BA (Hons) History and English Literature

About the course

Our BA History and English Literature gives you the opportunity to study two subjects that speak closely to each other.

Just as poems, plays and novels can offer historians different ways to look at the past, historical documents can also be read as texts to be interpreted as works of narrative.

For both English Literature and History we have modernized and diversified our curriculum to reflect our changing world. Within our research-led courses you’ll study canonical texts and periods of history familiar to a traditional English or History degree but also voices and histories that reflect our modern, globalized 21 st century experiences.

You’ll start this joint degree with a core module that will teach you the skills of close analysis of literary texts. Reflecting on poetry by Danez Smith and Sylvia Plath, Caryl Churchill’s play Cloud 9 as well as work by Shakespeare and Zadie Smith, you’ll discover new ways of thinking about what literature is, and how to read it.

Also in your first year you’ll work through the Historian’s Toolkit, which helps you make the transition from school to university-level study. You will be introduced to an array of primary sources. You’ll also gain insights into historiography, to understand what influences historians, why they write the way they do and how they interact with one another.

Throughout your course, the common link between the two disciplines will be your analysis and interpretation of texts. The skills you’ve learned in your close reading of fiction are in many respects the same as those you will apply to your analysis of historical documents.

One of your second-year core English Literature modules is period-based, focusing on the 18th century, and offers a good example of how English and History are complementary. Your study of 18th century print culture and the emergence of the novel will be enhanced by your understanding of the politics of the day.

In your final year your courses will cover themes aligned to our academics’ research interests. You’ll have the chance to follow your interests and shape your studies, which could include African American literature, young adult fiction, or literary adaptations. Your History modules may focus on a particular region, such as Europe, or period, such as the 20th century. 

Why choose this course?

We give you: 

  • A flexible programme of study, allowing you to concentrate on areas you find especially interesting
  • Exceptional academic teams, conducting world-leading research
  • Stimulating, innovative courses that allow you to make rewarding connections between two disciplines
  • CV-building potential through work placements and extra-curricular activities
  • Teaching rated excellent by 92.14% of our English students in the 2018 National Student Survey, with our History students reporting almost 94% overall satisfaction with their course

What will I study?

Our history students benefit from being part of a diverse and active academic community. Our interactive seminars and workshops help you find your feet in the academic environment, and establish ways of working confidently, creatively and collaboratively. We see our students as fellow researchers, and we place a great deal of importance on sharing and developing skills.

As one of our students, you will have the opportunity to get involved in activities that will complement your studies. Not only do these enhance your experience, they also make for a more impressive CV. Our renowned staff-student Oral History team has taken students to Australia and produced a BBC Radio 4 documentary, which was commended at the 2018 Royal Historical Society Public History Awards. 

What job can I get?

Employability is central to everything we do. Our History and English Literature students can take a second-year work experience module, either ‘Making Histories’ or ‘Literature at Work’, which is centred on a six-week work placement. The module looks at the graduate and transferable skills you acquire through studying English, the possibilities of teaching, and encourages students to take up work placements as teaching assistants in schools.

The ‘Making Histories’ module offers you the possibility of a voluntary placement in a local museum, archives or history societies, enabling you to gain valuable transferable skills and produce a portfolio of public history material. Our students have also taken up placements in heritage museums such as the Charles Dickens Museum and the Samuel Johnson House.

As well as working in the huge heritage industry, past students have gone on to careers in teaching, publishing and media, journalism and marketing. For those interested in teaching, all Humanities graduates are guaranteed an interview with our School of Education