Clare College Cambridge

History and Modern Languages

Link to University Subject Page

History and Modern Languages is a new degree offered at Cambridge for the first time in 2017. The degree gives you the opportunity to develop your range of historical knowledge, and engage with non-English-language sources and secondary literature. In Modern Languages you will have the chance to enhance your written and spoken language skills in French, German, Spanish or Russian,as well as engage in depth with the culture and thought of the country or countries in which that language is spoken.

In History you will have a choice of papers which include those in European history from Ancient Rome and Greece to the twentieth century; the history of political thought; and world history. There will also be papers that will introduce students to the sources and methods of historical enquiry. In Part II there will be more opportunity to develop specialist knowledge in the history of ideas, the history of culture, or political, social, and economic history.

In Modern Languages you will study the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. You will also be introduced in your first year to a range of landmark texts and films from the Middle Ages to the present day. Later on in your degree you will have the opportunity to choose papers on a wide range of topics, from (depending on your language choice) ‘Dante and the Culture of his Age’ to ‘Modern German Cultures of Performance’, from ‘The History and Culture of Early Russia’ to ‘Ibero-American Cinema’, and many more. The Year Abroad (in your third year) remains an invaluable element of your course, as with other language degrees at Cambridge; see the Faculty website for details.

Studying History and Modern Languages at Clare

Clare has a strong reputation in both History and Modern Languages. It has six History fellows with a wide range of specialisms. In Modern Languages, Clare has the largest number of fellows in Cambridge, and language students have consistently achieved some of the top results in their final year. Descriptions of fellows and their interests are listed below.

In common with other Cambridge colleges, we do not expect to be able to cover all historical and language interests, and so where appropriate we arrange for students to be supervised by fellows in other colleges. The College arranges small-group teaching for aspects of language work, and those studying French will be able to work with a lecteur/lectrice from the prestigious École Normale Supérieure in Paris. Clare is ideally situated for Cambridge’s libraries. As well as a strong College library, the University Library is adjacent to the College.

Admissions Requirements

Offers are based on A-level (or equivalent) examinations results. A typical offer to read History and Modern Languages would be A*AA at A-level or 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent in other educational systems. An A-level in History is not a requirement. For French, German and Spanish, all applicants must be studying their chosen language at A-level or equivalent. Russian is available to be taken up ab initio, and although a language at A-level/IB Higher Level is not required, we do look for evidence of ability to learn languages in a classroom setting, since this is such a central part of our courses.

Written Assessments

Applicants for History and Modern Languages are required to take both the university-wide pre-interview written assessment for History (further information here) and the university-wide at-interview written assessment for Modern Languages (further information here).


Applicants who are selected for interview will be interviewed in the second or third week of December, and will have two interviews. One will be a History subject interview and the second a Modern Languages interview. A small part of the Modern Languages interview will be conducted in the foreign language.

School Work

To give you a further way of showing your potential in History, we will invite you to submit one essay in advance of your interview. This should be a History essay of between roughly 1500 and 2500 words written as part of your current syllabus. It must NOT have been completed under examination or timed conditions and should NOT be a short answer based on document or ‘gobbet’ exercises or longer coursework essays or dissertations. If your syllabus requirement does not include regular essays, you should ask your teacher to set you an essay to write in your own time. Your teacher should confirm that this essay is your own work, but it is not necessary for teachers to mark the essays or give them a grade. If you are not studying History at A-level, you should submit an essay on any other subject.


Clare Fellows in History and Modern Languages 



Dr Elizabeth Foyster College Teaching Officer and Director of Studies (Part I). She specialises in British Social History from the 17th century to the mid-19th century. 

Professor John Guy Teaching Fellow. He works in the field of early modern British History.

Dr Hubertus Jahn Reader in the History of Russia and the Caucasus.

Professor Andrew Preston Professor of History. He teaches Twentieth-Century American History, especially the histories of diplomacy, politics, and religion.

Professor John Robertson Professor of the History of Political Thought. His interests are in the intellectual history of 17- and 18-century Europe; he teaches the history of political thought before 1900.

Dr Ruth Watson University Lecturer in African History.

Clare History is also supported by the contribution of Clare Research Associates, who have a range of research specialisms from medieval history to modern European and American history.


Dr Timothy Chesters University Lecturer in Sixteenth-Century French Studies. Tim has published on ghosts, demons and witchcraft in Renaissance French writing, as well as on nineteenth-century views of the Renaissance.


Dr Stephen Fennell Research Associate at Clare College. His specialist expertise is in the areas of philosophy, poetry and poetics, Germanic philology, and German life and letters of the eighteenth century.


Dr Helena Sanson Reader in Italian Language, Literature and Culture. Helena's main areas of interest are the history of the Italian language, the history of linguistic thought and history of women in Italy from the Renaissance to the post-Unification period.


Professor Simon Franklin Professor of Slavonic Studies. He has written on Russian history and culture of all periods, but his principal research interests are in the medieval era.

Dr Alyson Tapp University Lecturer in Russian Literature. Alyson works on Russian literature of the 19th century, especially history and theory of the novel.


Professor Alison Sinclair Professor of Modern Spanish Literature and Intellectual History. She works on modern Spanish and comparative literature, with special emphasis on a psychoanalytic approach, and more recently has been working on 19c Spanish street literature.

Dr Rodrigo Cacho Reader in Spanish Golden Age and Colonial Studies. Rodrigo’s main interests are the 16th and 17th centuries, looking both at European and Spanish-American literatures and cultures.


Student Profile


        Hannah Martin