History and Modern Languages

The new joint degree in History and Modern Languages combines the best of both subjects. It offers the opportunity to develop near native-speaker skills in a foreign language while studying a range of papers relating to the culture and history of the relevant language area; options in some languages also include film and contemporary politics. Students will also develop analytical skills in History through a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history, as well as the history of political thought. There will be opportunities to work with historical sources in foreign languages. As for other language students, those who take this course will spend their third year studying or working abroad, thereby immersing themselves in the language, culture, history and politics of a foreign country.

For 2018 entry, the languages available for study will be:

  • French (post-A level)
  • German (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Spanish (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Italian (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Portuguese (from scratch)
  • Russian (from scratch or post-A Level)


Both faculties are regarded worldwide as leaders in their respective fields. The History Faculty (http://www.hist.cam.ac.uk) is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Modern Languages Faculty (http://www.mml.cam.ac.uk) is the largest in the United Kingdom and also consistently rated as one of the best. It offers an unrivalled range of courses taught by leading scholars. The library resources in Cambridge, which support teaching and research in both Faculties, are world-class; the University also has extensive collections of films in all relevant languages.

History and Modern Languages at Pembroke College

Pembroke’s History fellows in History and Modern Languages strongly support this joint honours degree. An ability to work in languages other than English is essential for some historical research at PhD level and beyond (though not at undergraduate level, where the tripos can be done with no languages at A Level). Thus the administrative Latin of medieval and early modern Britain is fundamental to the work of Dr Caroline Burt and Dr Paul Cavill. Environmental history more than some other forms of history cuts across linguistic and national barriers, and Dr Paul Warde therefore conducts his research in several European languages. Dr Henning Grunwald and Dr Waseem Yaqoob specialise in the history of twentieth-century Germany, Dr Grunwald in political, legal, and governing cultures and Dr Yaqoob in intellectual history. Modern British history is represented by Professor Jon Parry, who is presently researching the Victorian era’s attitudes to the Middle East, and by Dr Emily Jones, who works on intellectual and political thought across the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Pembroke’s Modern Linguists have varied interests in historical topics. Professor Chris Young’s work straddles medieval chronicles and the history of sport and the media in modern Germany, Europe and the Cold War. Professor Sylvia Huot and Dr Ambrogio Camozzi specialise in medieval France and Italy, and are interested in a broad range of cultural-historical topics, from literature to the history of art, the history of the book, cultural attitudes about madness and identity, and the postcolonial. Collectively, we are excited about the opportunities the new joint degree in History and Modern Languages will afford students.

Course requirements

Applicants will have a variety of relevant examination qualifications, though not necessarily in both languages and history; they will be expected to demonstrate an interest in both subjects and will be assessed on their potential to succeed in them. We require A-Level/IB Higher level in the language you are proposing to study at Cambridge (unless you are applying for a language which can be studied from scratch, namely German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Russian). If a student proposes to take a language from scratch, we require some evidence of language ability, usually in the form of an A Level or equivalent in another language.

The application process

Candidates should normally expect two interviews, one in each subject. Applicants should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow. Applicants should submit two examples of recent work, which will be available to interviewers. Prior to the interview in Cambridge applicants will take an admissions assessment in history. Applicants for post-A-level languages will also take a written assessment in College, based on a short text in English that we will supply. This hour-long assessment is designed to assess writing skills in a foreign language, the ability to understand an intellectual argument, and to write in English. No special preparation or prior knowledge is required.  Applicants for languages from scratch will be assessed for language aptitude in interview.