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BA History and Literature

Why we're great

  • We have consistently high levels of student satisfaction and our research is renowned.
  • You can choose from a unique and diverse range of topics, periods and countries.
  • We offer financial assistance for voluntary work at local museums, archives and heritage sites.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: QV21
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: VQ12
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Develop your knowledge of both history and literature, and investigate the ways in which the two disciplines integrate. You take an Introduction to Literature module and The Enlightenment alongside your history modules in your first year, and continue to combine history and literature modules in your second and third years. There is a range of relevant options to choose from in both departments, and you can decide the focus of your third-year dissertation.

Within your history modules you discover both the early modern and modern periods, and explore challenging questions concerning the impact of political, social and cultural change on individuals, social groups, and regions.

As part of our creative, practice-based Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, we encourage you to form your own critical and artistic responses to texts. We offer you the chance to write your own story in response to studying Arthurian Literature; to edit never-before edited sonnets from the 16th century; and to hold history in your hands by working with our valuable collection of original books from the time of Shakespeare.

Other topics from both history and literature you can choose from include:

  • Family and communal life in Victorian England
  • Colonialism and the British Empire
  • Renaissance Italy
  • Modernist cityscapes in literature
  • Writing of the US South

Our Department of History has developed a strong research and teaching profile, with most of our research rated as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014). We provide you with opportunities to explore local history, and have strong links with the Essex Record Office, one of the best county record offices in the UK. You can also explore more international topics; our corridors are truly cosmopolitan, with an international research team and a high proportion of international students.

Our Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies offers a varied, flexible and distinctive curriculum, focused on developing your abilities in literature, as well as film, creative writing and drama. We are ranked Top 20 in the UK (Guardian University Guide 2015), and our students are some of the happiest in the country; we are consistently ranked highly for student satisfaction in the UK. We are also ranked among the top 200 departments on the planet according to the QS World [University] Rankings [2016] for English language and literature.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education by offering you an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.

We have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.

Placement year

When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.

Our expert staff

Our history staff are among world leaders in their field, and our enthusiasm for our subject is infectious. Our flexible course is combined with a supportive structure which helps you to pursue the modules best-suited to your interests. We take the time to get to know you as an individual, welcome you into our scholarly community, and value your views.

Our teaching and research concentrates on the period from 1500 to the present and covers a wide geographical area that includes British and European history, as well as Latin America, the USA, China, Russia and Africa.

Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas including modernism, comparative and world literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, US and Caribbean literature, and the history of reading.

We are committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. Our distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.

Specialist facilities

  • We have several Special Collections in history, including the Essex Society for Archaeology and History Library, the Harsnett Collection, the Hervey Benham Oral History Sound Archive, the Bensusan Collection, and the Colchester Medical Society Library
  • Access the UK Data Archive, a national service provider digital resources for historians, which is particularly strong in 19th and 20th century economic and social history
  • Access a variety of textbooks and journals in our Albert Sloman Library which houses materials on Latin America, Russia and the US that are of national significance
  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars
  • Our on-Campus, 200-seat Lakeside Theatre has been established as a major venue for good drama, staging both productions by professional touring companies and a wealth of new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students

Your future

As a history graduate you’ll acquire skills which employers in all fields value. You will be able to analyse information and communicate your ideas clearly. You will have the ability to understand foreign cultures and new ideas and grasp new systems quickly. All of these skills are highly transferable to the world of work.

Many of our graduates go into subject-related fields such as teaching, museum curation and archiving, while others have gone on to do very different things, including journalism, law, politics and civil service.

A history degree prepares you for a wide range of careers. Some of our recent graduates from BA History and Literature have found employment as:

  • A librarian
  • A teacher
  • An international resource at Hayes Health and Social Care
  • An editorial assistant for Myles Kelly Publishing

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Please note that in your first year you choose between The Making of the Modern World 1776-1989 and Society, Culture and Politics in Europe 1500-1750. You don't take both modules.

Year 1

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

View 'The Enlightenment' on our Module Directory

Which writers re-worked Homer’s Odyssey? Or borrowed ideas from Dante’s Inferno? Examine how key literary texts and genres have been used by successive generations of writers up until the present day. Shift from classical text to a more modern example, studying the long cultural traditions that exist.

View 'Literature: Origins and Transformations' on our Module Directory

Gain the necessary tools with which to study history at university level. You will be introduced to history as an academic discipline and will develop the skills employed by professional historians, as well as gaining key transferable skills. This module has no single geographical focus, but uses examples from a range of different historical themes, time periods and countries.

View 'Becoming a Historian' on our Module Directory

Gain a deep insight into the origins of today’s world. This module presents a chronological overview of the key events in western history from the last 200 years. Look at how ideas, cultures, and economies of different peoples intersected, and changed, through the conflicts brought on by capitalism, imperialism, war, and revolution. You develop a solid foundation to study modern history.

