About the course
Our course provides a wide-ranging and sound academic grounding in the disciplines of philosophy and history. You identify the relevance of philosophy to other forms of enquiry, for example social, political, cultural and in particular historical, and to actively connect these two fields of study. This is facilitated by the shared interests of our two departments and our strong commitment to interdisciplinary study.
You study topics including:
- Political philosophy
- Philosophy of religion
- The origins and consequences of the Cold War
- The conquest of Latin America
- The demise of slavery
Our School of Philosophy and Art History is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the Top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.
Our Department of History has developed a strong research and teaching profile, with the majority of our research rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014).
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.
Our expert staff
Our courses are taught by world-class academics, and over three quarters of our philosophy research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.
Our open-minded and enthusiastic philosophy staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.
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 welcome you into our scholarly communit, 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.
Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:
- An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
- A comprehensive student support system which will direct you to the best source of advice and support in the case of personal or academic difficulties
- Access a variety of philosophy textbooks and journals in the Albert Sloman Library
- 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 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
Many employers want graduates with critical thinking skills who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.
Our students are in demand from a wide range of employers in a host of occupations, including law, PR, project management, journalism and the media, teaching, librarianship, the Civil Service, banking, the police and fashion design.
Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.
Philosophy develops your transferable skills, providing you with:
- The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
- The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
- The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
We also work with the university’s 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.
Are you ready for graduate employment? Like to improve your core skills? Wish you had some relevant work or volunteering experience? Attend workshops, events and activities at the University and elsewhere to build your knowledge, abilities and experience. Polish your CV, while developing your employability, citizenship and life skills.
Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?
Ask life’s big questions: What, if anything, is the meaning of our lives? How can we become wise? Can we make sense of human suffering? How should we think about our own deaths? You take up these questions, first, by examining a series of ancient narratives, including The Myth of Sisyphus and Eden and the Fall; and then through the study of key works of modern philosophers including Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.
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.
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 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.
What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What are the relations between faith and reason? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Study the philosophical texts of the modern era that helped lay the conceptual foundations for these questions and others. You explore the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume.
Got an idea for a project, job or not-for-profit enterprise that will enhance local well-being? We study the concept and practice of social entrepreneurship, using case studies of work that has helped local communities, people or the environment. From this, you develop your project proposal or business plan.
This module introduces students to key debates in modern social and political thought. We focus on seminal texts by authors such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau, whose contributions have radically transformed our understanding of social and political life. We explore the roots of modern notions like the state and society, and scrutinise the nature of freedom, power and democracy. Finally, we consider whether these authors’ accounts of social misdevelopments can still guide critiques of contemporary society.
Can we say that our moral judgements are capable of being true or false? If they are, does their truth depend on certain moral facts? Can we describe these facts as natural? In this module you explore ethical theory, considering the challenges to morality which seem to make it impossible, or to undermine our commitment to it.
Discover ancient Greek philosophy, focussing on Plato and Aristotle. In their writings, philosophy is understood not as an academic discipline, but as the fulfilment of a distinctively human possibility for inquiry. They saw philosophy as a way of life. You explore their accounts of ethics, politics, metaphysics and theory of knowledge, as well as the pre-Socratic philosophies of Parmenides and Heraclitus.
You explore the relationship between cinema and society in Britain from the interwar depression, through the Second World War and the onset of affluence and mass-consumerism in the 1950s and 60s, to the rise of Thatcherism and the collapse of the 'post-war settlement'. You examine classes and cultures in relation to the lived history of the period, in order to track what they both reveal and conceal about the historical processes which transformed Britain during the 20th century.
Can belief in God be reconciled with the reality of terrible evils in our world? Take an in-depth look at such central topics in the philosophy of religion and advance your understanding of key concepts such as: faith, theodicy, trial, free will, resignation, spiritual trial, sin, grace, sacrifice and forgiveness.
Discover the philosophical questions that are raised by everyday medical practice and recent developments in medical science. You consider topics including suicide, euthanasia, abortion, cloning, reproductive medicine, resource allocation, medical research, confidentiality, patient autonomy, and biopolitics.
Film shapes the views of more people regarding the past than any other medium. This is particularly true for early modern England, which has been a popular subject area for filmmakers. You’ll examine and analyse popular films dealing with England from the reigns of Henry VIII to Charles II, which were made from 1933 until the present. This module seeks to study the films as representations of the past, in the same way that historical novels, dramas and paintings are representations of the past.
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.
With the debt crisis, rising inequality and unemployment, ecological degradation, extreme poverty among 40% of the world`s population, and resource-driven wars, capitalism has once again come under intense critical scrutiny. Does it foster economic growth and protect individual freedom, as its proponents claim; or is it a destructive system out of control, as its detractors argue? Should the market be given even freer rein? Or should capitalism be reformed, restricted, or even abolished altogether?
How should theory and theorists relate to real politics? What are the competing approaches in contemporary philosophy? In this module you study both the liberal, ideal theories of justice as shaped by John Rawls, but also compare them to alternative approaches. You also explore the notion of injustice through asking what, if anything, is wrong with inequality, applying this to cases such as exploitation, marketization, objectification and stereotyping.
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.
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.
- Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
- Seminars allow your lecturer to explain new arguments and ideas, while giving sufficient time for questions and collective discussion and debate
- We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
- Usually assessed by 2,000-3,000 word essays
- Most modules weighted 50% coursework and 50% exams
- In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark
- First year marks do not count towards your degree class
- Final-year students may carry out an optional dissertation
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
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.