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History and English

History and English is a Joint School which allows undergraduates to inform themselves about, and to participate in, many of the most exciting theoretical and practical debates in historical and literary studies.

It is a challenging course covering many of the areas where the latest research is transforming the parent Schools. Both the History and English tutors are committed to interdisciplinary teaching and research, and to the expansion of the Joint School. Professor Kewes is Chair of the Joint Standing Committee for History and English, and both she and Dr Alexandra Gajda teach interdisciplinary bridge papers for History and English.

Teaching takes the form of tutorials and classes, many of which will be organized and taken by the Fellows and Lecturers of the College. You will also receive tuition from Fellows and Lecturers of other colleges, especially on the History side of the course. Attendance at, and production of work for, tutorials and classes is compulsory, and must be given priority over all other activities. The University organizes courses of lectures which cover the syllabus, but which are not compulsory, and which are not designed to prepare candidates for a particular examination paper. Tutors will, however, be happy to advise undergraduates concerning which lectures are likely to prove most beneficial.

The first year examination is taken in June at the end of the first year. On the History side, candidates must offer a period of British history, and either an optional subject, chosen from a wide range of options; or a paper on historical methods Historiography: Tacitus to Weber. On the English side, two papers must be offered. The first of these is An Introduction to English Language and Literature which also includes an interdisciplinary component. For the second paper, candidates may choose Victorian Literature, Modern Literature or Early Medieval Literature. All papers are taught through a mix of tutorials, small classes, and faculty lectures.

The examination is intended only to consolidate your work at the end of the first year and the result does not count towards the final degree classification. In your second year you will study one interdisciplinary paper (chosen from two options) which enables you to bring together the literary and historical approaches to evidence. This paper is taught by historians and literary specialists in shared university classes. One such course offered at present is Representing the City, 1558-1640, which is co-taught by Professor Paulina Kewes and Dr Ian Archer. The five other papers have to include a history period and a period of literature and then more specialist options drawn from one or other side of the syllabus. Students may include options from English Course II which specializes in early language and literature.

You will also write an interdisciplinary dissertation. The Final Examination (FHS) is taken at the end of three years. Candidates take seven papers in total.

Cultural and Intellectual Life

Students at Jesus find themselves welcomed into a serious, lively, and good-humoured academic community with every opportunity to discuss their thoughts in tutorials, seminars, and College events. Students reading for the joint school of History and English enjoy the benefits of two subject societies: The Herbert English Society provides a forum for exchange of ideas and discussion of literature, criticism, and the arts. The Society invites poets, playwrights, novelists, academics, journalists, and cultural historians. Our recent speakers have included the Booker Prize-winning author Ben Okri, Marina Warner, Philip Pullman, Bernard O’Donoghue, Craig Raine, Hermione Lee, Sally Shuttleworth, William St Clair, Blair Worden and the acclaimed poet Geoffrey Hill.

Jesus College students also run a lively History association, the J. R. Green Society, which is the oldest student history society in Oxford. It hosts informal talks and organises a number of social events each year. Recent speakers have included Ian Kershaw, Lyndal Roper, Peter Heather, Quentin Skinner, Rana Mitter, Hew Strachan, Julia Smith, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala.

Joint Schools

History and English can be taken as separate degree courses


Professor Patricia Clavin is a Fellow and Tutor in History at Jesus. She has written books on the history of international economic diplomacy between the two world wars, the history of the Great Depression in Europe, a history of Europe from 1789 to the present (with Asa Briggs), and edited a history of Internationalism in the Twentieth Century (with Glenda Sluga). She has also published some thirty articles and book chapters on the international history of the twentieth century. Her book Securing the World Economy. The Reinvention of the League of Nations, 1920-1946, published by Oxford University Press in 2013, was awarded the British Academy Medal. Professor Clavin is also a Fellow of the British Academy. Her latest book project, supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, explores the history of human security in the twentieth century. Patricia teaches the history European and Global history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and offers specialist teaching on the history of the two world war wars and the history of international and transnational co-operation in the twentieth century.

