BA (Hons) History

Key information

Why choose this course?

  • Join our award-winning Oral History Team - featured on BBC R4
  • Focus on your interests - All History modules optional after 1st year
  • Explore people's everyday lives in different periods and cultures

Ever wondered how past events shape our current world? Or why some current events are eerily similar to things that happened centuries ago? This course will help you understand how the modern world came to be and what this might mean for the future. We offer a flexible programme of study, where you’ll be encouraged to combine theoretical knowledge with practical skills. You’ll be able to choose many of your modules, so you can specialise in those areas you are interested in most. You’ll gain a solid foundation in many branches of history, whilst learning the practical skills needed in the field of work. 

Your lecturers at Herts have won prizes for their work and even contribute to radio and television, both in the UK and abroad. You’ll study at a University that has contributed to ‘Harry Potter: A History of Magic,’ part of a British Library exhibition. You’ll learn about national as well as international history, from Europe to Africa and America. Our course focuses on the connection between past and present, linking people’s history and everyday lives. 

The history department offers an interactive and collaborative approach to studying. Your time in class will consist of some lectures, where you learn the theory that underpins the area of history you investigate. But your main mode of learning will be through interactive workshops and seminars, where you’ll do practical tasks and engage in group discussions. This way, you can learn from your lecturers as well as your course mates. You will develop your independent research and critical thinking skills and learn how to argue your points effectively.

Herts is one of the few Universities in the UK with an active Oral History team. Oral history is all about recording people’s stories before they are lost forever. This can be on topical issues, such as immigration and retirement, or you can set up your very own project. We have run projects involving football clubs, well-known companies, and people from the local community. This optional co-curricular is great for your CV. It helps you develop new skills that employers value. In 2018, some of our students produced interviews for a BBC Radio 4 programme, which was commended for the Public History Prize by the Royal Historical Society.

History was ranked in the top 25% of UK universities for research impact. (Research Excellence Framework, 2021) and in the 2022 National Student Survey (NSS) achieved an overall satisfaction rating of 91%, putting it above sector average. 96% of students agreed that staff were good at explaining things and have been challenged to achieve their best work. Support for students was also highly praised, with 96% reporting that they had been able to get help from staff when needed.

What's the course about?

In your first year you’ll study modules that will give you an insight into the making of the modern world. Explore faith, magic and medicine and campaigns for freedom and equality. You’ll learn about Africa and the world, and about America from Hamilton to Trump. 

In your second year you’ll be able to choose all your modules. This means you have the chance to specialise in those areas that fit your interests. Look at family life in the 18th century, politics in the 20th century, crime, and society in the 16th century, British imperialism and more. You can even choose to learn how to make a historical documentary, giving you a host of transferable skills.

Work placement/study abroad option: Between your second and final year, you’ll have the option to study abroad or do a work placement for up to a year. Not only will this give you an amazing experience to talk about but will also give your CV a boost. If you’d rather go straight to your final year, that’s absolutely fine too.  

In your third and final year, you will continue to study those areas you love. You’ll also have the chance work on a final history project, known as a dissertation, on a topic of your choosing. This is the year in which you combine all those skills you’ve been gaining, preparing you for the world of work when you leave us. 

Your main campus is de Havilland 

You’ll share this campus with students from business, law, sport, education, and humanities subjects. The student housing is close to our Sports Village which includes a gym, swimming pool and climbing wall. You can get breakfast, lunch, or dinner in our on-campus restaurant or bar (in the newly built Enterprise Hub) on days you don’t feel like cooking. You can also use the common room to play pool, video games or just to hang out with friends.  Our Learning Resources Centres are open 24/7, which means you can study whenever suits you best. Want to pop over to the other campus? You can take the free shuttle bus or walk there in just 15 minutes.  

What will I study?

Degree programmes are divided into levels, 4, 5 and 6.  These correspond to your first, second and third/final year of study.  Below you can see what modules you’ll be studying in each.   

Student Blogs

Jasmine - Week at a glance

My week at a glance

History lessons are taught between a mixture of lectures and seminars for the first two years (Level four and five). A typical week would consist of one-hour lectures per module followed by a seminar, which could either be immediately after or on a different day. The seminars consist of smaller groups of people where you discuss both the lecture’s information and the assigned reading. These can be debates, presentations, or simple discussions. So, despite only having contact time for four hours per week, there are independent reading and assignments which need to be completed.

I start my week by completing the required reading, making notes of anything I do not understand so that I can ask my lecturer. After completing the weekly reading, I will work on the assignments. Even though they are mostly due at the end of the semester it is a good idea to work on them throughout, so you do not leave them until last minute.

I participated in active students, which is free for all Hertfordshire students. Here I would attend yoga classes, but there is a wide range of fitness and wellbeing events that take place. I also enjoyed badminton, as you could either go alone or with a group of friends. It is also a good idea to join society as it not only boosts your CV, but it is a way to meet likeminded people and develop friendships.

