Department of History

Undergraduate study

Asian workers walking

Study history in the heart of Britain's oldest recorded town

Studying the history of our world is an essential component in understanding the present and shaping our future. It's a Historians' prerogative to uncover the past, to ask questions, and to inform others about their work.

At undergraduate level, you can choose from a variety of exciting degrees. You can study the impact of political, social and cultural change on individuals and social groups spanning Europe, North and South America, Asia, and Southern Africa, identifying patterns of continuity and change which have shaped the world since the fifteenth century and delving deeply into topics such as the rise of British democracy in Europe, the significance of gender and class in modern Britain, the Russian Revolution, the impacts of transatlantic slavery, the apartheid regime in South Africa, and twentieth century China, among many others.

Studying history at Essex also gives you the unique opportunity to combine your degree with other subjects too, such as Human Rights, International Relations, Film, Literature, Politics, Economics, Criminology and Sociology. Choosing a joint honours course is an excellent idea if you’re interested in contemporary topics such as globalisation, mass media culture, global politics, criminal justice, and climate change to name a few.

The skills from a history degree offer many different career prospects and opens many doors. Whichever undergraduate degree you choose, you will develop a careers portfolio under the direction of our expert staff and our Careers Service, to guide and support you in finding and exploring these opportunities.

Thinking about which history degree is right for you? We can help you decide.


Explore our undergraduate courses

Undergraduate study

Why should you study an undergraduate degree in history?

Studying history helps us to understand the contemporary world, allowing us to comprehend how we got where we are and where we might be going. Historical perspectives can give us insights into responses to past pandemics and how we should deal with the present ones, they can inform contemporary political debates by understanding how these have developed over time, and they can shape how we approach challenges in today’s societies and economies by examining the cultures of the past. The practice of studying history also gives you key skills of research, analysis and argument; tools for careers success which employers are looking for.

In order to understand our world of rapid change and bewildering technological developments, we believe it's important to be grounded in humanity. When you study for an undergraduate history degree at Essex, you will learn about the complex histories of people in different settings across time by connecting with a wide range of historical sources and approaches. In doing so, you will better be able to interpret contemporary challenges from a historical perspective, while building up vital skills such as carrying out in-depth research, explaining challenging concepts, and developing clear arguments. These are all skills which are essential for shaping the future needs of society, and for the world of work.

In doing your degree with us, you will be preparing yourself for an exciting career. Whether it's working in museums and heritage management, charities, government and non-government organisations, the media, education or business, there is a very wide array of opportunities in a diverse range of industries for a history graduate.

Head to our careers page for more inspiration and to read our compelling alumni stories.

Lauren Young
“It was important to me that I picked something I would enjoy. History is perhaps one of the best degrees to learn useful transferrable skills that you will hold with you for the rest of your life. People think it’s memorising meaningless dates and battle wins but it’s so much more than that!”
Lauren Young BA History and sociology, 2021

Is an undergraduate degree in history right for me?

If any of these statements describe you, then a history degree could be right for you

  • You want to learn about international financial institutions and policy, and the impact that historical events have had on politics, societies and cultures over the past 250 years.
  • You’re curious about the effects that globalisation has on crime and justice, and contemporary debates around race and ethnicity.
  • You're captivated by the history of Hollywood; its untold stories, its power, and it’s significant relativity in today’s world.
  • You're intrigued by the key movements and trends in world cinema history.
  • You’re interested in the impact that mass media has had on modern culture, and it’s importance in light of advancing technologies.
  • You enjoy a debate.
  • You want to inspire change and be involved in shaping national, regional, and international legal and political developments.
  • You have an opinion on themes relating to equality, freedom, liberalism, republicanism, morality, corruption, dictatorships and democracies.
  • You'd like to learn more about China and its relations with the outside world.

Which courses could be best suited to me?

