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Durham University


V100 History BA Undergraduate  2021


Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

UCAS code V100
Degree BA
Mode of study Full Time
Duration 3 Years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
More information Still have questions?
Department(s) Website

Course Summary


Year 1

The first year of the History degree offers you the opportunity to study a range of periods and approaches to history. Many of the modules cover quite large topics or long periods; these are intended to introduce you to subjects which may be unfamiliar and which pose new questions and new problems, showing you how wide the study of history really is.

You will take ‘Making History’ which will enable you to develop more advanced study skills through working in a small, intensive seminar. These require extensive reading, discussion, and writing about problems of historical interpretation in a defined area, and will focus on both primary and secondary sources. The module is divided into different strands from which you will make your choice.

In addition, you will choose five further modules from a list of approximately 12. You must choose at least one Medieval, one Early Modern, and one Late Modern module. Typically, you will have one weekly lecture and a small-group seminar every two or three weeks. For the seminar, you will be given reading to do in advance, and on the basis of this you and the other students in your group will discuss particular issues. Students are expected to lead the discussion in seminars. Most modules are assessed by coursework essays and by a two-hour examination in May/June, in which you write answers to two essay-style questions.

The modules on offer change each year, as they reflect the research interests of staff; we cannot guarantee in advance that a particular module will be running in any particular year. This is a list of some of the modules that were available in 2019/20, to give you examples of the range of different themes we cover in the first year:

  • Modern Times: a Cultural History of Europe, c. 1860-1960
  • Reformation Europe
  • The Rise and Fall of American Slavery, 1607-1865
  • The Birth of Western Society, 300-1050 AD
  • The Making of Modern Africa: Change and Adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa.

Year 2

In the second year, you will study five modules. One of these, ‘Conversations with History’, is a double-module which is taught through student-led seminars. It develops your understanding of issues of historiography, provides an introduction to the writing of more extended historical argument, and prepares you for the final year Dissertation. This is an important feature of our course, and so all Single Honours students will take it. It is divided into different strands covering different topics from which you will make your choice.

Alongside ‘Conversations’, students take four further modules. These are taught intensively over half of the academic year. There are many other departments in the University, of course, and you may take modules from other departments as well – but you may not take more than 40 credits (normally the equivalent of two modules) across your second and third years. As in the first year, our focus on research-led teaching means that the modules on offer will vary year by year.

This list gives you an idea of example modules:

  • Conversations Strands: The End of the Roman Empire; Slavery in Modern Africa; Discipline and Modernity
  • Treasure of Heaven: Medieval Monasticism
  • Political Culture in Japan since 1688
  • Gender and Sexuality During Britain’s Long Twentieth Century.

Year 3

The third year allows you to specialise, with a triple-module Special Subject, taught entirely through seminars, which involves close study of primary sources. For this, you will work in a small group with a specialist in the field – with a three-hour seminar every week. In the final year, you will also undertake supervised independent research leading to the writing of a double-module Dissertation. Given this emphasis on focused study and independence, there is no requirement for you to study a range of periods in this year.

As well as the Special Subject and the Dissertation, you will also take a single module in the third year: these are all strongly reflexive in character, encouraging you to think about the ways in which historical knowledge is produced.

You will choose your own Dissertation topic, through consultation with a supervisor. There are some limits, set by the availability of primary material and the expertise of supervisors, but the potential range of topics is very wide indeed: in recent years topics have varied from representation of bandits in twentieth-century Hollywood films to ceremonial in medieval France.

As with modules at other levels, the precise choice of Special Subject and third-year single modules changes from year to year. Our Special Subjects cover a wide range of different periods and historical approaches. This list gives you an idea of some of this range. There are many other Special Subjects available and the list changes from year to year, allowing us to be completely flexible in the opportunities we provide to students with different historical interests:

Example Special Subjects include:

  • Developing Africa
  • Politics and Welfare: England 1880-1914
  • The Princely Court in Northern Europe, 1350-1500
  • A World Turned Upside Down: Radicalism and the English Revolution.

Example single modules:

  • Gods, Guns and Globalization: A History of Religion in Africa
  • East Asia in the Historical Perspective
  • Health, Wealth and Happiness
  • History of American Capitalism.

We review course structures and core content (in light of e.g. external and student feedback) every year, and will publish finalised core requirements for 2021 entry from September 2020.

Study Abroad

The Department participates in the University-wide overseas exchanges with:

  • Boston College (USA)
  • the University of British Columbia (Canada)
  • the University of Hong Kong (China) 
  • the National University of Singapore (Singapore).

Students can apply to spend an additional year of study abroad. This is normally taken between the second and third years of the degree. If you study on the four-year Joint Honours Modern European Languages and History degree, you will spend your third year abroad at a European university or a work placement as part of the University’s ERASMUS exchanges.

Placement Year*

You can opt to take a 40 week paid internship (Placement Year) in any country, in your second year of study. If you opt to apply to take a Placement Year you will have the support of the University’s Faculty Placement Officers, to help find placements across many sectors, as well as support from the Department’s own representative. You will be required to undertake an assessment to pass the placement year.

* subject to approval

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Course Learning and Teaching

The BA (Hons) History degree is directed towards acquisition of a high standard of skills in research, analysis and expression, both written and oral. As a student on the course, you will receive an average of 6.5 hours of timetabled contact per week over the course of the degree. This will include a combination of lectures, seminars, and tutorials. The balance between these activities will change over the course of the degree as you develop your knowledge and abilities as an independent learner.

