University-level history develops many skills, intellectual and practical, so history graduates remain highly employable. Informing them all, however, is the imaginative challenge at the heart of the discipline.
Studying History at Downing Colleges makes you one of just twenty or so undergraduates. Though an important subject group within the College, we are also compact enough in number to form a supportive community.
Few historians study what they have experienced; they do not depend upon memory. What makes a good historian is the capacity to imagine, and convey in writing, experiences distant from one‘s own. If this is a challenge which attracts you, History may be your subject.
Members of Downing‘s Fellowship teach aspects of ancient, medieval, early modern and modern history.
Dr David Pratt, the Director of Studies in History, whose work concerns the reign of King Alfred the Great, teaches early Medieval British and European history as well as the History of Political Thought.
Dr Natalia Mora-Sitja, University Lecturer in Modern Economic History, teaches Modern European History and has research interests in the relationship between economic growth and labour markets.
Dr Paul Millett, the Director of Studies in Classics, who teaches the Ancient European History papers, has particular interests in the social and cultural history of the Greek world.
Professor Richard Smith, who is an Emeritus Fellow, teaches Medieval and Early Modern Economic and Social History.
Dr Edward Cavanagh, Isaac Newton Fellow, teaches Empires and World History, and has research interests in comparative history and the history of legal thought.
This range of interests helps link the College with what is an unusually large, as well as dynamic, University History Faculty.
The two hundred undergraduate historians arriving in Cambridge each year have access to a teaching community of over one hundred scholars. In addition to its traditional strengths in political and constitutional history, the Faculty has been a pioneering force in the development of economic, social, cultural, and intellectual history.
In addition to the history of Britain and Europe, which may be studied from ancient times to the present, the Faculty has particular strengths in the history of America, Africa and Asia.
It is the role of the Director of Studies to help you make the most of these options, and to arrange teaching for them. The most important type of teaching at Cambridge, alongside lectures in the Faculty building, remains the weekly solo supervision.
The History course at Downing
The History Tripos is divided into two Parts. Part I occupies the first two years and Part II is studied for in the third year. A brief Preliminary examination, which does not count towards the final degree, is taken towards the end of the first year.
Part I of the Tripos aims to introduce students to a variety of different historical periods and contexts, from Ancient Greece and Rome to the rise of the Superpowers and post-colonial Africa. The choice of papers also includes options in the History of Political Thought.
Among their choices all candidates for Part I must take a Themes and Sources paper, one period of British Political History and one of British Economic and Social History.
In Part II emphasis is placed on the study of special topics from original sources. It is possible, though not compulsory, to prepare a dissertation as part of Part II.
In addition to lectures and supervisions, there are informal seminars within the College where students and Fellows meet to discuss general historical themes and problems.
There is also the College History Society, the Maitland Society, which meets two or three times each term to hear speakers from within and outside Cambridge. These occasions, along with regular social gatherings throughout the year, make the study of History at Downing a collective as well as an individual process of discovery.
History applicants receive two half-hour interviews on the same day, each with either one or two interviewers. The interviews are an attempt to assess the nature, rather than limits, of your knowledge and interests.
Prior to the interview in Cambridge, applicants will take an admissions assessment in History. Further information about this assessment can be found here: http://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/admissions-assessments/pre-interview.
Both interviews are largely subject based, although more general questions may also be asked. In advance of interviews, we ask to see some of the written work you have produced during the course of your studies and this will provide some of the basis for discussion.
In addition, prior to one of the interviews, you will be asked to read a short passage of historical writing which will provide some further basis for discussion. There is no need to bring material along to the interview.
Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.
Further details about the History course can be found at the University of Cambridge site.