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QV21 English Literature and History BA Undergraduate  2016


UCAS code QV21
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

Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 2576

Course Content


Joint Honours in English and History is a cross-disciplinary course, which develops and assesses skills that are common to both disciplines alongside others that are specific to each. The course offers the opportunity to acquire a range of both literary-critical and historical knowledge, develops the ability to deploy and contextualise a number of subject-specific skills in each discipline, and locates these skills and forms of knowledge in relation to one another.

Year 1

In the first year, you will take three modules in English literature and three modules in History.

Compulsory modules in English:

  • Introduction to Drama
  • Introduction to the Novel
  • Introduction to Poetry.

Optional modules in History (examples include):

  • Tensions of Empire: British Imperialism 1763-1963
  • Reformation Europe, 1500-1650
  • New Heaven, New Earth: Latin Christendom and the World, 1000-1300
  • The Birth of Western Society, 300-1050 AD
  • The Making of Modern Africa: change and adaptation in sub-Saharan Africa, 1880-2000.

Year 2

In English, you have a wide choice from among lecture and seminar modules, but must take either Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism or Shakespeare. In History, you are offered modules that provide time-depth and focus on a closely defined period, and modules that are broader and more wide ranging, typically offering a widely delimited chronological and geographical approach.

Compulsory modules in English:


  • Theory and Practice of Literary Criticism
  • Shakespeare

(although both may be selected).

Optional lecture modules in English (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials):

  • Medieval Literature
  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Victorian Literature
  • Literature of the Modern Period
  • American Poetry.

Optional seminar modules in English (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars):

  • Modern Poetry
  • Germanic Myth and Legend
  • The Australian Legend
  • Toni Morrison: Texts and Contexts
  • John Milton
  • Evelyn Waugh (a maximum of one may be selected).

Optional modules in History (examples include):

  • Hard Times: British Society c. 1800-1901
  • Modern China’s Transformations
  • The American Half-century: the United States since 1945
  • The King’s Two Bodies: Rulership in Late Medieval Europe
  • The Ottoman World, 1400-1700.

Year 3

In English, the combination of a range of optional lecture modules and Special Topics is designed to broaden and deepen your knowledge base and analytical skills. In History, the syllabus encourages the detailed study and analysis of historical events, trends and problems by means of a Special Subject (requiring close study of a highly specialised topic using primary source materials) and a Dissertation. The third year also includes the possibility of choosing ‘reflective’ modules which oblige students to study a particular historical problem that will lead them to reflect upon the problematical nature of the historical enterprise, on its technique, historiography and subjectivity.

Compulsory modules:

One from:

  • Dissertation in English
  • Dissertation in History (40 credits).

Optional lecture modules in English (taught by weekly lectures and four one-hour tutorials):

  • Old English
  • Old Norse
  • Old French
  • Restoration and 18th Century Literature
  • Literature of the Romantic Period
  • Post-War Fiction and Poetry
  • American Poetry.

Optional Special Topics in English (taught by fortnightly two-hour seminars):

  • Literature, Cinema and Neuroscience
  • Shakespeare on Film
  • Shakespeare’s Problem Plays
  • US Cold War Literature and Culture
  • Writing Prose Fiction
  • Fictions of Terrorism
  • W. B. Yeats
  • Elizabeth Bishop and Twentieth-Century Verse
  • A Society of Equals? Literature, Culture and Equality
  • Creative Writing Poetry
  • Contemporary Mountain Writing.

Optional modules in History (examples include):

  • A World Turned Upside Down: Radicalism in the English Revolution
  • The Disappearance of Claudine Rouge: Murder, Mystery and Microhistory in Early Modern France
  • Light Beyond the Limes: the Christianisation of Pagan Europe, 300-1000
  • From War to Cold War: US Foreign Policy, c. 1944-1948.

Course Learning and Teaching

Students studying English Literature & History at Durham University typically receive 8 contact hours per week in the first year, 7 in the second year and 5-6 in the third year (lectures, tutorials and seminars) per week. Timetabled contact is only the beginning of your learning. It provides a starting-point for your development as an independent, self-motivated learner. In addition, the course requires a very considerable amount of directed independent learning: a minimum of 30-35 hours per week, comprised of reading primary and secondary sources, writing formative and assessed essays, and preparation of tutorial and seminar assignments.

From the outset the Departments cultivate an ethos of research-led teaching and focus on the acquisition of specialist study skills, as well as transferable skills. Throughout, particular emphasis is placed on small group teaching and individual academic development. The balance of contact hours across the course reflects individual progression in research, analysis and writing.

In the first year, a choice of six modules provides an induction into the disciplines of literature and advanced historical study. English modules cover the main genres, historical periods, contexts and backgrounds to English literature, while History modules 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 questions and offer contextualisation and critical commentary; seminars and tutorials provide an opportunity for students to develop their critical skills through discussion for which they have prepared in advance. Timetabled classes are supported by resource packages for each module, provided through the on-line learning environment, to guide your independent research. Formative work, sessions on study skills, and essay handback sessions help to develop specialist research, analytical and writing skills.

