History

History

The History course at Oxford offers more than one hundred options, spanning all areas of the globe and a period of 1500 years. But the tutorial system allows students to specialise in depth in subjects of their own choosing and we want you to take advantage of the expertise offered by more than 90 historians in the Faculty who research and write on a wide variety of themes and topics. 

As an Oxford historian you will join a thriving community of more than 1,200 undergraduates and 500 undergraduates from around the world. Oxford offers a unique range of seminars, lectures, workshops and talks which we hope you will take advantage of – in addition to many special exhibitions hosted at Oxford’s libraries and museums. Historians at St Peter’s are a vibrant community and well-known around college and the University for their involvement in student journalism, theatre, sport, and voluntary and charity work among many other activities.

Becoming a St Peter’s Historian

Eight to ten students are normally admitted each year to study History at St Peter's, and up to four in one of its Joint Schools: Economics, Politics, English, or Modern Languages. The College also offers places for History of Art. At admissions we welcome applicants from all backgrounds and are keen to meet students who are intellectually curious, motivated, and have the potential to excel as historians.

The History Aptitude Test

As part of the admissions process you will have to sit the History Aptitude Test (HAT). The HAT is a one-hour exam, in which candidates are asked to interpret an unseen primary source. No prior knowledge is needed to answer this question because we are assessing your historical imagination, comprehension, and ability to deploy evidence. Here is a recent example of the exam and the mark scheme (note that you should only refer to question 3 in any past papers).

Further details about the HAT, including more past papers and mark schemes can be found here.

The Interview

Each applicant is given two interviews, with two pairs of interviewers. One of the interviews focusses on a topic of your own choice, often closely connected to the UCAS form or your submitted written work. 

The second interview centres on a close reading of an unseen primary source, which is given shortly beforehand. Recent examples of these sources include an interview with a former slave in the United States taken from the important Slave Narrative Collection and extracts from the diary of a young woman recorded during the American Civil War.

History at St Peter's

Reflecting the broad content of the History course, St Peter’s has several tutors (you can find their profiles below), who provide year-group classes as well as tutorials. Students are encouraged to follow their interests and in the second and third years they have a free choice from all university courses available and we also encourage interdisciplinary approaches and insights from archaeology, anthropology and economics. Examples of the papers you can take can be found here

But first year options are limited so that new undergraduates are taught by the college tutors themselves, and work with, and get to know other members of their year group. Although most of the final assessment is by examination, an extended essay and thesis are also required, allowing students to develop their interests and analytical skills. 

The college library has a large section devoted to History and is constantly expanding and updating its collections. St Peter's also has its own history seminar room. Each year the tutors organise a subsidized reading week in the Easter vacation of the final year (past destinations have included Norfolk, Dorset, Shropshire, and Wales) to enliven third-year revision. 

Last year, the historians joined students in English, Theology, and History of Art on a reading week in Tuscany at a magnificent converted villa just east of Volterra. From there we visited the Palazzo Pubblico and the Duomo in Sienna and the medieval hill town of San Gimignano.

History Prizes 

Smith Prize for the best first year historian. The Smith prize is named for Eric Harold Francis Smith (1904-1995) the first fellow in modern history at St Peter’s (1930-1967) and one of the founding fellows of the college.

T.W. Mason Prize for the best undergraduate history thesis. The Mason Prize is named in memory of the prominent Marxist historian Tim Mason, who is well-known for his work on Nazi Germany and as a founder of the journal History Workshop, one of the most influential historical journals. Past winners have been on topics including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the culture of masculinity in late Victorian schools, and the Doomsday Book.

Macartney Prize awarded flexibly for the best 3rd year thesis presentation. Occasional awards are also given to defray the expense of thesis research.