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Study History and Politics at the University of Cambridge

History and Politics

Fact File

Magdalene Campus code: M
UCAS code: VL12
Course duration: Three years – BA (Hons)
Typical offer: A-level: A*AA, IB: 41-42 points
Essential subjects: None
Useful subjects: Languages, Politics, History

History and Politics at Cambridge offers subjects from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which will allow students to explore the space between the two disciplines.

Students develop skills in analysing the operation of power and politics across histories, institutions, and societies around the world. Students also build strengths in understanding the nature of evidence, methodology, and approaches in both History and Politics. They are able to choose from a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history and politics, and to do extended dissertation work in one or more of these areas.


At Cambridge
At Magdalene
What we are looking for
Subject Requirements
Teaching Staff

Cambridge is uniquely placed to teach History and Politics and International Relations together. Both Faculties are widely regarded as world-leading. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study.  The Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) is a medium-sized department with about 30 academics with a huge range of specialisms. It has particular research strengths in international politics, international history and international law, comparative politics and political thought.

Staff in the Faculty of History and the Department of Politics and International Studies have a wide range of shared interests in political and international history, the origins of contemporary politics and international relations, and the history of political ideas. This degree balances a strong grounding in the two component subjects with the opportunity to explore the ways in which historical and political understanding together illuminate the modern world.

More details about the structure and content of the course can be found here.

Magdalene has a very strong tradition in the study of history and politics, both as separate disciplines and jointly in the study of the history of politics and political thought. We aim to make around two offers in History and Politics each year.

Magdalene offers a supportive learning environment for History and Politics students. We aim to nurture intellectual development and independence. The college offers a well stocked library. Students can participate in a range of multidisciplinary events. The Fellowship includes specialists in the Middle East, India, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Closely related to the study of history and politics, Magdalene is also home to the Joint Centre for History and Economics, which has bases here and at King’s College in Cambridge and in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

Students will also be members of Magdalene History Society, open to Fellows, graduates and undergraduates. It meets several times a Term, organises talks, excursions and social events. We also hold an Annual Dinner in Lent Term.

The best preparation for applying to Magdalene, and for interview, is to read as widely as you can. There are no ‘set texts’ that we prescribe, but try and extend your reading around what you may have studied at school, and look beyond it to other periods and places. This way you may start thinking more critically about the operation of power across institutions and societies, and about the origins of contemporary politics. We encourage you to explore fields that straddle the two disciplines, such as political history, international relations, the history of political ideas. It is also important that you start thinking about differences in disciplinary perspectives, for example how different forms of evidence can be used to understand the past, and the present. An enthusiasm for both subjects is vital to studying for a degree in History and Politics, and, when you apply for a place, reading is the best way of demonstrating this. 

We normally expect candidates to have or be on course to obtain History at A-level (or equivalent). Two additional subjects at advanced level are normally required. Although candidates will not necessarily have AS or A-levels in both Politics and History, they will be expected to demonstrate an interest in both subjects and will be assessed on their potential to succeed in them. At GCSE level (or equivalent), we like to see a mixture of Arts and Science subjects and, normally, successful candidates will have obtained a good range of subjects, many of which will be at grade A or A*.

Our typical conditional offer for History and Politics is A*AA at A-level. IB offers are usually for a total of 41-42 points, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.

Interviews, Written Work, and Assessments

Candidates called for interview should normally expect to have two interviews, each usually lasting about 20-25 minutes. One interview will be with two historians and one with two academics who teach politics. Applicants should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow.

Applicants are also asked to submit two examples of recent work, which will be available to interviewers.

Applicants invited for interview will also take a written assessment. The assessment for History and Politics is a Cambridge College-registered assessment. This means you will not need to register for this assessment in advance and the College will provide details directly to you. More information about the assessment (along with some sample questions) is available here. The History and Politics assessment is the same as the History assessment. Please note that your performance in the written assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Dr Christina Skott

College positions: Life Fellow, Acting Director of Studies in History (Part I), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages (Part I), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics (Part I)

Dr Christina Skott is a Life Fellow at Magdalene. She is Acting Director of Studies in History (Part I) and Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics (Part I). Her work focuses on the history of Southeast Asia and European colonialism in Asia in the long Early Modern era.

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Professor Brendan Burchell

College positions: Official Fellow

Brendan Burchell is a Professor in the Social Sciences and President of Magdalene College.

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Professor Tim Harper

College positions: Professorial Fellow

Professor Tim Harper is Professor of the History of Southeast Asia.

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Dr Marissa Quie

College positions: Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Politics), Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics

Dr Marissa Quie is an expert in Migration/Refugees, Peace and Conflict Studies. She is Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Politics) and Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics at Magdalene. Marissa is also a Fellow and Director of Studies in HSPS and History and Politics at Lucy Cavendish College. 

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Professor Saul Dubow

College positions: Professorial Fellow, Garden Steward

Professor Saul Dubow is the Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History. His teaching and research concentrates on the history of modern South Africa from the early-nineteenth century to the present.

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Dr Jessica Patterson

College positions: Official Fellow, College Lecturer in History

Dr Jessica Patterson is a College Lecturer in History & Politics, History & Modern Languages, and First Year History, at Magdalene.

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