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History and Modern Languages Course Choices and Reading List

Welcome Letter from Tutors

Dear Fresher,

We are looking forward to having you with us in October.  We write now to invite you to make some choices for the course you will follow in the first year.  Our immediate concern is, that before you come up, you should undertake some preparatory reading for some of the work to be covered in the first term.

You will be required to study Historiography in the first year.  We enclose a schedule of set texts, together with supplementary reading.  You should choose four of the authors.  We hope that you will be able to read the set text in these four cases, with care but without attempting to master the historical matter to which individual texts may refer. Please specify your choice of authors using the form below by Friday, 19 July.

You will not study a period of History until your second term.  We will ask you to make a choice together with the other historians during your first term.

You will study four Modern Languages papers in your first year: two language papers (Paper I and Paper II) and two literature papers (Paper III and Paper IV). A course description and preparatory reading list is included below.

Information about the College Book Grant scheme will be sent to you at a later date.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Perry Gauci

Lucy Wooding

Aled Davies

Edward Nye


Historiography: Tacitus to Weber

There are two routes commonly pursued in the study of historical writing and method: first, study of the techniques which, as of today, we hold to be most relevant, and secondly, the study of classic texts in Western historical writing. This paper takes the second road, and the student may reasonably hope to be exercised (or derive profit) in the following areas: 1. the close reading of texts which really will bear close reading — reading being still the most fundamental of all historical techniques; 2. a grasp of central problems in their broadest outlines — such as the scope and proper subject matter of history; historical objectivity; the interrelation of the author's past and present concerns; the relations of literature and history; and (not least) why we should bother with history at all; 3. the outlines of how the Western historical tradition has evolved in fact.

Prescribed Texts:

This paper is concerned with important historians and their works. Candidates will be required to show knowledge of at least three authors and texts. Passages for comment will not be set.

(i) Tacitus, Annals, Bks I-IV; and Agricola (both available in Penguin edns.).

(ii) St Augustine, The City of God, Bk V; Bk XII, chs. 10-28; Bk XV, chs. 4-17; Bk XVIII, chs. 1-27; Bk XIX, chs. 10-24 (available in Penguin and Cambridge paperback edns.).

(iii) Machiavelli, Discourses, Bk I, Preface, chs. 1-6, 9-19, 25-27, 55-60; Bk II, Preface, chs. 1-4, 19-22, 28-30; Bk III, chs. 1-9, 40, 43 (ed. J.&P. Bondanella, Oxford World Classics, 1997).

(iv) Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chs. 1-3, 8, 9, 14 and 15, `General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West' (available in Penguin and Everyman edns.).

(v) Ranke, History of the Reformation in Germany, Author's Preface; Bk II, chs. 1, 3, 4; Bk III, chs. 1, 3, 5; Bk IV, chs. 2, 5.

(vi) Macaulay, `Milton' (1825), `History' (1825), `Sir James Macintosh' (1835), `Ranke's History of the Popes' (1840), in his Essays; The History of England, Ch. X, final section entitled `Peculiar Character of the English Revolution' (available in Everyman and several other edns.).

(vii) Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, tr. Talcott Parsons (London, 1991), pp. 13-183; `Science as a Vocation', tr. Michael John, in P. Lassman and I. Velody (eds.), Max Weber's `Science as a Vocation' (London, 1989), pp. 3-31.

History Course Choices

Please complete this form by Friday 19 July 2024

Personal Details



Please indicate your choice of four authors

Modern Languages: French

Papers I and II

Paper I consists of translation into French (10 sentences and a short literary or journalistic passage) and a summary exercise in French. Paper II involves translation from French of two short literary or journalistic passages. You will have regular oral classes. You should make every effort to maintain and even improve your level of linguistic competence by any means available to you. Certainly you must equip yourself with a good grammar book, for example Roger Hawkins & Richard Towell, French Grammar and Usage, or Granville Price’s revision of the standard Byrne & Churchill’s A Comprehensive French Grammar, or H. Ferrar’s A French Reference Grammar. You should also obtain a large bilingual dictionary (ca. 2000 pages, ca. 19cm x 26cm, e.g. Oxford-Hachette, or Collins-Robert). You can also buy a monolingual dictionary such as Le Petit Robert or Lexis, but there is also an excellent dictionary available free online at the following address:

You will also have free access to the Oxford English Dictionary online once you have your Oxford University email address on arrival in October. Please note that you cannot rely on other, free online dictionaries (mono-lingual or bi-lingual), since they are not good enough for university study.

You will be studying for these two language papers, I and II, throughout the first year.

Oral classes: these will focus on proper pronunciation and intonation, and include discussion in French of texts dealing with issues in contemporary French culture.

Paper III (‘Short Texts’)

(i) Montaigne, ‘Des Cannibales’ from Essais, vol. 1 (recommended edition: Essais: ‘Des cannibales’ et ‘Des coches’, ed. by Tarpinian, Éditions Ellipses, 1994)

(ii) Racine, Phèdre (recommended edition by Raymond Picard, Gallimard ‘Folio’, 2015)

(iii) Verlaine, Romances sans paroles (recommended edition by Arnaud Bernadet, GF-Flammarion, 2018 [2012])

(iv) NDiaye, Papa doit manger (recommended edition Éditions de Minuit, 2003)

You will be studying for this paper in your first term, and you should therefore read these texts before you arrive in Oxford.

Paper IV (‘French Narrative Fiction’)

NB: no particular editions recommended

(i) Anon., La Chastelaine de Vergy

(ii) Laclos, Les Liaisons dangereuses

(iii) George Sand, Indiana

(iv) Condé, Traversée de la mangrove

You will study for Paper IV in the second and third terms.

In order to prepare for these two literature papers, III and IV, you will need to obtain and read one of the following ‘study skills’ guides before arriving in Oxford:

  • Phyllis Creme and Mary R. Lea, Writing at University, 3rd edn (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2008).
  • Stella Cottrell, The Study Skills Handbook, 3rd edn (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
  • David B. Pirie, How to Write Critical Essays (London: Routledge, 2002)