The Oxford History Faculty is celebrated for the broad chronological sweep of its History degree and the enormous number of options offered to its students. The syllabus combines the examination of large regions over extended periods of time with more focused work on smaller areas, shorter periods, and detailed problems. In all three years of the degree, students work extensively with historical sources, and they are encouraged throughout the degree to think about how we study the past. A major part of the final year is devoted to writing two substantial pieces of assessed work: a long essay on a taught Special Subject, based on a large body of written and other evidence, and a thesis on a supervised research topic of the student’s own choice.
The History course at Oxford offers me such a wide range of choice, so that I’m always studying a topic which I find really interesting. There are very few restrictions on which courses you can pick, which gives me plenty of opportunity to pursue my interests and experiment with new eras and topics.
The College has a friendly and welcoming community of historians: undergraduates, postgraduates and tutors. We encourage our undergraduates to cultivate their individual interests and preferences, and offer them the widest practicable choice of subjects. Some undergraduates like to spread their options widely; others prefer to concentrate as far as possible on a particular period, area, or type of history. If you decide during your studies that you want to take an option which involves a foreign language, the College will help you to learn or to improve it.
St Edmund Hall has two Tutorial Fellows in History and two Junior Research Fellows. Find out more about them and their areas of specialism below.
Our History graduates now work in a very wide range of fields, including law, finance, consultancy, advertising, accountancy, politics, the Civil Service, music, publishing, journalism and the media, charities, museums, librarianship and archive work, and teaching, as well as in careers involving historical research.
Candidates for History at St Edmund Hall will have two interviews. In the first, you are likely to be asked about your submitted written work. The discussion will focus mostly on the argument of the essay. The tutors will seek to test your ability to think historically by (for example) suggesting alternative interpretations, presenting additional information, or asking you to compare the material you have submitted with related historical or contemporary examples. They will be looking for evidence of intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm, conceptual clarity and precision, and critical engagement. They may also ask questions about statements you have made on your UCAS form. The second interview will usually be based on a discussion of a short passage of academic writing, which you will have the chance to read and study privately in advance.
Remember that, while the interviews are meant to be challenging, they are not intended to be confrontational. The tutors want to identify your intellectual potential, and to engage you in an open and constructive dialogue. They will therefore be interested in the range of your historical interests, and in your ability to make use of other academic disciplines and approaches that can help to enrich our understanding of the past. Try to use their questions and comments to develop and advance your own thinking.
A major event in the College’s annual calendar is the Emden Lecture. Named after A.B. Emden, Principal of St Edmund Hall from 1929 to 1951, a pioneering medievalist and historian of the Hall, the lectures are given by distinguished historians but are intended to be accessible to a non-specialist audience. Recent lecturers include Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch KBE, Professor Sir Tom Devine, Professor Peter Mandler, Professor Joanna Bourke, and Professor Lyndal Roper, the current Regius Professor at Oxford.
The 2017 lecturer was Professor Frank Trentmann, who teaches at Birkbeck, University of London, and you can watch his lecture online.
The 2018 lecture will be given by Professor David Edgerton (King’s College London) on Tuesday 16 October, and is titled The birth of the British Nation? ‘Alone’, ‘People’s War’ and the mythical myths of 1940.
History at St Edmund Hall has the same requirements as those listed in the University Prospectus. As part of the application process, all applicants must sit the History Aptitude Test (HAT) at their school or college before interview. More information on the HAT can be obtained from the Faculty website. Applicants are also required to submit an example of their written work – a recent essay on an historical topic, written as part of their normal school or college work. For more information on written work, please see the University Website.
Associate Professor and Tutor in Modern History
Professor Nicholas Davidson teaches early-modern European and world history. His research is focused mainly on southern Europe and the Mediterranean, with a special interest in the social, religious, and cultural history of Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Professor of Modern History and Tutor in Modern History
Professor David Priestland has written on the history of the Soviet Union and global communism and is now working on the history of market liberalism since the 1980s. He teaches global and European history undergraduate courses, historiography, and two optional courses – ‘Neoliberalism and Postmodernism: Ideas, Politics and Culture in Europe and the United States, 1970-2000’, and ‘Culture, Politics and Identity in Cold War Europe, 1945-1968’.
Broadbent Junior Research Fellow in American History
Dr Mandy Izadi is the Broadbent Junior Research Fellow in American History at St Edmund Hall. She is a scholar of U.S. continental expansion; her first book investigates the history of Indigenous peoples in North America’s Southeast and the greater Caribbean over the course of two centuries. Her research interests encompass Native American history, environmental history, African-American history, and comparative work on British, Spanish, and American imperialism.
John Cowdrey Junior Research Fellow in History
Dr Emily A. Winkler is the John Cowdrey Junior Research Fellow in Medieval History at St Edmund Hall. Her first book, Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing (Oxford University Press, November 2017), examines ideas of moral and causal responsibility, historical contingency, and royal rulership in eleventh- and twelfth-century historical writing. Her research interests include historical writing, political thought, and the reception of the classics in the early and central Middle Ages, especially in the North Sea zone and the Anglo-Norman world.