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Course summary

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 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, five 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 will be lower in second year. 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 for three hours each week to discuss the interpretation of chosen primary sources and to interrogate the secondary literature. 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.


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 four 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. 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’, you will 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. 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.

How to apply

This course has limited vacancies, and is no longer accepting applications from some students. See the list below for where you normally live, to check if you’re eligible to apply.






Northern Ireland

Republic of Ireland

Application codes

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Durham City
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Points of entry

The following entry points are available for this course:

  • Year 1

Entry requirements

Qualification requirements

We welcome enquiries regarding applications for deferred entry which may be considered in special circumstances. Please contact us using Our contextual offer for this programme is A level AAB (or equivalent) including History at grade A. To find out if you’re eligible, please visit:

Please click the following link to find out more about qualification requirements for this course

English language requirements

Durham University welcomes applications from all students irrespective of background. We encourage the recruitment of academically well-qualified and highly motivated students, who are non-native speakers of English, whose full potential can be realised with a limited amount of English Language training either prior to entry or through pre-sessional and/or in-sessional courses. It is the normal expectation that candidates for admission should be able to demonstrate satisfactory English proficiency before the start of a programme of study, whether via the submission of an appropriate English language qualification or by attendance on an appropriate pre-sessional course. Acceptable evidence and levels required can be viewed by following the link provided.

English language requirements

Unistats information

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees

Republic of Ireland £9250* Year 1
Channel Islands £9250* Year 1
EU £23900* Year 1
England £9250* Year 1
Northern Ireland £9250* Year 1
Scotland £9250* Year 1
Wales £9250* Year 1
International £23900* Year 1

*This is a provisional fee and subject to change.

Additional fee information

No additional fees or cost information has been supplied for this course, please contact the provider directly.
History at Durham University - UCAS