Clare College Cambridge


Link to University Subject Page

Link to joint History and Politics Tripos

Link to joint History and Modern Languages Tripos

Cambridge accepts about 200 undergraduates a year to read History, distributed across the various colleges. In the first two years of the course, students choose from a range of broadly-based papers. Some British history is compulsory at this stage, but there is a wide variety of other papers in European, American, Asian and African history, as well as the history of political ideas and thought. The third and final year of the course offers a very large choice of more specialised and document-centred papers, and an opportunity to do an individual dissertation on a subject of the student's choice. It is also possible to combine History with other courses, such as Law or Economics. This is done by taking the first part of one course, and the second of another. History can be taken either as a Part I or a Part II subject in this way. Thus (for example) a student might read Part I History and Part IB and Part 2 Law, or Part I Economics and Part II History.

The main attraction of History at Cambridge is thus the way it allows students to put together their own 'package' of topics and papers tailored to their particular interests. The teaching is also structured to encourage this, with individual or small-group supervisions arranged flexibly to accommodate the very different choices of topics which students may want to make. The Faculty has the breadth of teaching expertise to make this possible, while students can draw on a number of excellent libraries.

Further details about History at Cambridge are available from the Cambridge University Guide to Courses, or direct from the Secretary, Faculty of History, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9EF, or contact the Cambridge University website on

Studying History at Clare

Clare has a strong teaching side in History, which covers a wide range of specialisms (see below). This encourages lively seminars on historical method that we also run. In common with other Cambridge colleges, though, we do not expect to be able to cover all interests, and so where appropriate arrange for students to be supervised by fellows in other colleges. As far as libraries are concerned, Clare is ideally situated for historians: it is just five minutes' walk from the History Faculty, and is also right next door to the main University Library.

Students reading History aim to cover one paper every term. The eight weeks of each 'Full Term' revolve very much around the weekly essay and one-hour supervision. A typical weekly workload for a historian would be some six hours of lectures on their chosen papers, the preparation of an essay, usually of some 3,000 to 4,000 words and involving substantial reading and planning, one individual supervision, and some more general reading as preparation for our college-based discussions of historical method.

Above all in Clare, we try to provide our historians with a milieu that is both intellectually stimulating, and friendly and supportive. Clare historians have a reputation for academic achievement, and we believe that most students flourish best when challenged and tested. But we also appreciate that our students may come to university with diverse expectations and experience, and their needs as individuals may vary considerably. We try hard to take account of this, and to provide an environment in which students of all kinds will be able to make the most of their abilities. We also positively welcome direct enquiries from prospective candidates or their teachers needing further information about the course or the college.

Admissions Requirements

Offers are based on A-level (or equivalent) examination results, a typical offer to read History would be A*AA at A level or 7,7,6 (40+ overall) in the IB or the equivalent in other educational systems. Candidates are not expected to have a particular combination of subjects at A-level (or equivalent). An A level in History is not a requirement.

Written Assessment

All applicants are required to take the university-wide pre-interview written assessment for History. Further information about this is available here.

Interviews and Written Work

Applicants who are selected for interview will be called for interview in the second or third week of December. They will usually have two interviews each. Both of these will be subject-based but one interview will also have a more general component. To give you a further way of showing your potential, we also invite you to submit school work. You are asked to send in one piece of history school/college work in advance of your interviews. This should be an essay of between roughly 1500 and 2500 words written as part of your current syllabus, but must NOT have been completed under examination or timed conditions. We will use this essay to assess your writing skills and also as the initial basis for discussion in one of the two interviews. Please note that we do NOT accept non-history essays, short answers 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 the essay is your own work, but it is not necessary for teachers to mark the essay or give it a grade. We will write to you to ask for this work to be sent to us by a deadline in mid-November preceding the December interviews. We do not guarantee to read essays sent in after this deadline. We like to see school work because it should not involve candidates in any extra preparation, and it gives us a chance to see how you work under everyday, as well as examination, conditions.

Fellows in History

  • Dr 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
  • 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. 
  • Dr Ruth Watson University Lecturer in African History
  • Professor Andrew Preston Professor of American History. He teaches 20th 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 17th and 18th century Europe; he teaches the history of political thought before 1900.

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.

See Student Profiles: Amy Carter