  • BA History if you’re interested in covering topics such as democratic rights and property ownership, slavery, communism, and the struggle between different classes and people. You might also be interested in Neo-Liberalism, the American and Industrial Revolutions, and civil rights, women's and youth movements.
  • BA Modern History if you want to explore topics linked to war, slavery and plantation societies in Latin America, how the First World War changed European politics and had social and cultural repercussions on a global scale.
  • BA History and Economics if you’re interested in the economy past and present; how it functions, what causes economic crises and how data can be used to analyse real-world economic problems.
  • BA History and Criminology if you’re interested in the nature of crime, criminal justice and punishment. Perhaps you’re intrigued by the impact of computer games on crime, terrorism and illegal migration, or policing and controlling society.
  • BA History and Literature if you’re hooked on literature, it’s origins, and how it’s transformed over time. You're fascinated by love and death in the Renaissance, and US literature surrounding the conflicts of race and gender.
  • BA History and Sociology if you’re intrigued by the features of different societies, such as poverty, racism, and consumption. You relate to classic and modern thinkers and are engaged in topics like feminism, post-modernity, and the role they play in contemporary society. 
  • BA History with Film Studies if you enjoy exploring film from Hollywood to independent cinema, discussing ideology and cultural representation in film and you revel in exploring different genres and time periods.
  • BA History with Human Rights if you question things, like how can we promote peace and international stability? When are countries able to form agreements to promote trade, combat terrorism, or address climate change? You are also interested in the history of human rights from the 15th to the 20th century.
  • BA Modern History and International Relations if you want to understand how the international system works and how decisions are made. If you’re interested in how governments respond to war, disasters, and foreign aid. Or, perhaps you want to explore the effects of armed conflict across the world?
  • BA Modern History and Politics if you’re interested in political powers, campaigns, elections, ethnic conflicts and wars. You enjoy debating on concepts such as international security and military force. Maybe you’re interested in studying one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: our climate.
  • Integrated Master in History if you'd like to combine your undergraduate and masters course into one 4 year programme, and are interested in areas including the role of women in Early Modern England, witchcraft and witch-hunts between the 15th and 18th centuries, multiculturalism in Modern Britain, and more advanced masters-level topics including public history and war and medicine.


Browse our degrees

What are single and joint honours courses?

Our courses offer a flexible structure that combines core and optional modules. This allows you to build a programme that suits your interests by choosing from a range of different modules.

We have two single honours courses in the Department of History: BA History and BA Modern History. Our BA History offers the greatest flexibility in terms of your choice of optional modules and our BA Modern History is ideal if you want to focus on a particular period.

We also have a number of joint honours courses which give you the unique opportunity to study history alongside another subject of your choice, such as BA History with Human Rights and BA History and Literature.

In all of our joint honours courses, you will be encouraged to explore the ways in which the two disciplines influence and inform one another, which is a really great way to gain knowledge in other industries too. Take a look at the list of core and optional modules, by browsing the course of your choice.

Want a tip? Hit the 'structure' tab when you've picked a course to explore a detailed look at your options. You'll find that some modules are available across different courses too so you can really find your ideal degree.

Which jobs and careers are there for history graduates?

As a history graduate, the skills you obtain will be highly sought after by employers in a variety of industries.

You could consider roles such as:
  • curating or marketing for museums like the Victoria & Albert Museum
  • heritage management or an exhibitions officer for heritage management companies
  • an archivist, or PR executive for organisations like The National Archives
  • a historic buildings inspector or conservation officer
  • a cartographer for publishers, agencies or national and international businesses
  • a teacher, lecturer or researcher in educational institutions
  • a lawyer or other legal role within a law firm
  • a social researcher or policy analyst in government, and non-governmental organisations
  • an economist or international relations expert for multinational corporations and media companies
  • a historical journalist in the publishing industry
  • a documentary and filmmaker for national broadcast agencies like the BBC or CNN
  • a chartered accountant within the financial sector
  • a support worker or translator for charities and voluntary organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International

Above are just a few examples of the diverse range of roles and industries you could consider. We recommend browsing our careers page for everything careers related.


Get inspired for your future with our handy careers insights

I've found my ideal course, how do I apply?

Applying to Essex couldn't be easier or more straight forward. For all the information you need to know about applying for your degree, what to include in your application, and information for EU and international students, this can be found on our dedicated webpage amongst a wealth of further resources to help get you started.


