and research. These include Archives Centre staff, numerous postgraduate History students, one or more Junior Research Fellows, and usually a handful of Visiting Fellows. Amongst the teaching staff, History at Churchill is represented by Fellows who all have a strong commitment to social, economic, political, and cultural history.
No Cambridge college is able to depend entirely on its Fellowship in History to supervise all of its own undergraduates. The demand for variety within the Tripos will always exceed the specialisms of the teaching staff and it is common for students be sent to supervisors at other colleges to be supervised. Students will also spend a great deal of time in departmental and University libraries, and attending lectures and classes at the Faculty.
Churchill sets the highest standards and expects the greatest degree of commitment from its students, while providing the best quality teaching and guidance. At the same time, this is a friendly and relaxed environment in which to live and learn, where you will feel enthused and energized into studying, not stressed and intimidated.
To find out about admissions, go to undergraduate applications.
Course-specific information, including the University’s typical offers and the attainment level of the University’s typical entrants, is available by selecting your course from the University’s Course List then looking at the Entry Requirements tab. Academic offer conditions can vary by College so if you want to apply to Churchill then check out our entries in the by-College list of entry requirements that’s available on the same tab. The University’s Entrance Requirements and International Entry Requirements webpages may contain guidance relevant to you too.
You can learn more about the academic profiles of Churchill entrants and our approach to setting conditional offers on our undergraduate applications page.
If you apply to Churchill, we’ll ask you to submit two examples of teacher-marked written work. These should be taken from your present or most recent studies, and should not be re-written or corrected for your Cambridge application. Ideally, each piece should be 1500 to 2000 words in length and should both be from History.
Churchill does not use a written assessment in History.
The role of academic interviews in Churchill’s admissions process is explained on our interviews page. In History, our conversations focus very much upon your own interests. You will be allowed time beforehand to study a short passage of historical or related writing for discussion, but we are interested only in your reaction to this, not your ability to date it or identify its provenance – interviews are not oral examinations to test knowledge. We understand that interviews may be nerve-racking so we will do what we can to put you at your ease and help you show yourself in the best light.
You may find it useful to do some preparatory reading, and — most importantly — to think about what you have read. Here are some suggestions:
- John Arnold, History: a Very Short Introduction (2000)
- Peter Burke (ed.), New Perspectives on Historical Writing (1991)
- David Cannadine (ed.), What is History Now? (2002)
- E. H. Carr, What is History? (1961) — 2002 edn, introduced by Richard Evans
- Richard J. Evans, In Defence of History (1997)
- Arthur Marwick, The New Nature of History (2001) — replacing old editions
- John Tosh, The Pursuit of History (1991) — 2002 revised edition
The range of careers open to History graduates is vast and varied. Some of Churchill’s recent History graduates have secured management training contracts or have taken law conversion courses after graduation. Others have gone into teaching, and at least one has stayed on to further his historical research at doctoral level. Three years studying History at Churchill is about much more than just gaining a degree. The effects the experience will have on your thinking, your personality, and your outlook on life are likely to be profound and will last forever.