Oxford Undergraduate History Thesis Statement

Oxford is celebrated for the broad chronological sweep of its courses and the enormous amount of choice offered to students. Students can study options on any part of British and European history from the declining years of the Roman Empire to the present day. The geographical range is also broad: there are options on North American, Latin American, Asian and African history (see History website for further details). Students are encouraged to adopt a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to their work, and the faculty is strong on intellectual and cultural history options. The Oxford History Faculty is at the forefront of research.

History Careers

History graduates go on to follow careers in fields such as law, investment banking and consultancies, advertising, accountancy, the Civil Service, publishing, journalism and the media, global charity work, museums, librarianship and archive work, and teaching. Recent graduates include a civil servant at the Department of Health, an investment management associate and a barrister.

Edward, a curator, says: ‘My degree helped me acquire a position with the Pendle Heritage Centre and then at Historic Scotland. Afterwards I became a curator for the National Museum of the US Navy.’

David is a history teacher at Taunton School. He says: ‘A History degree was a prerequisite to teaching history to A-level and IB, but the Oxford degree accelerated my career path, allowing me to step straight into a position at an academic school. I use my degree on a daily basis, in teaching a wide range of historical topics as well as advising students about Oxford.’

Robin is the Managing Director of Schneider-Ross. He says: ‘On graduating, I joined Esso UK. Having met my wife there, in 1989 we decided to set up our own consultancy, Schneider-Ross, specialising in global diversity and inclusion. I feel History gave me all the skills I’ve called on to analyse data, make arguments and convince people of the need to change… and the confidence to work at board level with FTSE 100 companies (it’s just like a tutorial really).’

Sian says: ‘Since graduating I have worked as assistant brand manager on Pringles and Braun at Procter & Gamble. My degree taught me analytical skills, time management and the ability to think critically, all of which are crucial in my role.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Archaeology and Anthropology, Classical Archaeology and Ancient History, other History courses or History of Art.

A typical weekly timetable

Students are expected to attend about five lectures a week during the first year, participate in regular meetings with tutors to discuss work, research in libraries and write at least one essay a week. In the second and third years students choose from an enormous variety of lectures and their regular tutorials are supplemented by faculty classes where they discuss work with a larger number of students. The thesis gives all students the opportunity to engage in a piece of independent research. Throughout the course, students are very much in charge of their own timetable.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

1st year


Four courses are taken:

  • History of the British Isles
  • European and world history
  • Historical methods (choice of Approaches to history; Historiography: Tacitus to Weber; Quantification; one of several foreign text papers)
  • Optional subject (choice of around 20 including: Theories of the state; Making England Protestant, 1558–1642; The rise and crises of European socialisms, 1881–1921; Radicalism in Britain, 1965–75)


First University examinations: Four written papers

2nd and 3rd years


Six courses are taken:

  • History of the British Isles
  • European and world history
  • Further subject (choice of about 35, including: China since 1900; The Near East in the age of Justinian and Muhammad, c527–700; The Middle East in the age of empire, 1830–1971; The authority of nature: Race, heredity and crime, 1800–1940; Culture, politics and identity in Cold War Europe 1945–68; Britain at the movies: Film and national identity since 1914)
  • Special subject: a paper and an extended essay (choice of about 30, including: The Norman conquest of England; Politics, art and culture in the Italian Renaissance, Venice and Florence c1475–1525; The Scientific Movement in the 17th century; English architecture, 1660–1720; Race, religion and resistance in the US, from Jim Crow to Civil Rights; Britain in the seventies; Terror and forced labour in Stalin’s Russia; From Gandhi to the Green Revolution: India, independence and modernity, 1947–73; Nazi Germany, a racial order, 1933–45; The Northern Ireland troubles, 1965–85)
  • Disciplines of history
  • Thesis
For the latest information on all course details and options see the History website.


Final University examinations: Four written papers; one portfolio of submitted essays; one extended essay; one thesis; an additional thesis may be offered
Some essays are submitted in year 2.

