Preliminary Examination in History

Differences from 2015/16 to 2023/24


  • 1. The subjectsPreliminary Examination will introduce students to the History degree, which will offer both wide diversity in terms of chronology, geography and historical themes, and a range of methodologies encompassing breadth, depth and theoretical awareness.  The examination shall include:

    • (1) Outline papers in the History of the examinationBritish Isles;

      (2) Outline papers in European & World History;

      (3) Papers in a specialist historical (‘Optional’) subject, thestudied syllabuswith reference to primary sources;

      (4) Methodological or historiographical subjects, andor theforeign-language numbertexts.

  • 2. ofThe papersexamination shall be asunder prescribedthe bysupervision regulation from time to time byof the Board of the Faculty of History, which will specify procedures and rules respecting the examination, and will define the lists of specific papers from which candidates will choose within the various subjects described below.  These lists will be published by the beginning of Trinity Term prior to candidates beginning their studies for the examination.

  • 3. The Board shall issue annually the Handbook for the Preliminary Examination in History by Monday of first week of Michaelmas Term in the year of the examination.


Each candidate shall offer four papers, as followsspecified in 1 to 4 below.

Candidates must offer papers in 1. History of the British Isles and 2. European & World History taken from two of the three different chronological groups: Early, Middle and Late, as defined by the Board.  Candidates who proceed to the Honour School of History will be required to take a further Outline paper in one of these subjects from a third period.

  • 1. History of the British Isles: any one from a list of Outline papers defined by the Faculty Board.

  • The History of the followingBritish periods:.

    (I)Isles c.300-1087;is (II)taken 1042-1330;to (III)include 1330-1550;the (IV)history 1500-1700;of (V)England, 1685-1830;Wales, (VI)Scotland 1815-1924;and (VII)Ireland, sinceand 1900of other territories in so far as they are specifically connected with the History of Britain.

  • 2. GeneralEuropean & World History: any one from a list of Outline papers defined by the periodFaculty papers I: 370-900 (The Transformation of the Ancient World), II: 1000-1300 (Medieval Christendom and its neighbours), III: 1400-1650 (Renaissance, Recovery, and Reform), and IV: 1815-1914 (Society, Nation, and Empire). Candidates will be given a wide choice of questions relating to themes in the history of the period and they are advised not to concentrate narrowly on a particular period or topicBoard.

  • 3. Optional Subject: any one offrom an approveda list of subjects. A detailed list of Optional Subjects, including the prescribed texts, will be published in the Handbook for Preliminary Examination in Historydefined by the Board of the Faculty ofBoard, Historyto bybe Monday of noughth week of Michaelmas Term each year for the academic year ahead. Depending on the availability of teaching resources,studied with the exception of Optional Subject 1, not all the Optional Subjects listed in the Handbook will be availablereference to allprimary 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 History Tutorssources.

  • 4. EitherOne of the following subjects as defined by the Faculty Board:

    • (a) Approaches to History or ;

      (b) Historiography: Tacitus to Weber or ;

      (c) Foreign Texts or ;

      (d) Quantification in History, as specified in the Handbook for the Preliminary Examination in History.

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