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 literary and historical study, with modules introducing new problems in a more specific framework. You will take at least two, and up to four, modules in each discipline. This may include one or two English special topic modules, taught in 2-hour, fortnightly seminar sessions, which often include individual or group presentations. In view of the increased role of smaller-group work, which requires more independent preparation by students, the average timetabled contact time at Level 2 is 7 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. This will culminate with the dissertation, a large research project undertaken in either the History or English Department, giving you the opportunity to engage, at an advanced level, with creative cutting-edge research at the forefront of the discipline.

In addition to your dissertation, during the third year you will have the opportunity to take a further special topic and further lecture modules within the English Department. You will also undertake further modules within History, these may include a Special Subject module based around 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 5-6 hours each week.

Throughout the programme you will be encouraged to participate in each Department’s extensive programme of research-related activities, including public lectures, special guest lectures, and lectures, readings and workshops by visiting UK and overseas academics and creative writers, and other events organised by the student-run History Society. In addition, students are invited to attend regular lectures and workshops on personal development and employment prospects, organised jointly by the Departments and the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre. Alongside College mentors, designated year tutors, module tutors, seminar leaders and module conveners are available to offer advice as appropriate.

Admissions Process

Subjects required, level and grade

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

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or from those who may have had a break in their study.
  • We require Grade A in History and English Literature for English Literature and History (QV21)
  • We require a Grade A* in any subject
  • We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking as part of our offer
  • We will be reviewing our entry requirements for 2016 entry in the summer of 2015 and will publish finalised entry requirements for 2016 entry on the University’s website and at UCAS before 1 September 2015
  • We welcome enquiries regarding applications for deferred entry which may be considered in special circumstances. Please contact our Admissions Secretary.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

Requirements and Admissions

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,000.00
Home Student £9,000.00
Island Student £9,000.00
International non-EU Student £16,500.00

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities


History students at Durham acquire a range of intellectual and general skills which make them very attractive to employers. These skills include: researching, evaluating, organizing and presenting material; clarity and correctness of expression; discrimination and judgement; self-discipline and capacity for extended independent work; appreciation of the validity of the views of others, and imaginative insight.

All these skills and aptitudes make Durham students suitable for a variety of careers from the civil service to law, banking and business, journalism and the media, teaching and academia.

Of thse students who graduated in 2014:

  • 86% are in paid employment or further study 6 months after graduation

Of those in employment:

  • 90% are in graduate level employment
  • Median salary £23,300

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2014/14 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found here:

A significant number of students progress onto higher level study following their degree in History. Some remain within their academic field of interest and pursue a Masters, notably at Durham but also other prestigious institutions . Others take a different route and pursue professional postgraduate programmes in law, finance, teaching and curating to name but a few. As one of the outstanding history departments in the UK, we are delighted that many of our undergraduates choose to continue to study here for Masters degrees or PhDs. We have an excellent reputation as a centre for training historians at higher levels. The skills that higher degrees can bring are valued very highly by a wide range of employers - a PhD can be a passport to a high-ranking job in the civil service, for example, as well as teaching in higher education.

Reading history at Durham has given me an expansive skill set being able to analyse large quantities of information and to successfully identify and condense key points which matter strategically to our clients. Being able to prioritise tasks and being able to work efficiently on your own as well as within teams to meet every client deadline is essential; the development of strong time management skills as a history undergraduate at Durham has facilitated my ability to manage workload, meet deadlines and excel under pressure.

Employment development opportunities

Just as we help you to reflect academically on your progress as you develop into a mature historian, so we also want you to reflect on how the many advanced skills you are acquiring can be harnessed for your career. We want you to become 'outward-facing' so that you can talk to employers about how you've developed through your degree, and what you bring to their commercial environment.

Helping students to articulate their degree-specific skills in an 'outward-facing' way is at the very centre of our strategic planning as we adapt our curriculum. We have woven this into our planning and strategy These skills are woven into much of the work you do in our degree programme. It is no surprise, therefore, to find that our graduates have gone on to 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.

Employers generally divide the skills they look for into three broad areas:

  • self reliance
  • people skills
  • general employment

The History degree programme develops a number of specific qualities that employers value in particular:

  • creativity
  • flexibility
  • leadership
  • confidence
  • the ability to express views orally and in writing
  • integrity
  • a strong work ethic
  • initiative
  • problem-solving
  • team-work
  • time management
  • organization
  • and, above all, independence.


Many employers ask you to supply academic references, from one of your tutors. Your tutors are usually very happy to help with this, though the provision of references is at the individual tutor's discretion. You should ask tutors who know you and your work well, such as a special subject or dissertation tutor.

