About the course
Are you an EU or international student who wants to study history and literature in the UK? Do you need to improve your English language and academic study skills?
On our four-year BA History and Literature (including foundation year), we work with you to improve your language skills, to develop your subject-specific knowledge, and to improve your academic skills. You receive a thorough grounding in these areas during your foundation year (known as Year Zero) to prepare you for a further three years of undergraduate study at Essex.
You are an Essex student from day one, a member of our global community based at the most internationally diverse campus university in the UK.
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  for English language and literature.
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 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.
By studying within our Essex Pathways Department for your foundation year, you will have access to all of the facilities that the University of Essex has to offer, as well as those provided by our department to support you:
- We provide computer labs for internet research; classrooms with access to PowerPoint facilities for student presentations; AV facilities for teaching and access to web-based learning materials
- Our new Student Services Hub will support you and provide information for all your needs as a student
- Our social space is stocked with magazines and newspapers, and provides an informal setting to meet with your lecturers, tutors and friends
Our Department of History and our Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies also offer excellent on-campus 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
In addition to the opportunity to learn about the past and come to a better understanding of the present, a course in history also provides you with important skills that will be of value after leaving university. You learn to absorb, analyse and assess a wide variety of information and viewpoints, to express your arguments in oral and written form, and to think and work both independently and in co-operation with others.
You therefore graduate prepared for a wide range of careers. Our graduates are currently employed in teaching, librarianship, museum and archive services, the Civil Service, local government, law enforcement, charity administration, banking, law, industrial and retail management, media research, electronic publishing, marketing, IT, health service administration, counselling, social work, and many other fields.
Our recent graduates
have gone on to work for a wide range of organisations including:
- Sage Publications
- Royal College of Physicians Library
- UK Anti-Doping
We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
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.
How did Plato and Aristotle influence Western political thought? How do you study class or gender today? What impact does globalisation have? Examine the history of social and political theory, critically analysing current issues. Understand key topics in politics and sociology for further study of the social sciences and humanities.
Britain has experienced unprecedented changes in the last 100 years. What has brought about these changes and how have they affected the Britain of today? This course will outline political, economic, social and cultural change in the UK during the Twentieth Century and beyond and offer an insight into Britain’s place in the modern world.
Want to study Hamlet? And contemporary works by Angela Carter or Kazuo Ishiguru? Interested in World War One poetry? Study a range of drama, poetry and prose fiction. Describe, analyse and reflect on key texts from Shakespeare to the present day. Become familiar with the crucial terms for assessing literature.
Academic Skills covers the key areas that you will experience during your degree, preparing you for aspects of academic study at undergraduate level. The module enables you to develop and enhance your existing abilities by focusing on the core skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in an academic context. It does this with both generic texts and also, crucially, those related to your subject area. Academic Skills provides strategies for successful communication and interaction through independent and collaborative learning offering opportunity to further enhance your research skills. The content is designed to ensure that you acquire a range of transferable employability and life skills.
What can we know? How should we live? Study two important areas of philosophy – epistemology and ethics. Examine the work of key thinkers and understand the major themes in Western philosophy. Analyse contemporary issues using philosophical arguments. Become confident in the expression of your own thoughts and ideas.
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.
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.
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.
This is the early modern period, a span of around 250 years often regarded by historians as a time of change and a watershed between the medieval and modern worlds. Gain an understanding of this important time by looking at Europe in economic, social, cultural and political contexts. Study the patterns of continuity and change which shaped this period, and reflect on the extent to which the Europe we live in today has been conditioned by these 250 years.
You are introduced to the global history of empires, states, societies and cultures and the transnational experience of individuals, whilst retaining a grounding in the development of specific nation states and communities in the modern period. You consider how the inter-connectedness of humanity, the nature of flows between people, and the varying character of the societies of which they are a part can be highlighted through a focus on world-spanning phenomena.
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.
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.
How useful is the term “early modern”? What about “medieval” or “Renaissance”? Study literature from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Glimpse cultural structures and behaviour that prefigures our own, as well as an exciting “otherness” of the many worlds represented in the variety of texts chosen.
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.
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'.
Policing activities are essential for any state and offer an insight into the relationship between state and society. This module explores police activities between state protection and social control in 20th century-Europe. You’ll examine the relations between the state, the police and the public tracing continuities and differences in policing dictatorships and democracies.
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.
This module is a gateway to introduce you to an interdisciplinary approach to China and Chinese history, and you’ll examine significant and complex issues in its modern history. We examine materials that deal with the historical, political, social, and artistic aspects of famous sites and phenomenon, such as Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall and the Yellow River, in order to understand modern China at its politico-cultural core, in its relations with the outside world, its symbolic function in the new global order, as well as its path to modernisation.
Britain underwent profound transformations between 1830 and 1950. It became the first indisputably modern, industrial capitalist society in the world. Not only was the environment turned upside down, but the lives and identities of the British people were altered fundamentally. You’ll explore this process in a thematic as well as a chronological manner, and study labour, class, gender, the state, democracy, imperialism, culture, and poverty.
Understand the events in Soviet history which led to the collapse of Socialism and analyse how the Soviet state moulded the mentality of its people, looking closely at the effects this had on the stability of the USSR. You will understand the reasons that brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the processes that are shaping authoritarian states, past and present. Examine its role in the world and its impact on people's self-identification.
How do US writers imagine and represent the Caribbean? And vice versa? Deepen knowledge of American literature by examining poetic, fictional, nonfictional and dramatic works in a broader context. Investigate contemporary issues like the American Dream, what it means to be from the Americas, migration, and the question of language.
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.
- Your teaching mainly takes the form of lectures and classes, the latter involving about 20 students
- Innovative ways of engaging with texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research
- A typical timetable includes a one-hour lecture and a one-hour class for each of your four modules every week
- Any language classes involve language laboratory sessions
- Our classes are run in small groups, so you receive a lot of individual attention
- Your assessed coursework will generally consist of essays, reports, in-class tests, book reviews, individual or group oral presentations, and small scale research projects
UK entry requirements
This course is not available to UK applicants.
International and EU entry requirements
We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries.
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.
English language requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 5.5 overall. Specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.
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
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.
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.