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Study History and Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge

History and Modern Languages

Fact File

Magdalene Campus code: M
UCAS code: VR18
Course duration: Four years – BA (Hons)
Typical offer: A-level: A*AA, IB: 41-42 points
Essential subjects: Languages, History
Useful subjects: None

The 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.

Students will also develop analytical skills in History through a wide range of topics in European History, 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.

The languages available for study are: German, Italian, Russian and Spanish from scratch or post A-level/equivalent; Portuguese from scratch; and French post A-level/ equivalent.


At Cambridge
At Magdalene
What we are looking for
Subject Requirements
Teaching Staff

If you want advanced language skills, a deep understanding of the regions in which that language is used, and a wider knowledge of European and extra-European history, this could be the degree for you.

The course lasts for four years and includes a year abroad. In the first year (Part IA), you will enhance your language skills and study a paper related to the history or culture of the relevant country. You also study two papers from the History Faculty, in European History, World History, or the History of Political Thought. You continue your advanced language study in the second year (Part IB) and study three further additional papers (at least one from History and one from MML).

Part II of the course encompasses the third and fourth years of study. Following your third year abroad you return to Cambridge for the final year of your degree. This year includes further language study, including an Advanced Oral examination, and three advanced papers chosen from a wide range in both Faculties. You also have the option of submitting a 10,000 word dissertation in place of one of these papers.

More information about the course can be found here on the MML Faculty website.

Both Cambridge Faculties are regarded worldwide as leaders in their respective fields. The History Faculty 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 is one of 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.

Magdalene has flourishing communities of historians and linguists of which students reading History and Modern Languages will become a full part. As well as the College Lecturers (listed under the 'Teaching Staff' tab, above), there are a large number of Research and other Fellows in both History and in Modern and Medieval Languages. These include Professor Nicholas Boyle (Emeritus Professor of German), Professor Eamon Duffy (Emeritus Professor of the History of Christianity), Dr Annja Naumann (Senior Research Fellow in German) and Dr Yonatan Glazer-Eytan (specialist on Medieval and Early Modern Spain).

We welcome applications for any of the possible combinations.

The best preparation for applying to Magdalene, and for interview, is to read as widely as you can. For History and Modern Languages this can be in History, literature, current affairs and any other cultural ‘outputs’. There are no ‘set texts’ that we prescribe, but try and extend your reading around what you may have studied at school, and look beyond it to other periods, places and genres.  Follow your own interests and develop them. An enthusiasm for the subject is vital to studying at university, and, when you apply for a place, reading is the best way of demonstrating this. There is excellent advice on how to go about this on both Faculties’ websites: the History Faculty’s  ‘Virtual Classroom’, and Modern Languages.

We are looking for the most academically promising candidates (those able and willing to think for themselves, and well motivated towards our course), whatever the languages they propose to study, and there is no quota for any language.

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.

All Colleges require A-level/IB Higher Level in the language if this language is to be studied at post A-level. For languages taken up from scratch we expect to see an interest in the culture where the language is spoken and an aptitude for language learning.This may, for example, be a strong performance in one or more foreign languages at GCSE or AS-level. We also expect applicants for History and Modern Languages to be studying A-level/IB Higher Level (or equivalent) in History.

Our typical conditional offer for History and Modern Languages is A*AA (with the A* not necessarily in a specific subject) at A-level. IB offers are usually for a total of 41-42 points, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.

Interviews, Written Work, and Assessments

Applicants should normally expect two interviews, one with two college teachers in History and one with two linguists. 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. These should ideally be in the form of marked school essays. At least one should be on a historical subject.

Applicants invited for interview will also take a written assessment. The assessment for History and Modern Languages is a Cambridge College-registered assessment. This means you will not need to register for this assessment in advance and the College will provide details directly to you.

This is the same assessment as that taken by applicants for MML.

The assessment will last for one hour and consist of two sections: a discursive response in a foreign language (40 minutes) and a discursive response in English (20 minutes). More details about the format of the assessment, including some sample questions, can be found here. Please note that your performance in the written assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

Ms Silke Mentchen

College positions: Official Fellow, Director of Studies in Modern and Medieval Languages, Joint Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages (Part IA and Year Abroad), Tutor

Ms Silke Mentchen is a Senior Language Teaching Officer in the Section of German and Dutch and a Fellow and College Lecturer in German at Magdalene, she is Director of Studies for MML students.

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Dr Hugues Azerad

College positions: Official Fellow, Director of Studies in Modern and Medieval Languages, Joint Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages (Parts IB and II), Harassment Officer

Hugues Azérad specialises in comparative literature, modernisms, romanticism, aesthetics and postcolonial theory.

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Professor Saul Dubow

College positions: Professorial Fellow, Garden Steward

Professor Saul Dubow is the Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History. His teaching and research concentrates on the history of modern South Africa from the early-nineteenth century to the present.

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Mrs Silvia González Jové

College positions: College Lecturer in Modern and Medieval Languages

Mrs Silvia González Jové is a College Lecturer in Modern and Medieval Languages and Spanish Lectora at Magdalene.


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Professor Tim Harper

College positions: Professorial Fellow

Professor Tim Harper is Professor of the History of Southeast Asia.

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Dr Christina Skott

College positions: Life Fellow, Acting Director of Studies in History (Part I), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages (Part I), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics (Part I)

Dr Christina Skott is a Life Fellow at Magdalene. She is Acting Director of Studies in History (Part I) and Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics (Part I). Her work focuses on the history of Southeast Asia and European colonialism in Asia in the long Early Modern era.

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Professor Carl Watkins

College positions: Official Fellow, Acting Director of Studies in History (Part II), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Modern Languages (Part II), Acting Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics (Part II), Tutor

Professor Carl Watkins is a medieval historian who works on religious culture in the central and later middle ages, especially on beliefs about, and conceptualisations of, the supernatural.

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Dr Jessica Patterson

College positions: Official Fellow, College Lecturer in History

Dr Jessica Patterson is a College Lecturer in History & Politics, History & Modern Languages, and First Year History, at Magdalene.

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