History and Modern Languages

The joint degree in History and Modern Languages combines the best of both subjects. It offers the opportunity to develop near native-speaker skills in a foreign language while studying a range of papers relating to the culture and history of the relevant language area; options in some languages also include film and contemporary politics. Students will also develop analytical skills in History through a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history, as well as the history of political thought. There will be opportunities to work with historical sources in foreign languages. As for other language students, those who take this course will spend their third year studying or working abroad, thereby immersing themselves in the language, culture, history and politics of a foreign country.

The languages usually available for study are:

  • French (post-A Level only)
  • German (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Spanish (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Italian (from scratch or post-A Level)
  • Portuguese (from scratch)
  • Russian (from scratch or post-A Level)

Both faculties are regarded worldwide as leaders in their respective fields. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Modern Languages Faculty is the largest in the UK and also consistently rated as the best. It offers an unrivalled range of courses taught by leading scholars. The library resources in Cambridge, which support teaching and research in both Faculties, are world-class; the University also has extensive collections of films in all relevant languages. 

History and Modern Languages at Caius

Caius has a huge amount to offer students of the History and Modern Languages joint degree. History and MML (Modern and Medieval Languages) have long been two of our strongest subjects at Caius. In each subject we have Fellows who combine their College teaching with a major international profile in their research, and who in the College context have had years of collaboration, long preceding the launch of the joint degree. There is an exceptionally large community of historians and linguists at Caius, including undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows.

In History, we can teach a wide variety of British, European and world history inside the College. Professor Annabel Brett is an historian of political thought from the ancient to the early modern periods. Dr Melissa Calaresu teaches European history from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Dr Bronwen Everill has an unusual combination of expertise in North American and African history. Professor Peter Mandler teaches modern British history and Professor Sujit Sivasundaram world histories of the 18th and 19th centuries. Close ties to historians in other Colleges guarantee high-quality supervision in any historical subject or period. The Caius Fellows’ interests particularly in cultural history and in material culture mesh well with those of their linguist colleagues. They have always placed a high value upon language training for historians, including for those on the single-honours course, and this has joined the Caius historians and linguists into a common community.

In Modern Languages we also offer expert teaching in the subjects relevant to the joint degree: Dr Anita Bunyan teaches and researches in modern German literature and cultural history, with a particular interest in German-Jewish culture; Professor Joachim Whaley specialises in German history and thought from the sixteenth century to the present day; Dr Laura McMahon teaches and researches in modern French literature, film and thought and Professor Robert Gordon is an expert in Italian film, literature and cultural history. The College also has links with Fellows in other Colleges who teach other Modern Languages, including Spanish and Russian, for the College. Caius is also one of the very few Colleges to have two resident native-language lectors in French and German, who are available to help students with both spoken and written work. The lectors at Caius frequently organise film screenings and study trips to Germany and France. They have also hosted visits by contemporary European writers who have given readings and discussed their work with our students.

There are active History and MML Societies in College, run by students, to both of which joint-degree students are welcome, and drawing on the strong community spirit at Caius there will be many opportunities for both subjects to mix together socially and intellectually.

Teaching Fellows


Applicants for this course are likely to have a variety of relevant examination qualifications, though not necessarily in both languages and history. We'll expect you to demonstrate an interest in both subjects and you'll be assessed on your potential to succeed in them. Like all colleges, Caius requires an A-Level/IB Higher level in the relevant language to be studied post-A-Level, and evidence of language ability for the languages studied from scratch (listed above).

Candidates should normally expect two interviews, one in each subject. These should not be daunting: they give you a chance to explain why you want to take this course, and help us find out more about how you've followed up this interest and potential directions you might like to follow. They also help us understand the way you think and address questions you may not have covered in your studies at school or college. 

You will be asked to submit two examples of recent work, which your interviewers will see. All applicants invited for interview will sit an At-Interview Assessment in History. Applicants for post-A Level languages will take an hour-long assessment that is designed to assess writing skills in a foreign language, the ability to understand an intellectual argument, and to write in English. Applicants for a language from scratch will sit a test assessing their ability to understand an argument, to write in English, and their general language aptitude. No special preparation or prior knowledge is required. More information can be found under the 'Entry Requirements' tab on the relevant University webpage.

If you would like more information, do come to one of our Open Days or please contact the Admissions Office, the Director of Studies in History (Dr Melissa Calaresu) or the Director of Studies in MML (Dr Anita Bunyan).