History and English

Charles McGrath

What made me decide to study History and English? Indecisiveness! History and English are both such good subjects, it was impossible to pick between the two! I’m very glad I did choose Joint Honours, though, as it had opened up many different academic possibilities. The thing I enjoy most about History and English is the interdisciplinarity, or how each subject relates to one another – it’s fascinating and interesting to make so many connections between literature and its historical context. My best experience of studying History and English has been the lectures by the current Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, Andy Orchard. He’s a fantastic lecturer who has great enthusiasm and passion for early medieval literature, from the Old English elegies to the Skaldic poetry of the Scandinavian peoples.

Charles, Pembroke, 3rd year

I chose History and English because, while studying for my A-Levels, I found that making connections across disciplines was what excited me most about these subjects. I have the same workload as single honours students – it's just I get to pick which modules I am more enthusiastic about studying, which is ideal! I found the Heng "bridge-paper" particularly stimulating and unique. Heng classes are small and intimate, making for a really close, open atmosphere between students. I was pleasantly surprised by how much everyone works as a co-operative unit here. History and English complement each other brilliantly. It has certainly given me a richer understanding of both subjects and a greater ability to create original arguments.

Emily, Pembroke, student from 2012

History and English ("Heng") is one of the most flexible degrees Oxford has to offer. As a Heng student you control your learning. You can choose to swap Romantics for Shakespeare or the French Revolution for the European witchhunts. You can keep the History and English components separate or embrace the connections between the two. Heng students are given the chance to think in more philosophical terms about their subjects. You'll get to ask and explore questions like: "Is literary style historical?"; "Should the literary canon exist?"; "And what can we count as the historical sources of a period?" One very unique aspect of reading History and English at Oxford are the "bridge papers". Heng-students are taught in classes by leading academics in the cutting-edge inter-disciplinary theories that are currently being debated in academic circles. If you like the idea of exploring different disciplines and the possibility of testing fresh theories against your own selection of literature and historical sources, you should definitely consider the History and English joint course.

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Holly Kelsey

Lots of universities such as Oxford, Yale, and Harvard upload free lectures on YouTube or as a podcast which covers a huge range of subjects! There are lots of opportunities to watch free lectures in person! Some are run by universities on subject taster days (for instance at Oxford or the University of London) whilst some universities run public lecture series (such as the University of Reading).

Subscribe to accounts that produce interesting articles on Twitter! Some of my favourites include @InterestingLit, @Historyfacts247 and @WorldHistory101. You find yourself learning interesting titbits of information, even while you're idly checking your phone in bed!

Holly, Regent's Park, 2nd year

Tell us about your interview?

Holly Kelsey

I was prepared to be asked really wacky questions based on myths I'd heard about Oxford interviews! In reality, the questions were much more accessible and not far removed from questions I was used to at school. For example, in one history interview I was asked about points from my personal statement and in another I was given a source to evaluate and discuss with the tutor.

In one English interview, I was given a poem to read over beforehand in a close reading exercise, which was something I was very used to from school. In another, I had a great time debating the staging of Macbeth with an expert tutor. You walk out of interviews feeling challenged but it's incredibly rewarding to hold debates with expert academics who are just as passionate about the subject as you!

Holly, Regent's Park, 2nd year

Applicants that might be offered a place are invited for interview in December.

Find out more

Course length: 3 years
Students per year: 9

Make sure you read the official prospectus entry for the course which contains entry requirements, full course structure, additional interesting resources and full details of the application process.

If you're going to apply, you'll want to check which Oxford colleges offer this course.

You might also find it helpful to hear from students studying Arch and Anth, CAAH, English, History or History of Art (or even consider applying for those courses!).