Dr Alexandra Gajda is also a Fellow and Tutor in History at Jesus. She teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British and European history. She has published on the political, intellectual and religious history of English and European history in the early modern period. She is currently writing a book about the evolution of the parliaments of the British Isles during the Reformation.

Dr Aled Davies is a Career Development Fellow in History at Jesus College. He is a political and economic historian of post-war Britain, and his research is particularly focused on the growth of the financial sector and the history of neoliberalism. He teaches Modern British, European and World History.

Professor Paulina Kewes, Fellow and Tutor in English, teaches English literature from the Renaissance to the Romantics, including Shakespeare. Paulina’s research interests are in early modern literature (especially drama), history, and politics, and she is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her publications include Authorship and Appropriation: Writing for the Stage in England, 1660-1710 (1998) and several edited or co-edited volumes: Plagiarism in Early Modern England (2003), The Uses of History in Early Modern England (2006), The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles (2013), Doubtful and Dangerous: The Question of Succession in Late Elizabethan England (2014), Stuart Succession Literature: Moments and Transformations (2019) as well as numerous articles on Shakespeare, Dryden, early modern drama, translation, plagiarism, historical writings, royal iconography, and political thought. She is currently writing the first interdisciplinary study of debates about the royal succession in the period from Henry VIII’s death in 1547 to the accession of James VI/I and union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603, from a comparative British and European perspective. The book is contracted to Oxford University Press.

Professor Marion Turner, Fellow and Tutor in English, teaches literature from 650-1550. Her biography of Chaucer – Chaucer: A European Life – was published by Princeton University Press in 2019 and shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2020. Her other publications include Chaucerian Conflict (2007) and A Handbook of Middle English Studies (2013), and she also works on literature and medicine and on life-writing. Her current book project, supported by the Leverhulme Trust, is about medieval women, focusing on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath across time. Marion is committed to public engagement and outreach, and frequently speaks in schools, at literary festivals, and on television and radio.


Dr Conrad Leyser is a Fellow and Tutor in History at Worcester College, who also teaches for Jesus College. His interests lie in the religious and social history of the Latin West, 300-1100; law, memory and narrative.

Professor Dirk Van Hulle teaches Bibliography, Genetic Criticism, Book History and (Digital) Scholarly Editing. His research interests are in modern manuscripts, notably by James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. With Mark Nixon, he is co-director of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, series editor of the Cambridge UP series ‘Elements in Beckett Studies’ and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Beckett Studies. He is editor of the online journal Genetic Joyce Studies and member of the editorial board of the International Journal for Digital Humanities (Springer). His publications include Textual Awareness (Michigan UP, 2004), Modern Manuscripts (2014), Samuel Beckett’s Library (CUP, 2013, with Mark Nixon), The New Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett (CUP, 2015), James Joyce’s ‘Work in Progress’ (Routledge,
2016), several volumes in the ‘Making of’ series (Bloomsbury) and genetic editions in the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, including the Beckett Digital Library. His current projects include a monograph on Genetic Criticism for OUP, a digital edition of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy, the co-editing of a Comparative History of the Literary Draft (John Benjamins), and of the Oxford Handbook of Samuel Beckett (OUP).

Dr Amanda Holton, Stipendiary Lecturer in English Language, teaches a paper on the English language at Jesus. She also teaches literature from 650 to 1550. Her principal research interests and publications are in Chaucer, the medieval and sixteenth-century love lyric, and poetics, with an emphasis on how form precedes and generates meaning. She is interested in interrogating the agendas which drive the taxonomy of poetic form, and in challenging the division still made between medieval and early modern literature.

Dr Ayoush Lazikani is a Departmental Lecturer during Professor Marion Turner’s leave. She is a SEDAaccredited tutor, teaching and lecturing in Old English and Middle English. As a researcher, Ayoush works in the history of emotions, specializing in devotional writing of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Her research considers English, Anglo-Norman, and Latin texts, and she has particular interests in literature written for religious recluses. Ayoush’s first book, Cultivating the Heart: Feeling and Emotion in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Religious Texts (University of Wales Press, 2015), studied the languages of feeling – especially the interrelated affections of compassion, love, and sorrow – in texts and church wall paintings. Her second book, Emotion in Christian and Islamic Contemplative Texts, c. 1100-1250, is due to be published in 2021.