View 'The Making of the Modern World 1776-1989 (optional)' on our Module Directory

What is contemporary writing? And how is it characterised? Don’t just study known “traditional” genres of literature, what about the emerging new genres of writing that are challenging readers? Analyse contemporary English writing, published within the last ten years, looking at themes, forms, issues and language.

View 'Contemporary Texts and Contexts (optional)' on our Module Directory

Year 2

This module will illuminate everything you study in history. It encourages you to think about the many and diverse ways in which historians approach the writing of history. You’ll be introduced to important historical concepts that have shaped recent historical writing, such as microhistory, class, gender and race, or to an important historical theme, such as consumption, literary history and global history.

View 'Making Histories: Concepts, Themes and Sources' on our Module Directory

Discover how historians communicate their work and what skills they use. This module focuses on the labour market. Explore how your abilities can be presented as convincingly as possible, and learn how your skills fit different careers. You’ll also look at the range of opportunities available and the choices our former history students have made. There will be visits from former students and other experts who talk about the professions they decided to go into.

View 'History Works: Beyond Your BA' on our Module Directory

What is modernity? How did it change our perception of the world? What impact did it have on literary culture? Study major pieces of poetry, drama and fiction from the 1790s to the 1970s that engage with challenges and inventions of modern life, negotiating transitions between old and new.

View 'Versions of Modernity (optional)' on our Module Directory

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

View 'United States Literature Since 1850 (optional)' on our Module Directory

Between 1700 and 1900 England underwent extraordinary economic and social transformation, which has long been associated with 'the rise of the novel'. You’ll discover debates about the historical use of the novel by investigating a variety of sources that test our understanding of literary production, circulation and reception, and the nature of social representation. You’ll be introduced to debates about 'industrial revolution', 'a consumer society', 'the long eighteenth-century', 'luxury', 'the standard of living' and a broad consideration of the 'condition of England'.

View 'Literature and the Condition of England (optional)' on our Module Directory

Colchester is a place where history and heritage matter and it brands itself as 'Britain's oldest recorded town'. Camulodunum was the Roman capital of Britain; it accumulated great wealth during the Middle Ages; was a hotbed of religious radicalism throughout the early modern period; suffered a siege during the English Civil War; and was changed fundamentally in the 19th century. Not only will you explore the town's history, you’ll also be involved in a research project creating a historical atlas and will gain a wide range of digital and heritage skills.

View 'Mapping History and Heritage in Colchester (optional)' on our Module Directory

Final year

Our visions of the world, our very sensibilities, have been fashioned to some degree by the imperial world, and yet we are often unaware of this. By considering five works of fiction, you’ll explore key aspects of the imperial experience. You’ll study colonial attitudes and policies, and investigate the experience of colonisers and colonised, mainly in the British Empire. You’ll develop a sense of the complexity of imperialism and its cultural legacy.

View 'Fictions of Empire' on our Module Directory

History is actively constructed and not simply rediscovered in the records of the past. Historical research involves a process of selection and interpretation, and there is an active exchange between theory and empirical data. The Independent Research Project gives you a unique opportunity to explore the making of history. You undertake a piece of detailed, critical and/or possibly original historical research. Meetings and workshops provide practical guidance on formulating a topic, researching, writing and presentation.

View 'Independent Research Project (optional)' on our Module Directory

In this module you’ll focus on witchcraft beliefs and witch-hunts (the legal prosecutions of individuals for the crime of witchcraft) in Europe and New England between the 15th and 18th centuries. You examine beliefs about witches, witchcraft, and the powers of the Devil at both elite and popular levels, set in the wider context of the religious/magical world-view of the period.

View 'Witch-Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England (optional)' on our Module Directory

How is myth used by writers? How is the creative process of writing linked to myth? Study collaborative and creative processes of writing through group work and seminars. Explore the term myth in relation to elements such as fairy tale, tradition, locality, folklore, and divination.

View 'Myth and the Creative Process (optional)' on our Module Directory

How powerful is Hollywood? How do directors construct an image of the USA? Examine how directors have created America in the popular imagination. Study Hollywood auteurs (such as Chaplin, Hawks, Hitchcock, Welles and Ford) alongside others (such as Scorsese, Allen and Lee) while covering the breadth of US film history.

View 'Hollywood Directors (optional)' on our Module Directory

To what degree are Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth and Othello tragedies? How useful is this term in understanding them? Undertake a close reading of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies. Critically discuss recent issues about each, in groups and in your own work. Gain an understanding of their enduring and/or present significance.

View 'Shakespeare: The Tragedies (optional)' on our Module Directory

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Taught by a weekly lecture followed by a seminar, where groups of about 15 students meet with their tutor to discuss their reading, to work together with primary sources, or to make presentations to the rest of the group
  • One-to-one tuition for your final-year project


  • Assessment methods in History include essays, coursework journals, oral presentations, book and film reviews, source analysis, and the dissertation
  • Your final mark for each Literature module is determined half by coursework and half by examination

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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