How to apply
Why history at Essex?
  • You'll be supported in carving out an impactful career
  • Choose from a wide range of modules to suit your own historical interests
  • Learn from leading historians with expertise stretching around the globe
Olivia Smith giving a reading at the Thiepval Memorial
The stories behind the graves

History student Olivia remembers the fallen. She gave Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron a tour of the Thiepval Memorial to the missing of the Somme, where she’s been working as a CWGC intern helping keep the memory of those who died in the First World War alive.

Read more

Which opportunities will I receive as a history student?

The opportunity to take work based learning modules

When you're in your second year, you will have a chance to take an exciting work-based learning module. This Public History module will give you a chance to apply your historical knowledge and research skills to support a partner organisation.

In 2020-21, the module 'Sharing the Secrets of Colchester Castle Museum' will give you a unique opportunity to help Colchester Castle Museum connect their collections with the communities that they serve.

As a student, you will work with Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service’s curatorial team to get a unique behind the scenes look at the work of an important museum. This provides a valuable insight into the way in which heritage organisations share the material culture of the past with the public of today.

Participating in this module will mean you have the chance to showcase your teamwork skills as you work in a group to create a virtual exhibition. For this exhibition, you will produce an interactive online display using objects and images from the Colchester Museums collection, including countless things that have never been seen by the public.

If you take this module, you will obtain credits that go towards your degree, and you'll gain valuable experience that you can show off on your CV. This experience will look impressive to potential employers.


Learn more about history careers

Opportunities to study abroad and go on placement

Study abroad

You can choose to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of the partner institutions we have, located around the world. This offers an exciting opportunity for personal development and a chance for you to make lifelong memories, whilst experiencing the buzz of travelling.


Learn more about studying abroad


You can choose to include a placement year in your degree, which is an excellent idea if you're looking to gain real-life experience as part of your degree. It will also help you make industry contacts, and get an idea about the type of industry that may interest you after you graduate.

If you would prefer to take on a shorter placement, rather than a full a year, the University's Student Development Team can help you find out about other work experience, internships and volunteering opportunities available.

Some of our students have completed work placements in roles and with companies such as The Brick Lane Gallery and The Archives at the Essex Records Office.


Learn more about placements

The opportunity to develop your own history project based on your own research

In your final year of study, you will have the opportunity to produce your own research project. This is the intellectual culmination of your history degree, giving you the chance to carry out your own primary research on a topic of your choice and develop your own ideas and arguments in order to create a new piece of history. This can take the form of either a dissertation or a public history output, such as a series of a museum exhibit, podcast, web resource, or a play or film script. 

First class facilities

  • The Department has a Collaborative Digital Hub with various equipment, including; hi-definition scanners, printers, audio-recorders and podcast microphones. These facilities allow you to work collaboratively in an informal setting with external partners, including remotely using video conferencing.
  • The Department is also home to the history common room, where students and staff can congregate to work, share ideas and relax
  • You will also have use of our outstanding Albert Sloman Library, which provides access to cutting-edge educational and research resources, high-quality learning environments and specialist support.
  • The library houses a number of important historical Special Collections, which you can access and will work with as part of your studies. Many of our students do as part of their research in their dissertations.

Student societies

We have a vibrant History Society, run by students, hosting a variety of events including mini-conferences, quizzes, workshops and socials. You might even decide to join the society’s Executive Committee- it’s great fun and looks excellent on your CV.

There are also lots of other exciting student societies for you to get involved with as an Essex student too. 

Preparation for life after graduation

Our courses equip you with many skills that employers are looking for and enable you to progress into a variety of professions. We offer careers advice throughout your time with us and after you have graduated. Want to find out more about careers in history? We've got you covered with these handy careers insights.

At Essex, you will also have access to the Careers Service. The Careers Service offers you the chance to develop your employability through unique experiences and opportunities such as helping you to find placements and internships, and opportunities like the Big Essex Award. We recommend getting up to scratch with all the additional ways we, at Essex, can support your development.


Explore opportunities from the Careers Services
Holi festival
Get in touch
Department of History
Matthew Davies Student Administrator