Dr William Ghosh, Career Development Fellow in English, teaches Victorian and Modern literature and literary theory at Jesus. His research explores the literature and intellectual history of Britain and the Caribbean in the twentieth century. His interests include comparative literature, critical theory, linguistics, and prose forms.

Professor Peter Davidson is Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall and teaches renaissance, baroque and romantic literature for Jesus College. He has edited the seventeenth century poet Richard Fanshawe for OUP, as well as the two Oxford anthologies, Poetry and Revolution, and Early Modern Women Poets. His study of early-modern international culture The Universal Baroque was published in 2007. He is general editor for the Oxford Edition of the works of St Robert Southwell. He has wide interests in early modern cultural history and also teaches for History of Art. He has taught the Epic bridge paper for Classics and English, and has supervised for History and English. He has another identity as a writer of literary nonfiction and verse: The Idea of North (2005); The Palace of Oblivion (2008); Distance and Memory (2013); The Last of the Light (2015).

In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 8 are offered places in a typical year to read History and related joint schools. Successful candidates will read widely, will enjoy writing and talking about history, literature and language, and will be interested in pursuing a comparative approach to historical and literary texts.

Candidates are selected on the basis of academic record (e.g. GCSEs) and potential, as shown by their UCAS reference, submitted written work, performance in the History Aptitude Test (HAT) and in interviews if shortlisted.

Academic requirements:

Offers made to candidates will be conditional upon A-level results (AAA including an A in History and an A in English Literature or English Language and Literature) or equivalent qualifications.

Written test:

All candidates must take the History Aptitude Test (HAT) in schools on 4 November 2021. The HAT is administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, and the registration deadline is 15 October 2021. More information about the test, including how to register, can be found here. 

Please note that candidates for History and English are NOT required to take the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT), as they take the History Aptitude Test instead.

Written work:

For History, candidates will be asked to submit one piece of written work, which will be used for discussion at interview. For English, candidates are required to submit two recent essays. The deadline to submit written work is 10 November 2021. Further information can be viewed here.


Candidates will usually be given at least two interviews, one with the History tutor or tutors in the college, and one with the English tutor or tutors. In the English interview, the candidate may be asked to discuss a piece of prose or verse, provided before or at the interview.

Deferred Entry:

Applications for deferred entry to Jesus College are accepted. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made. Please refer to departmental web sites for subject-specific advice. You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the strongest of the cohort for their subject. We would not usually offer more than one deferred place per subject in order not to disadvantage the following year’s candidates. In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead. If you require any further advice, please contact the Admissions Officer via

The Faculty of History offers a range of taught graduate courses at master’s level and two research programmes leading to the degrees of Master of Letters or Doctor of Philosophy. In addition to the traditional fields in political, social, and cultural history, History at Oxford embraces more specialised areas, such as medieval history, economic and social history, the history of science, medicine, and
technology, and the history of art.

Jesus has a thriving community of graduate students in English, and we are actively expanding our postgraduate intake. We welcome applicants for the following postgraduate courses in English:

  • DPhil in English Language and Literature
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (650 -1550)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1550-1700)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1700-1830)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1830-1914)
  • M.St. English Language and Literature (1900- Present)
  • M.St. English and American Studies
  • M.Phil. English Studies (Medieval Period)
  • M.St. World Literatures in English

Although the History and English degree is not vocational in any strict sense (and many students undertake the course for reasons of sheer intellectual pleasure) it does equip students with a set of transferable skills applicable to many careers. Historians are used to the sifting of large quantities of often conflicting information; they are skilled in the evaluation of differing interpretations; they are trained in presenting complex issues in a lucid and convincing fashion; their verbal and critical skills are highly developed. These qualities have enabled generations of Oxford historians to excel in a wide range of careers. Oxford historians typically move on to careers in business, the 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.

Further information about History and English at Oxford can be found on the faculty websites at:



Information about Admissions is available here.