Advisors from the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre provide short presentations to each year group as part of joined up session with academic careers contact and 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

We welcome applications from candidates who are studying for law or non-law degree subjects and approximately 45% of our graduate intake each year is made up of non-lawyers. Of our non-law graduates, we recruit a lot of Historians and we are confident that the degree helps our trainees to utilise and continue to develop key skills which are highly relevant for a career as a lawyer in an global practice. Such skills include analysis, deduction, dealing with volume in an efficient manner and providing logical arguments.

Durham University History graduates progress into an incredibly diverse range of careers and employment sectors. The public, private and not-for-profits sectors are all strongly represented with graduates entering professions such as law, armed forces, banking, teaching, marketing, advertising, PR, accountancy, HR, consultancy, press officer, parliamentary research and archiving to name but a few. Examples of high profile recent employers include Deloitte, European Union, JP Morgan, Slaughter & May, Watson Wyatt, Weber Shandwick, Marks & Spencer, Centrica, Royal Marines, Churchill Archives Centre.

English Studies

Durham has an excellent graduate employment record. Surveys by the CVCP for the last twenty years have shown Durham consistently in the top five places of the employment league table. Our graduates have gone on to careers in the media, law, the Civil Service, teaching, higher education,research, management, publishing, and the arts. Partly because of its supportive collegiate structure and its strong departmental teaching, the Durham University is regularly among the country's top performers in graduate employment, and the Department of English Studies is very highly regarded by employers. Many of our students choose to continue their studies with our Taught MA in English Literary Studies.

Embarking on a career with the BBC after graduation I found that Durham University is held in very high esteem amongst employers. The University name provided me with an association of prestige which helped to give an edge in a competitive market.

Of those students that left in 2014:

- 89% are in employment or further study

Of those in employment:

- 82% are in graduate level employment
- Median salary £22,400

(These statistics are based on the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2013/413 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found here:

Employment development opportunities

The Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre works extremely closely with the English Department to ensure that current students receive information and vacancies relevant to their needs. Innovative talks take place by a Careers Adviser and external speakers to ensure that the students receive the most relevant and up to date advice about professions that English students are attracted too.

Durham is a target Univerity for KPMG because of the high calibre, high quality graduates. A degree in English from Durham is a great opportunity for students to develop their skill set to aid them in any recruitment process. To make an impact with colleagues and clients, you must be able to communicate clearly and confidently, both verbally and in writing.

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:

Campus Tours

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information



Durham – an excellent History Department in a unique historical location.

Durham University has 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, 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, 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 private and public sectors.

  • Ranked in the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015.
  • 99% of our History students were satisfied with the quality of their course in the National Student Survey 2014 (sector-wide average 91%).
  • 2nd in The Complete University Guide 2016.
  • 2nd in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2015.
  • 2nd in The Guardian University Guide 2015.

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.


English Studies


From the Vikings to Shakespeare’s Kings; from ‘Beowulf’ to Virginia Woolf. You can read it all at Durham University.

English Studies will appeal to people with a sensitivity to language, a love of reading and a sense of intellectual adventure. As poet Lawrence of Durham put it over 800 years ago, “Describing art in words itself takes art”. Not only does the Department of English Studies provide a thorough grounding in literary theory and the ‘great tradition’ of English literature – from Chaucer and Shakespeare through to plays, poems and novels written in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – it also offers a wide range of imaginative and carefully designed modules.

You will have the opportunity to study English-language literature in a variety of non-British contexts, including Ireland, Canada, Australia and the USA; and/or to study some of the languages used in Medieval England, such as Old Norse, Old French and Old English. English Studies is a very popular and highly regarded degree, and the linguistic, critical and analytical skills that it teaches are highly transferable.

  • Ranked joint 3rd in the UK for Internationally Excellent and World-leading research (REF 2014).
  • Ranked in the top 50 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015.
  • 95% of our English Studies students said they were satisfied with the quality of their course in the National Student Survey 2014 (sector-wide average 89%).
  • 1st in The Complete University Guide 2016.
  • 2nd in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2015.
  • 3rd in The Guardian University Guide 2015.

The Department is housed in a Grade II listed building, Hallgarth House, and in Elvet Riverside and Old Elvet. All three buildings are close to the University’s Bill Bryson Library and the special collections in the Palace Green Library. The Department has strong links with the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Centre for Seventeenth Century Studies, the Centre for Medical Humanities, the Centre for Poetry and Poetics, which oversees the archive of the distinguished Northumbrian modernist poet, Basil Bunting, and the Institute of Advanced Study.

These internationally recognised institutions represent just some of the research interests and archive resources within the University. Durham students run their own English Society, which provides many opportunities for theatre visits, especially to the Royal Shakespeare Company season in Newcastle every year. There is also a strong tradition of student drama and music within the Department and the University as a whole.


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