I also had a part-time job which I would do alongside studying. This means that planning is vital as you want to be on top of your workload to ensure you have enough time to complete it to the best of your ability. It worked well with the history course as most of the work was independent, meaning I could work around my other commitments.

It is important that you allow downtime alongside work as it recharges you and you can produce better quality work. It also prevents you from being overworked and ensures that you enjoy the course.

Student Blogs

Jasmine - Things you should know

Things you need to know before studying History at Herts

Preparation is key! Once you know what modules you are taking it is useful to do some research prior so that you can enter the module with basic knowledge. This makes studying it that much easier and you are less likely to be left behind. It prevents your workload from building up and be unbearable. History is a very independent course and will consist of quite a bit of reading, so you need to organise your time efficiently. Leave enough time to work on your assignments from the start so that if you have any issues you can get them sorted in time.

Complete the required reading as that way you will be able to contribute to the seminar discussions. Furthermore, if you stumble across words you are not familiar with or useful words it’s a good idea to make a keyword list and ask your lecturer if you are unsure of a specific concept. When completing the reading highlight important themes and produce short notes. Put them in your own words and as simple as possible, as it makes them easier to understand in the future. It is usually best to find a spot away from distractions and turn your phone off. Moreover, take regular short breaks, to allow what you have read to sink in.

Do not be afraid to talk to the lecturers, they are lovely and always willing to answer questions, especially on assignments. I found that discussing my drafts with lecturers before completing them allowed me to get high grades as they were able to point me in the right direction. They are there for you, so make sure you use them as much as possible.

Most importantly make sure you are having fun and enjoy yourself. Allow downtime so that you can recover and have the right amount of work/life balance.

Student Blogs

Jasmine - Why I love History

What I love most about my course

I loved that with history you could do as much or little as you wanted. Alongside completing the required tasks, lecturers indicated further reading sources if you wanted to. That meant to if there was a part of the subject that interested you, it was possible for you to explore it further. Moreover, most of my lecturers would ask at the start of the semester what we wanted to get from the course. This meant if there were specific areas that we were most fascinated with or wanted to learn, they aimed to include that into the module.

I also loved that there is a range of topics that are covered, and the ability to choose which ones you wanted. I minored in public history which meant that instead of the typical essay assignments I created a documentary for one module. Another module was work experience, so I got to volunteer. We also went on trips to the archives and Bayfordbury campus which offered alternative styles of learning and experiencing history outside the classroom. This was exciting as I got to try new things, which I would not have thought to do.

The humanities department was extremely inclusive. They have an Instagram and post regular events like rollerblading and film nights which allowed you to socialise with your lecturers and peers. The staff were all friendly and welcoming and always happy to help with any issues. I felt that they truly wanted me to succeed, and they had my back. The events helped to create a work/live balance.

Due to the independent nature of studying history, I was able to adapt to studying around my lifestyle. Because the contact time was only eight hours per week, I was able to work alongside studying. I was also able to study on the train journey or at home when I returned to visit family, meaning that I was not left behind on my workload.

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Student Blogs

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Alumni Stories

Eleanor Pilcher

Meet Eleanor Pilcher who since graduating in 2016 has taken the publishing industry by storm. Eleanor currently works as a Marketing Manager at Avon, HarperCollins Publisher.

Read more stories Find out more about this course
Current job roleMarketing Manager
Year of graduation2016
Course of studyBA (Hons) History and Creative Writing
Ellie Pilcher

University experience and employability

Eleanor is a keen writer with great creative ambitions. During her degree she undertook a six-month internship at a literary agency in her final academic year. In 2016, shortly after her studies, Eleanor landed a placement at Penguin before getting a job in publishing recruitment. After developing her skills within the industry and amassing and impressive amount of knowledge and experience, Eleanor began her current role at HarperCollins Publishers.

Eleanor's degree encompassed a broad spectrum of critical, analytical and evaluative skills and helped shape her as a writer. Throughout her studies she had been writing a novel, which she submitted to literary agencies after being encouraged by her tutor to do so. It was Eleanor's passion for writing that uncovered her interest in working for a literary agency. Due to the fantastic lecturers on her course and the invaluable industry networks available to students, Eleanor managed to secure impressive opportunities in her chosen industry that have informed her career.

Sher recognises the impact the University has had on getting her to where she is today. 'For me the advice and feedback I received on both my History essays and Creative Writing finals was incredibly useful to my academic and professional development. I learnt to take criticism and to harness it and also write more because of it.'

Ambitions for the future

Eleanor has established herself in her chosen industry yet still has ambition to continue pursuing new goals. On her hopes for the future, she says: 'I hope to run a marketing department within a publishing company, possibly the one I'm at now. I hope to publish a novel and continue my freelance writing and public speaking on the side.'