Preliminary Examination in History and Politics

Differences from 2016/17 to 2022/23


  • 1. The Preliminary Examination in History and Politics shall be under the joint supervision of the Board of the Faculty of History and the Social Sciences Board and shall consist of such subjects as they shall jointly prescribe.

  • 2. The Chair of the Examiners for the Preliminary Examination in History and the Chair of the Examiners for the Preliminary Examination in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics shall consult together and designate such of their number as may be required for the examination for the Preliminary Examination in History and Politics, whereupon the number of examiners shall be deemed to be complete.

  • 3. The lists of specific papers available will be published by the two Boards at the dates defined in the regulations for the Preliminary Examinations in History and in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.  Certain combinations of papers in History and in Politics will be illegal, or subject to advice about duplication of material; these will be specified in the Handbook for this examination.


Every candidate shall offer four papers as follows:

  • 1. One Either (a) any one of the periodspaper in the History of the British Isles specifiedor forEuropean the& Preliminary Examination inWorld History or (b) any one of the four periods in General Historyas specified for the Preliminary Examination in History. For the First or Second Public Examination in History and Politics candidates are required to choose at least one paper—whether in General History or the History of the British Isles or European & World History covering a period before the nineteenth century. The list of papers satisfying this provision is given in the Handbook for History and Politics. Candidates who take British History paper VII for the Preliminary Examination or the Final Honour School may not also take Politics core paper 202 for the Final Honour School.

  • 2. An Introduction to the Theory of Politics, as specified in section (a) of Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Politics for the Preliminary Examination for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

  • OR candidates may substitute Optional Subject 1, ‘Theories of the State (Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx)’ as specified for the Preliminary Examination in History.

  • 3. Any one of the following, as specified for the Preliminary Examination in History: (a) Quantification in History or (b) any of the Optional Subjects except No. 1 (Theories of the State), or (c) Approaches to History, or (d) Historiography: Tacitus to Weber, or (e) any one of the seven Foreign Texts.

  • 4. Introduction to the Practice of Politics

  • Candidates are required to answer three questions

  • Questions will be set on the following topics: (i) regime types; definition and measurement of variations between types of democracy; (ii) political institutions and practice outside the advanced industrial democracies; stability, stateas capacity and state formation; (iii) the state and its institutions (executives, legislatures, parties and party systems, electoral systems, courts, constitutions and centre-periphery relations); (iv) parties and party systems; political values and identity politics.

The individual specifications and prescribed texts for papers 2 and 3 above will be publishedspecified in the Handbook for the Preliminary Examination in History by Monday of noughth week of Michaelmas Term each year for the academic year ahead. Depending on the availability of teaching resources, with the exception of the Optional Subject 1, not all the Optional Subjects listed in the Handbook will be available to candidates in any given year. Candidates may obtain details of the choice of options for that year by consulting the Definitive List of Optional Subjects posted at the beginning of the first week of Michaelmas Full Term in the History Faculty and circulated to tutorsPolitics.

Candidates who fail one or more of papers 1, 2, 3, or 4 above may resit that subject paper or subjectspapers at a subsequent examination.