Your Thesis

Every undergraduate taking the BA in Single Subject History must submit a thesis as part of the fulfillment of their Final Examination. The History Faculty has guidance on the Thesis on WebLearn.

2nd years: Hilary and Trinity Terms: Research skills training sessions take place in Hilary Term; the Thesis Fair will take place in the first week of Trinity Term. These can help you get ideas for your topics and meet specialists.

Then get your research skills upgraded and attending a variety of lectures, information sessions and workshops which are organised by the HFL and in colleges. 

3rd years: Michaelmas Term, Friday of 6th week: You need to submit your thesis title.

3rd years: Hilary Term, 1pm, Friday of 4th week: Deadline for making changes to your title.

3rd years: Hilary Term, noon of Friday of 8th week: You need to submit your thesis.


What the library can do for you: find, purchase, citing help 

Find materials

Check out guides to history collections for some ideas.

Browse printed sources

British & Western European history: The Upper Reading Room in the Old Bodleian Library houses the open-shelf collections for British and Western European history (medieval to 20th century). They will include printed sources, often transcribed from manuscripts, such as chronicles, individuals and family papers, papers of monasteries, statesmen, etc. It's well worth a browse to get some ideas. Browse anything in the shelfmark range K.3-10.

English local history: The Duke Humfrey's Library in the Old Bodleian Library houses the open-shelf collections for local history. They are often fantastic source materials relevant for all periods but particularly medieval and early modern. Browse anything in the shelfmark range R.Top.

Other countries (US, Africa, Commonwealth, Middle East, Far East): If you are interested in the histories of other countries or topics, check out the list of college and Oxford libraries useful for historians.

Access to special collections

You will be using libraries and possibly archives to locate sources and critical materials, whether locally or elsewhere, so it is worthwhile honing your search skills and learning more useful finding aids. More on training.

The Bodleian Library's special collections (rare books, manuscripts, maps) are held in the newly opened Weston Library. If you are going to be using the manuscripts and rare books collections of the Bodleian Library, then email specialcollections.enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk with the name of your course, the title/subject of your dissertation and the name of your supervisor.

Using the British Library (BL)

Consider using Britain's national library, the British Library nr St Pancras in London. You can search their catalogue online (Explore The BL). The BL has many databases which are not available in Oxford. Check out the HFL tips on how to get started at the BL.


Purchase materials

Recommending purchases for the Bodleian / History Faculty Library

If a book is not available in Oxford, you are welcome to recommend a book to be purchased for the HFL or the Bodleian. Complete online book recommendation form.

If you need research materials, such as databases, microfilms, etc. please contact the History Librarian (e: isabel.holowaty@bodleian.ox.ac.uk) in the first instance. These can be very expensive and need further investigation. See policy on Provision of materials for undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations (pdf).


Cite materials

Faculty guidance on the presentation of essays, dissertations and thesis

It pays to learn early on what style conventions the History Faculty requires and what tools to use to collate and organise your citations.

Reference Management Software

Constructing a bibliography? Don't let the citations overwhelm you. There are tools to help and it is worthwhile learning about them early on. See the Managing Your References LibGuide. The recommended tools for undergraduate theses is RefWorks. Consider attending a course on RefWorks in Trinity Term.


Seek help 

Library staff are very happy to help you with literature searches, finding source materials, use library catalogues, databases, ejournals, etc. You can contact us in a variety of ways. You can also arrange a one-to-one session with the History Librarian (e:isabel.holowaty@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, t: (01865) 277294).

Some useful resources

Finding books

  • COPAC - search over 70 UK and Irish academic, national and specialist library catalogues (includes the British Library)
  • Explore the British Library - search the catalogue, incl. newspaper catalogue of Britain's national library
  • WorldCat - major union library catalogue with details of hundreds of US and international library catalogues, incl. Library of Congress
  • Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue - German national and regional libraries but also European national library catalogues

Dissertations & theses

Finding journal articles

> I want even more information on bibliographical databases.


Printed and electronic source materials

Check out some guides for source materials.

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