The College offers particularly strong teaching in all periods of History. There are two full Fellows in History: Dr Ruth Harris, who specializes in cultural and social history of nineteenth and twentieth century France and Europe, and Dr David Parrott, who works on sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe, though with particular reference to France also. They are supported by college lecturers, including Dr Christopher Tyerman, Fellow and Tutor at Hertford College, whose research focus is on the Crusades, and who teaches a wide range of medieval history. A further New College Fellow, Mr Robin Lane-Fox, specializes in the world of Ancient Greece, and teaches a range of Ancient History courses within the College.
Students accepted for History must take a first-year course, culminating in the Preliminary Examination. This course consists of one period of British History and one of General History (Europe and the wider world), both taught through tutorials and lectures, and providing the opportunity to explore unfamiliar periods and subject matter in a more demanding way than at A-level. Candidates are also required to take a paper either in historiography, or an intensive study of a historical text in a foreign language, or a paper exploring various “approaches to history” - the ways in which other disciplines have shaped recent historical study. In the summer term students take an “Optional Subject”, which provides an opportunity to engage with primary source material and focuses on a more specific topic than the outline courses.
In the second two years of the course, students have the opportunity to diversify their studies via a range of outline courses, further subjects and special subjects, where they benefit from the exceptionally wide range of topics offered by Oxford’s History Faculty, the largest in Europe. Such teaching frequently takes place with outside tutors, and the New College tutors will set up tuition with colleagues in other Colleges as required. The most demanding specialist paper is the Special Subject and is taken in the first term of the third year. Students will engage with a specialist historiography, examine extensive primary sources and will be assessed via an extended essay. In the third year they will also be expected to write a thesis on a research topic of their own choice, though with the guidance of individually appointed thesis advisors.
New College would normally expect successful applicants to be taking History at A-Level, or its equivalent qualifications. Candidates are, in addition, expected to offer two further A-Levels or equivalents in any academically rigorous arts or science subjects. There is no requirement to have qualifications in foreign languages to apply for the History degree, but obviously they are an asset in subsequent study.