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    I applied for deferred entry to New College in Autumn '06 and was offered a place to read History beginning October 2008.

    Over the following year and a bit I have been seriously thinking about asking my college about the possibility of switching my degree to a combined school, probably History and Politics or History (Ancient and Modern) and at the outside even History and Economics or History and Modern Languages.

    I had thought of applying for PPE originally but had eventually decided against it and went for History instead but am now realising that I really do want a bit more breadth.

    Then out of the blue last week I received a letter from one of my History tutors welcoming to the joint honours school of History and Politics. Obviously this was just a clerical error, but I must admit that it seemed like a sign from fate. I must write to him to correct this but I am thinking this also might be the time to raise the question of a course change. My problem at the moment is that I am worried about to committing to a change that I might regret. Of course the likelihood is that any such request would be turned down anyway.

    Am I misreading the course guidebook, or is it the case that by choosing to do Ancient and Modern you are obliged to do at the least 3 papers in Ancient history over the course of your degree. I stupidly seem to be focussing only on what changing degree prevents me doing from the single honours school than the extra things it offers me; I think this comes from my rather pessimistic outlook at the moment.

    Doing History and Politics offers a much bigger split I think, with the degree ending up pretty much halved between History and Politics. Correct me if I am wrong. The issue for me here is that I have never actually studied Politics so it seems a rather big decision to take based on a general interest garnered from some of my historical reading and listening to BBC Radio 4. Basically I am just scared of making the wrong decision.

    As regards the Economics option, though I am really interested I am not sure that I am prepared to devote half my degree to it. After all there isn't the option to drop it after the first year as there would have been in PPE. The modern languages option seems more like modern languages with a bit of history tagged on and represents too big a shift in emphasis to really attract me...after all there is the option of doing some foreign language in the normal history course.

    I am not entirely sure what I am asking to be told here but would appreciate anyone's views, especially from those who have first hand experience of the courses/problems mentioned. Will of course be looking further into all the above options. Thank you very much in advance for any help and sorry for the lengthy post.
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    You seem to just have a mild interest in these topics, just not enough to want to do them for three years. From what I've read of the History handbook, that's catered for. You can study Economics as part of the first-year 'Approaches to History' paper, Politics through the 'Theories of the State' Optional Subject, Ancient History through the Greek or Roman options, and as you yourself note there are masses of opportunities to practice foreign languages. You should be able to specialise in economic history, the history of political thought or ancient history through later options (during your thesis if all else fails), so unless you're sure you want to specialise in a certain thing for three years I'd just enjoy the flexibility of being a generalist.
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    Speaking as someone who made precisely the switch you've been talking about, aka History to History & Politics I would say that it can be a really good way of doing things because if, like me, you have an interest in the application of social theories in history then the more sociological offerings of the politics side can be of real use. I made switch in my 2nd year having never studied politics before. I made a dud choice with one paper that demanded too much of a political science background and it messed up my finals causing me to get a 2.1 instead of a 1st. Not saying that you would end up with that problem of course but it's something to think about! If you're interested in a broad sweeping type of history then the International Relations offerings in politics are fantastic. And it allows you to study long stretches of political history. You do end up as an ultra modernist though. I'm a Victorianist but I'm one of the unusual MHP crowd. Most people ended up settling in the twentieth century.

    As for A & M, that's a good option too but perhaps most useful if you like the late roman / early medieval side of history.

    I know it's really early but it's something to think about I suppose. Where are you biggest interests and how might they be fostered. I'm not saying they won't change over time but I went in to Oxford with a C19th political history background with a welsh tinge and I came out having written a thesis on the development of Welsh rugby in the C19th! You probably already have an idea of what you like and the joint schools really do foster that interest.

    If you can convince the tutors of the usefulness of the switch then go for it. Oh and as a bonus for MHP you avoid doing disciplines of history which is perhaps the most hated paper of all for finals!!! Doing A & M or H & E you do not.
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    As a committed Oxford historian, I personally think that sticking with straight History is a much better option. While the joint honours course looks and sounds good, you don't get to immerse yourself in either subject to such a great extent. To be honest, there is enough 'politics' inherent in the historical process itself to satisfy any intellectual urges, and remember, you're going to be writing exams on this stuff; I know I'd much rather be waxing lyrical about the development of the stirrup, or Boniface VIII's scuffles with the French Monarchy, over some dried-up rehashing of arguments about the American constitutional system. But perhaps that's just me. Politics books always strike me as history with all the interesting bits taken out. The Politics part of it, as I have heard from one of my friends who is doing the course, can get, and I quote, 'boring'. But he is after all from the Isle of Man, so make of that what you will. However, you do get away with slightly less work, I think. But maybe that's just him.

    My interest in politics is well catered for in the History course. For example, as well as doing Theories of the State (Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx) as a paper in your third term, I quite enjoyed doing Historiography, including Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy, which by the way is a fantastically interesting historico-political text. I am now rambling. Suffice to say that political life is much more fun lived than studied - get involved in debates with people here, perhaps the Union, and all kinds of societies, rather than killing yourself reading about Nixon.

    Straight history is incredibly fun. Don't let a clerical error divert you from your true calling. Also, remember that when you enter the History Faculty library doing a joint honours degree, you have to remove half of your clothing and deposit it at the front desk. Don't say I didn't warn you. In fact, make your own mind up. Yes.
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    Thanks so much for all the advice. It really is so useful to hear from people with first hand experience.

    Everything that has been said points to the fact that if I am really not sure then the best thing to do is simply to stick with straight History. What was really interesting was hearing that 'oriel historian' switched in his second year. Part of the reason the decision is so difficult to make right now is that I have little idea what I would be letting myself in for. How easy is it to switch course within the same general discipline after I arrive? Once up at Oxford I would have a much better idea of things but I was under the impression that, unlike Cambridge, it is very difficult to change course. Was I wrong?

    I really feel that making the decision after I arrive would be the best one and if it is a realistic possibility I think that that is the course of action I will take. All further advice greatly appreciated!
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    I’m now in my second year studying history, and can offer a few notes of sage wisdom:

    1. Single honours history is less work than combined honours. Perhaps it’s because there are slightly fewer papers, or the workload is less complicated, or even that single honours historians are prone to be naturally lazier: but it’s generally true.

    2. As others have pointed out, even on a single honours course you can opt to do politics/economics/literature/languages/art history papers - or not. With a combined course, you don’t have any choice in the matter and are largely restricted to the scope of your other non-history subject. Therefore if you try a politics paper in your first year and find you hate it, with single honours you can avoid the entire subject from then on. And you can spread your bets over a variety of papers, so to speak.

    3. Single honours allows you to do a particular period or historical subject in much greater depth over a number of related papers. For example, I’ve been able to specialise in ‘the long 18th century’ for all of my Final Honour School papers, but this certainly wouldn’t have been possible on a combined honours course.

    4. What interests you before arrival can radically change once you embark on the course. I spent four years at school studying 20th century Europe and came to hate it with a passion, but settled on 18th century art and culture whilst at uni, a subject I would never have considered or expected to be studying a couple of years ago.

    It is possible to change subjects after beginning the course, but how simple it is varies from college to college. Changing from one history course to another, especially if done in the first term, doesn’t usually require much: someone I know switched from History & English to straight History without any problems. Doing it later into the course or changing to an unrelated subject will be more difficult, and might require another interview/waiting a year/moving college.
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    So it looks like, unless on is absolutely sure, that it is best to go for the single honours school rather than a combined course...
 
 
 
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