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History and Politics

History and Politics 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 the disciplines of History and Politics.

It is a challenging course covering many of the areas where the latest research is transforming the parent Schools. Teaching takes the form of tutorials and classes, many of which will be organised and taken by the Fellows and Lecturers of the College. You will 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 organises 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, Prelims, is taken in June at the end of the first year. Candidates must offer four subjects for examination:

1. a period of British History
2. ‘Theories of the State’ or ‘Theories of the Democratic State’
3. a choice between:
a) Historiography (the evolution of history writing from Tacitus to Weber)
b) an in-depth study of one of seven historical texts in a foreign language (Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian)
4. An introduction to the Practice of Politics, where you will study how democracies function in terms of the formal institutions, political parties and voters

The Final Examination (known as the Final Honour School) is taken at the end of three years.

In History, you must study two further subjects of British or European History as outlined above under (1), taking a term for each subject. You will also spend two terms working on Politics, where you have to pick two of the following papers: Comparative Government, British Politics and Government in the 20th Century, Theory of Politics, International Relations and Political Sociology. You can then bias your study towards Politics and History: though you have to do one more paper in History and one in Politics, you may wish to focus on a specialised paper in History (involving extensive study of primary texts and chosen from 26 topics on offer: e.g. ‘The Development of the Third Reich’, ‘The Great Society’ [1960s America], ‘English Architecture 1660-1720’) and take a general course in Politics, or you may wish to take a more specialised course in Politics, and take a more general course in History.

Finally, you must write a dissertation based on your own research, supported by tutorials, of up to 12,000 words in length, in either History or Politics. This brief introduction has not been able to do full justice to the sheer breadth and variety of subjects that are on offer, made possible by one of the world’s largest History and Politics faculties. We only ask that you take full advantage of this opportunity: History and Politics should not be seen as an easy option to concentrate solely on the World since 1800 and ignore everything that happened before.

You will be expected to attend about five lectures per 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. You will be required to submit a thesis which will enable you to do a piece of independent research during your second and third years. You are very much in charge of your own timetable, which means that if you are well organised you can easily fit in all the other activities for which Oxford students are renowned. Jesus College students, for example, run a lively History association, the J. R. Green Society, the oldest student History Society in Oxford. It hosts informal talks and organises a number of social events each year.


Dr Alexandra Gajda

Dr Alexandra Gajda is a Fellow and Tutor in History at Jesus. She has published on the political, religious and intellectual history of early modern Britain and Europe. She is currently writing a book about the evolution of the parliaments of the British Isles during the Reformation and other projects on early modern historiography. Alexandra teaches sixteenth- and seventeenth- century British and European history, with specialisms in Tudor politics and religion, and literature and politics in the early modern period.

Dr Matthew Kerry

Dr Mathew Kerry is Zeitlyn Fellow and Tutor in History and Associate Professor of European History since 1870. Matthew is a social and cultural historian of modern Spain. His work examines the meaning and practice of politics in everyday life. He has written on the revolutionary insurrection in the Asturias in October 1934, during the Spanish Second Republic, and essays and articles on secularisation, anticlerical violence, antifascism and boycotts as a form of popular justice. He is currently working on the history of political engagement in in twentieth-century Spain, primarily through a history of sound and mass politics from the 1890s to the Second Republic. Matthew teaches European and Global history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Professor Susan Doran

Professor Susan Doran is a Senior Research Fellow in History at Jesus College. She teaches early modern (c1400 – 1700) British and European undergraduate papers, and her research specialism is in Elizabethan religion and politics.

Dr Stuart White

Dr Stuart White is a Fellow and Tutor in Politics. He teaches the political theory side of Politics Prelims, Theories of the State, Theory of Politics, Political Thought: Plato to Rousseau, Political Thought: Bentham to Weber, and Marx and Marxism. His research focuses on democratic citizenship and the economy and integrates political philosophy, public policy and the history of political thought.

Professor James Tilley

Professor James Tilley, also a Fellow and Tutor in Politics, teaches the empirical side of Politics Prelims, Comparative Government and Political Sociology. His research interests lie in the fields of political sociology, political psychology and public opinion, with a focus on British politics.

The deadline to submit your application for undergraduate study via UCAS is 16 October (please note that this date is usually 15 October, except where this date falls on a weekend).  Please refer to the University’s webpages for detailed information on how to apply.

Places available at Jesus College

In a total College entry of about 100 undergraduates, 8 are offered places in a typical year to read courses containing Politics.

Academic requirements

Academic requirements for this course can be found here.

Selection criteria

The specific selection criteria are given on the History Faculty’s website here.

Admissions tests

Further information of Admissions tests can be found here.

Written work

All candidates are required to send in an essay on an historical topic, written in their own time as part of their normal school or college work, which will be used for discussion at interview. The deadline to submit written work is 10 November 2023. Further information on the written work requirements can be viewed here.

Deferred Entry

Please refer to the Departmental website for subject-specific advice.

The Tutors have no objection in principle to offering a place to a candidate who wishes to defer entry for a year, provided this intention is made known at the outset. You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made.

You should be aware that applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the very strongest of the cohort for their subject, and the College limits its offers of deferred places in order not to disadvantage candidates applying in the following year. In some cases, an applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead.

Joint Schools

History can be studied as a single discipline and is also available as a joint course as follows:

Politics cannot be studied as a single discipline for a degree, but it is available as a joint course as follows:

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 of historical research, 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. For a full list of the postgraduate courses offered by the Faculty of History, please click here.

The Department of Politics and International Relations is internationally renowned as a centre for excellence in teaching and research. Its reputation attracts students and senior academics from across the world. The following degrees are offered at postgraduate level:

  • DPhil in Politics
  • MPhil or DPhil in International Relations
  • MPhil in: Comparative Government; Political Theory; European Politics and Society
  • MSc in: Politics Research; Political Theory Research

Although the History 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.

If you have any questions about entrance requirements, or about applying to study at Jesus College, please contact the Admissions Officer: