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Preliminary Examination in History


  • 1. The Preliminary 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 British Isles;

      (2) Outline papers in European & World History;

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

      (4) Methodological or historiographical subjects, or foreign-language texts.

  • 2. The examination shall be under the supervision of 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 specified 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 British Isles is taken to include the history of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, and of other territories in so far as they are specifically connected with the History of Britain.

  • 2. European & World History: any one from a list of Outline papers defined by the Faculty Board.

  • 3. Optional Subject: any one from a list of subjects defined by the Faculty Board, to be studied with reference to primary sources.

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

    • (a) Approaches to History;

      (b) Historiography: Tacitus to Weber;

      (c) Foreign Texts;

      (d) Quantification in History.

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