Timetabled contact is only the beginning of your learning. It provides a starting-point for your development as an independent, self-motivated learner. In the first year, you will spend around 75% of your term-time working hours in independent research; by the final year, this will rise to around 90%. As the QAA History Subject Benchmark statement makes clear (sec 6.6): ‘Most of a history student’s time is spent working independently, reading, thinking and writing’.

In the first year, you will receive around 8.5 hours of timetabled contact each week. The six modules provide an induction into the discipline of advanced historical study. They offer engagement with different periods and approaches to the study of the past, and experience of the way in which History, as a community of practice, encompasses the diversity of the human experience. Lectures introduce broad historical questions and offer contextualisation and critical commentary; seminars provide an opportunity for you to develop your critical skills through discussion for which you will have prepared in advance. A resource package for each module, provided through the online learning environment and as a physical handbook, will guide your independent research. You will also attend sessions on study skills, tailored to the discipline, covering library resources, note-taking, seminar work and essay writing.

In the second year, there is an increased emphasis on the development of critical and analytical skills. The curriculum continues to require you to engage with a range of periods and styles of historical study, with modules introducing new problems in a more specific framework. One compulsory module develops the induction into the community of practice through progression to a research-led seminar-based learning style. In view of the increased role of smaller-group work, which requires more independent preparation by students, the average timetabled contact time in Year 2 is 7.5 hours per week.

In the third year you will be expected to take further responsibility for managing your own time. The curriculum, while continuing to offer support and guidance, will require you to use the skills in independent study and time management which you have developed in the two preceding years. The Dissertation, in particular, requires you to establish your own research agenda and identify primary historical sources and extended reading lists, giving you the opportunity to engage, at an advanced level, with creative cutting-edge research at the forefront of the discipline. In your Special Subject you will be involved in a seminar group which meets each week to discuss the interpretation of chosen primary sources and to interrogate the secondary literature. You will be expected to spend at least 35 hours each week in independent research, and for this reason timetabled contact is limited to an average of 4.5 hours each week.

Throughout the degree you will also benefit from the ready accessibility of staff, who will respond to emails within two working days, and each of whom sets aside two hours each week in which students may drop in to see them. This un-timetabled one-to-one contact usually focuses on a specific issue of analysis or argument and gives students a strong sense of personal engagement with learning. You will be encouraged to attend the Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including its research seminar series, and public lectures from high-profile guest speakers and other events organised by the student-run History Society. In addition to this, you will be invited to attend regular events organised jointly by the department and the Careers and Enterprise Centre.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A level offer - A*AA including History

Cambridge Pre-U - D2D3D3 including History

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended Diploma – D*DD and History A level at grade A (or equivalent) is required

IB Diploma score - 38 with 666 at Higher Level including History

Scottish Advanced Highers – A, A, A in Advanced Highers including History or, if Advanced Highers are not available, A, A, A, A, A in Highers including History

Welsh Baccalaureate - Pass with C at core with A* and A at A level (or equivalent), with at least an 'A' in A level History.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • Ancient History’ is not accepted in lieu of ‘History’. 
  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • Applications for deferred entry may be considered in special circumstances. Please contact us using 
  • We welcome applicants who have taken Global and Independent Research Cambridge Pre-U and Extended Project Qualification. These qualifications, however, do not form part of our offer. 
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.


English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,730.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,730.00 per year

The tuition fees shown for home and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities


We offer our students exceptional opportunities that will help you become critically and socially engaged graduates of the highest calibre.

As a department we help you reflect academically on your progress as you develop into a mature historian, and develop the many advanced skills you will acquire alongside your degree. These skills can be harnessed for your career, allowing you to articulate your degree-specific skills in an outward-facing manner.

This strategy is at the very centre of our planning, which we have woven into our learning, teaching and planning. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that our graduates have gone on to find successful careers in a wide variety of fields, from the civil service, law, banking and business, to teaching, media, journalism, the military and further study.


When applying for roles many employers will ask you to supply academic references from one of your tutors. We always advise that you should approach tutors who know you and your work well, such as a special subject or dissertation tutor.

To help guide you with this process we arrange for advisors from the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre provide short presentations to each year group as part of joined up sessions with an Academic Careers Contact and the Head of Undergraduate Studies:

  • Year 1 covers an introduction to developing employability skills.
  • Year 2 focus on internships /work experience.
  • Year 3 focus on graduate schemes /recruitment cycle/ effective on-line applications

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information



We have one of the most highly regarded history departments in the UK and our students love being here. This reputation is the product of the quality and commitment of our staff, and the breadth of our teaching, which reflects the research interests of a Department with an international outlook.

We offer modules covering periods from the Middle Ages to the present and many different parts of the world: Chinese, Japanese, African and US history are all taught at Durham University, alongside British and other European history.  Our degree courses reflect the rich variety of modern historical writing, including cultural, media and gender history as well as political, religious, social and economic history. We are proud to attract so many bright and articulate students; our students achieve excellent results, and proceed to successful careers in both the private and public sectors.


  • World Top 50 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2020
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2020.
  • 3rd in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020.


For a current list of staff, please see the History Department web pages.


Located in the historic heart of Durham City, the Department is close to the World Heritage Site of the Cathedral and Castle. We have excellent libraries, containing archives and book collections of international significance and providing access to a huge range of teaching and online resources, which make us a perfect choice for undergraduate study. Teaching takes place in lecture halls in various areas of the University site, and for smaller groups in staff offices and seminar rooms, many fitted with state-of-the-art IT equipment and mostly located in the Department premises at 43 North Bailey.