The History School is among the largest at Oxford, and the undergraduate intake for the university is 300 each year, not counting the large number of students engaged in postgraduate research.
There are over 100 members of the History Faculty, most of them teaching the subject. The very extensive library resources of the University – the Bodleian Library, the Faculty Library, the separate and well-stocked College libraries – enable a wide variety of optional courses to be offered and enable the student to pursue his or her own scholarly interests in depth.
Within the general framework of the History School, there are opportunities to take subjects which might at other universities be studied under separate disciplines e.g., the History of Architecture, Art History, or the History of Literature. There is breadth as well as depth in the course.
The emphasis of the degree course is on the need for each student to learn for themselves, primarily by reading, but also by friendly discussion of written work with a College tutor or within a class group. Much teaching for the course is done by the Jesus College History tutors, but the wide range of optional topics makes it necessary for all historians to go also to tutors in other colleges, so each student has quite a variety of academic contacts during their three years at Oxford.
Students are taught largely by tutorials (which take place at least once a week in the first two years) and by lectures. Classes at both college and university level are also an essential part of the teaching programme. The lecture courses are very numerous; each term the list of lectures being offered covers several pages. Lectures are voluntary; tutorials and classes are compulsory. The latter are particularly important as the major form of teaching on the Further and Special subjects in the second and third year.
Historians normally produce two or three tutorial essays a fortnight in their first year. During the second and third year, when the more specialised work is done, this changes to an average of one a week. Much of the penultimate term is assigned for the writing of the dissertation. Oxford terms are on the short side – eight weeks – so in the vacation students are expected to do a good deal of reading and to consolidate work undertaken during term. Further information regarding the course structure and choice of subjects can be viewed here.
Jesus College students also 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.
Historians at Jesus seem to enjoy the course, even though it involves a lot of sustained work. The combination of unity and diversity, and the chance (especially in the final year) to get down to really detailed work on primary sources; make it a rich and varied degree programme.
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 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 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.
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 History and related joint schools.
Academic requirements for this course can be found here.
The specific selection criteria are given on the Faculty’s website here.
Further information of Admissions tests can be found here.
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. The deadline to submit written work is 10 November 2023. Further information on the written work requirements can be viewed here.
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.
The following undergraduate joint courses are available at Jesus College:
In these courses students are able to concentrate more on one side of the course than the other.
The examination structure for Joint Schools is similar to that of the main History school. Prelims are taken at the end of the first year, and consist of four papers drawn from the two disciplines with added language examinations in the case of History and Modern Languages. Please note, History and Modern Languages is a four-year course including a compulsory year abroad during the third year.
It is usually possible to construct optional papers in such a way that the two disciplines in these joint schools complement and reinforce one another.
The History Faculty offers a range of taught 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.
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.
Please use the links below for further information:
One good way of broadening your historical horizons is to read one of the History magazines below: