BA (Hons) History & History of Ideas

  • UCAS
  • Entry requirements
    A-level: ABB
    IB: 33 points including three HL subjects
  • Length
    3 years full-time or 4-5 years part-time
  • Department

Course overview

This degree combines a broader study of history with specific focus on the nature of ideas and their relationship to material and economic conditions, political power-structures, philosophy, art, religion, literature, science, and sexuality.

Why study BA History & History of Ideas at Goldsmiths?

  • This programme offers one of the few opportunities in the UK to specialise in the history of ideas at undergraduate level, and focuses on the work of individuals and groups who creatively develop and transform received ideas
  • You'll have the opportunity to gain precious industry-standard experience and apply your academic skills within the workplace through our placement scheme
  • We offer something different and exciting – we use innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to the subject, and will encourage you to explore issues, controversies and themes rather than chronological periods
  • We think that you'll enjoy your time in our small and friendly department: we make our students our top priority; you'll work with staff who are enthusiastic researchers as well as being excellent teachers, many being recognised as international leaders in their field
  • The degree will give you access to a wide range of careers by developing your critical, analytical and communication skills; we help you think beyond the traditional boundaries of subjects in ways which employers really value

If you are an international student and you don't meet the entry requirements for this programme, you may be able to apply for our BA History and History of Ideas with International Foundation

Contact the department

If you have specific questions about the degree, contact Erica Wald

Modules & structure


The degree will appeal to those with an interest in intellectual history who wish to study ideas as they evolved within a historical context, as opposed to on a purely theoretical level such as you would if studying in a philosophy degree. It encourages you to explore links between concepts and their embodiment in historical institutions, offering the opportunity to study salient aspects of Western thought (and some aspects of non-Western thought) in key phases of their historical development.

We emphasise the study of primary texts in their original contexts and the history of their subsequent transmission and reception. In addition to notions of the great thinkers, the programme also looks at current ideas in popular, non-elite and non-literate contexts. You will look at the impact of ideas in a range of diverse areas, such as economic and social conditions, power structures, individual desires and goals, sexuality, gender, the unconscious, art, literature, science, and philosophy.

Level 4

Our focus is on intellectual and religious history, political history, cultural history, the history of identities, medical history and research relevant to the Centre for the Study of the Balkans. All teaching after the first year is research-led. We adopt a broad approach to the study of the past, which emphasises ideas and concepts, narratives and analysis, the study of time, and the use of visual as well as documentary resources.

You take the following modules: 

Module title Credits
  Concepts and Methods in History 30 credits
  Self, Citizen and Nation 30 credits
  Dictators, War and Revolution 30 credits
  Religion, Peace and Conflict 30 credits

Level 5

At Level 5 you choose two modules in the history of ideas and two in history in general, in line with your own developing interests.

You take 120 module credits:

  • 30 credits from the History of Ideas list
  • 30 credits from the History of Ideas list, or a related study in History of Ideas
  • 30 credits from a list of History modules
  • 30 credits from a list of History modules, which may include a Group 2 module, or a related study in History

Level 6

At Level 6 you also take a Special Subject selected from the 40 or so available through the other University of London institutions. These are based on the use of original sources in a detailed study which further develops your skills in understanding and interpreting historical evidence. You also have the option of taking the History and History of Ideas Interdisciplinary Project/Long Essay, which is for BA History and History of Ideas students only.

You will take:

  • History of Ideas Special Subject (60 credits)
  • 30 credits from the History of Ideas list (see below), or a related study in History of Ideas
  • 30 credits from a list of History modules, or a related study in History

History of Ideas modules have recently included:

Module title Credits
  Heresy, the Occult and the Millennium in Early Modern Europe 30
  Medieval Monsters: Foreigners and Other Oddities in the Medieval Imagination 30
  Mediterranean Encounters: Venice and the Ottoman Empire, 1453-1797 30 credits
  Early Modern European Philosophy 15 credits
  Visual and Material Culture in Early Modern Europe 30
  London’s History Through Literature 15
  France since 1870: Fascism, Communism and Democracy 30 credits
  Germany since 1870: Nationalism versus Democracy 30
  Italy Since 1870 30
  Nationalism, Democracy and Dictatorship in 20th-Century Eastern Europe 30
  Imagining Africa: Ideology, Identity and Text in Africa and the Diaspora 15


Some modules are assessed by means of a dissertation or long essay, others by a conventional three-hour written examination. Assessment for other modules is by coursework portfolios or a combination of coursework and exam.

Credits and levels of learning

An undergraduate honours degree is made up of 360 credits – 120 at Level 4, 120 at Level 5 and 120 at Level 6. If you are a full-time student, you will usually take Level 4 modules in the first year, Level 5 in the second, and Level 6 modules in your final year. A standard module is worth 30 credits. Some programmes also contain 15-credit half modules or can be made up of higher-value parts, such as a dissertation or a Major Project.

Download the programme specification for this degree to find out more about what you'll learn and how you'll be taught and assessed.

Please note that due to staff research commitments not all of these modules may be available every year.

Entry requirements

A-level: ABB
International Baccalaureate: 33 points including three HL subjects

At Goldsmiths we offer innovative and challenging degrees in history, as well as a stimulating environment amongst a diverse and exciting community of students. Many of our students have achieved very high A-level grades, and that is reflected in our standard A-level offer.

But above all we're looking for potential students who can demonstrate the range of skills, talents and interests necessary for this work, either through traditional A-levels or otherwise. We believe that all able students of whatever age and background who have the ability should have the chance to study at Goldsmiths, and we actively encourage applications from students with a wide range of relevant qualifications, especially the access diploma. We also offer a year 0 (foundation year) for students who need more preparation and experience before embarking on the BA. This is a longstanding commitment and practice. Consequently, over many years, a large number of our students have come from non-traditional backgrounds.

If you're interested in applying to Goldsmiths, whether you're currently studying or have been out of education for some time, we'd be delighted to hear from you. If you'd like further advice or have specific questions, please get in touch with the Admissions Tutor listed above.

If you are an international student and you don't meet the entry requirements for this programme, you may be able to apply for our BA History and History of Ideas with International Foundation

Equivalent qualifications
We accept a wide range of qualifications equivalent to the ones listed above. This includes:

Access: Pass with 45 Level 3 credits including a number of distinctions/merits in subject specific modules
Scottish qualifications: ABBBC (Higher), ABC (Advanced Higher) preferably including History
European Baccalaureate: 80%, preferably including History
Irish Leaving Certificate: A1 A1 A2 B1

If your qualifications are from another country, find out more about the qualifications we accept from around the world

English language requirements
If English isn’t your first language, you’ll need to meet our English language requirements to study with us. 

For this programme we require:

IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.5 in the written test and no individual test lower than 6.0)

If you need assistance with your English language, we offer a range of courses that can help prepare you for degree-level study.

Read more about our general entrance requirements


History at Goldsmiths is ranked 11th in the UK for the quality of our research**


History at Goldsmiths isn't just a sequence of events - we study the past thematically as well as chronologically.

You will be taught by research-active, publishing historians whose wide range of expertise across different periods and many countries will help you to explore the diversity of past human experience through themes like madness, medicine, revolution, religious beliefs, identitities and the body.

You'll be thinking about the way history is informed by a wide range of other subjects and how knowledge of the past can help you to understand the world we live in today.

Find out more about the Department of History

**Research Excellence Framework 2014, Times Higher Education research intensity subject rankings

Skills & careers

Degrees in history and combined subjects develop your critical and analytical skills, your ability to express ideas clearly and your expertise in gathering insights from a range of subjects. Historical research enables you to gather and select from a range of materials – literary and visual. It teaches you to write with imagination and clarity.

Former students have forged careers in journalism and the media, museums and galleries, the Civil Service, teaching and research, law and the commercial world, but the skills learned are also applicable to many more industries and roles.

History at Work

History at Work is an exciting and innovative new initiative which offers some second and third year students taking History single and joint honours programmes the chance to apply their academic skills within the workplace.

Students spend one day a week over one term undertaking a project within a museum, archive or library: places which collect, process and present the 'raw material' of history. These organisations include the Wellcome Library, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, London Transport Museum and the V&A Museum of Childhood.

The project might involve archiving, conservation, building an exhibition, or developing a public engagement project. Students will be invited to apply for places on the programme each February. It should give students a great chance to test out their career ideas, develop skills and increase their employability.

You can explore more of the career options open to you on our dedicated History careers page. Find out more about general employability at Goldsmiths.  

Learning & teaching

On this degree you'll attend lectures and seminars where you'll hear about ideas and concepts related to specific topics, and where you'll be encouraged to discuss and debate the issues raised. This will enhance your academic knowledge of the subject, and will improve your communication skills.

