History and Politics

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History and Politics

Directors of Studies:
Dr Yvonne Cornish
Mr Alexander Barker

History and Politics

The History and Politics course aims to bring together complementary but separate disciplines to form a coherent and stimulating programme. The degree not only enables students to set contemporary political problems in their historical perspective, but also equips them to approach the study of the past with the conceptual rigour derived from political science. For full details of the course visit the History Faculty website at:


A special feature of the Oxford course is the chance to choose subjects very broadly across the two disciplines, so that it is possible to combine medieval historical options with the analysis of contemporary political systems. The expertise of a number of Oxford’s political theorists and historians in the history of political thought, the thematic approach taken to the teaching of general history in the first year, and the emphasis placed on interdisciplinarity in a number of both politics and history papers strengthen the intellectual rigour of this course.

History and Politics at St Benet’s Hall

St Benet’s Hall admits up to four undergraduates in History and/or History and Politics a year. This usually comes out as three undergraduates reading History and one reading History and Politics, but this is flexible. Depending upon the papers taken, History and Politics students work closely with both the History and the PPE students and are attached to both cohorts. Many of the papers in both disciplines are taught by St Benet’s tutors but, in line with the other colleges, we also have good relationships with expert scholars across the university, who can offer students cutting edge teaching in specialist papers. Our library supports the core papers in History and Politics and funding is provided to continually increase and update the provision of history and politics texts.

Students take a mixture of four History and Politics papers in the first year on which they are examined at the end Trinity term. In the second and third years of the course, they build upon their work, bringing the disciplines together in a variety of fruitful ways. The Final Honours School consists of seven papers including a compulsory thesis which can be on either a History or a Politics topic.

The study of Politics provides a thorough understanding of the impact of political institutions on modern societies. It helps you to evaluate the choices that political systems must regularly make, to explain the processes that maintain or change those systems, and to examine the concepts and values used in political analysis. Politics at Oxford also encompasses the study of sociology, exploring the influence on politics of socio-economic divisions such as gender, race, and class, and international relations, analysing the interactions between states on the global stage. The course offers a great depth in options, with second- and third-year students able to study in detail the politics of a region such as Europe, the Middle East, or Sub-Saharan Africa, or the thought of such complex political philosophers as Plato, Hobbes, and Marx.

The close contact and support that St Benet’s students receive from their tutors is one of our great strengths. We offer a range of learning experiences from one-to-one tutorials through to larger class teaching and have the flexibility to address the needs of individual students.


Director of Study in History


Dr Yvonne Cornish is the Director of Studies in History and has overall responsibility for the academic needs of History and Politics students. She is a modernist and teaches papers on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her research focuses on the cultural and social history of eighteenth-century England, with particular reference to celebrity and the print trades. She is currently working on a joint study with a Middle East Politics specialist on Anglo-Persia relations from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century.


Director of Study in Politics


Mr Alexander Barker is Director of Studies in Politics. His research explores the possibility of grounding the duties of justice we owe each other in our participation in a scheme of cooperation. He teaches the Prelims course Introduction to Politics: Theorizing the Democratic State, and the Finals courses Theory of Politics, History of Political Thought: Plato to Rousseau, and History of Political Thought: Bentham to Weber. He also teaches for St Catherine’s College and Corpus Christi College.

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