History and Modern Languages

Lara Kotecha

I studied English Literature, Spanish, and History at A-level. I absolutely loved the breadth of this combination and didn't really want to give anything up so History and Modern Languages seemed like the right choice for me. Because Oxford's language degrees are so heavily literature orientated, I knew that I would still be studying lots of literature, just in another language, so opening my eyes to new material that I would have never come across otherwise. What I enjoy most about my course is the variety! I never get bored because I am constantly doing something different. If I get bored or stuck on something I'm doing in one subject, I can always switch over and do another. I also enjoy the challenge! Especially in Spanish, where you have to work just that bit harder to really understand and connect with the literature you are studying, but it is really worth it.

An essay for one of my general history papers was on feminism, and writing this was definitely one of my best academic experiences so far, as it was a topic that I am personally very passionate about and analysing feminism and its early roots from a historical perspective has really deepened my understanding of feminism. More generally, I've loved the way one subject can inform the other and there are always subtle ways in which you can cross reference the material, making the work truly unique.

Lara, Hertford, 3rd year

For me, it’s great – during Freshers’ Week, as everyone gave the same boring answers to “What are you studying?” answering with “History and Spanish” instantly gave me the kind of edgy mystique I had only ever dreamed about. Over the course of the year, you’ll be amazed at how some of the most intelligent academics in the world can fail to organise a timetable simply because they’re from different faculties, but there’s no better (academic) feeling than pulling a killer point for an essay in one subject out of your learning for another. History and Modern Languages can at times be one of the toughest courses in the university, but ultimately one of the most rewarding.

Kieran, Brasenose, student from 2012

Studying History and Modern Languages is a bit like dating two very attractive people at the same time. You may love both subjects equally, but, at times, each one may demand a greater time commitment. Often, your tutors in History will be demanding subtly, but crucially, different things from your essays than your Languages tutors will be. That said, the course at Oxford is well-balanced and allows a degree of flexibility in your second and fourth years to give more focus to either the History or Modern Languages side. The first year is split evenly between the two, and across your four years, you will study a period of world history, a ‘special subject’ covering a particular period or issue in more detail, a period of literature in your chosen language, and either linguistics or a set of prescribed authors. From there on, the choice is yours – you’ll be the envy of your non-joint schools friends!

What helped inspire your love of the subject?

Lara Kotecha

Both History and Spanish are such broad subjects that it's hard to recommend a single thing, you should just follow your interests! Since both History and Spanish were subjects I did at A-Level, the wider reading I did was largely geared towards topics that I was studying at the time. For example, I read Andrew Marr's "A History of Modern Britain" to broaden my understanding of the British Politics, the topic of my A-level exam. However, one book I would particularly recommend for someone interested in History and Modern Languages, particularly Spanish (although there is a similar book about French) is "The Story of Spanish" by Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow - a pretty new book that charts the history of the Spanish language. It's a really interesting but also quite easy read!

Lara, Hertford, 3rd year

Find out more

Course length: 4 years (with a year abroad)
Students per year: 15

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, History, Modern Languages or History of Art (or even consider applying for those courses!).