But this is just a small proportion of what we expect you to do on the degree. For each hour of taught learning in lectures and seminars, we expect you to complete another 5-6 hours of independent study. This typically involves carrying out required and additional reading, preparing topics for discussion, or producing essays or project work.

This emphasis on independent learning is very important at Goldsmiths. We don't just want you to accept what we tell you without question. We want you to be inspired to read more, to develop your own ideas, and to find the evidence that will back them up. Independent study requires excellent motivation and time management skills. These skills will stay with you for life, and are the kind of that are highly sought after by employers. 

Learning and teaching on this degree will take place through:

  • Lectures
  • Seminars
  • Independent learning
  • Presentations
  • Assessments

Find out more about these learning and teaching approaches

Student profiles


"I felt that it was refreshing for Goldsmiths to take such a modern and unusual approach to studying History."

"I applied to four other London universities during my A-level year but chose Goldsmiths over the others mainly due to its creative atmosphere, welcoming student body and, most importantly, fascinating degree programme. The BA in History & History of Ideas is a course not fully explored at most other universities and I felt that it was refreshing for Goldsmiths to take such a modern and unusual approach to studying History.

I came to Goldsmiths straight after my final year at school in Wimbledon, and have been amazed at how easy it is to settle in. The registration week meant that all the key information I needed for uni, like how to get my library card and contact my personal tutor, was easy to find out with so many student ambassadors on hand to assist with any queries.

I really feel like for the first time in my academic life that I am truly enjoying studying. I have a flexibility and breadth of study I never had before and the chance to study even more courses in the second year at other University of London colleges is something that really interests me. Goldsmiths is very different from most other universities – whether they are regional or within London. There is so much going on, be it political protest, club nights or evening lectures and you are given the chance to do whatever it is that you want. Goldsmiths is a university that places importance on all aspects of student life, not just your studies but also your career, extra curricular interests and social life – a great attribute for a university to have."


"My degree has been exciting, challenging, and certainly the best thing I have ever done."

After studying at Goldsmiths I no longer like history, I love it. My degree has been exciting, challenging, and certainly the best thing I have ever done. The department is close-knit and the lecturers are some of the top people in their field. They encourage you to form your own opinions and without you even noticing they get you to understand aspects of history you never thought you would. The doesn’t just teach you history, it teaches you to be confident in yourself and your ideas.

The at Goldsmiths is electric. It is always busy with people having classes, campaigning, catching up with friends, enjoying SU events, studying and asking questions. Goldsmiths is full of loud, vibrant, opinionated people who have dreams and ideals. At Goldsmiths we care, we care about wider issues and one another. Being in College is like entering a bubble. It has its own dress code which is anything relaxed and expressive, the walls are covered in posters asking you to join in with things and everywhere smells of coffee.


"The transferable skills from my History degree have been immeasurable... I'd almost argue that this degree has better prepared me for a career in law than a law degree could!"

"More than anything else, History at Goldsmiths teaches you to think differently and independently. When I started at Goldsmiths I wouldn't have dreamed of being a barrister - but it is thanks to this academic ethos that I was able to come to that decision. I've been taught how to learn for myself - my own research, my own opinions - and this has given me huge self-confidence in my own abilities.

The transferable skills from my History degree have been immeasurable: how to structure a coherent argument - both in writing and in public speaking. How to consume huge amounts of information and glean the bits important to your research area. How to intellectually handle a broad spectrum of theories and ideologies. I'd almost argue that this degree has better prepared me for a career in law than a law degree could!

My ambition is to be a barrister mainly in criminal, immigration and employment law. I also aspire to be the best at it, and the most socially progressive - I certainly don't plan on being a judge and earning millions!

My advice to current history students thinking about their future would be to keep your options as broad as you can. You learn so many skills from a History degree, and it is such an achievement to graduate, that you shouldn't understate yourself - to employers and to yourself.

My time being involved in the Goldsmiths Students' Union was simply life-changing. If you're not involved in some way with the Union then you're not getting the full experience at university. During my time at the Union, I learnt public speaking, went on prison visits, visited Palestine, attended meetings with the local MP, debated and negotiated with university management, and learnt how to box! There is so much opportunity there - frankly I wouldn't be where I am without the union so I owe them big time."

See more profiles for this programme

Fees & funding

Related content links

University statistics for this course