History & Modern Languages


In 2020, the admissions process is not operating as set out in the text below. The interviews in 2020 will be conducted remotely, and as a result the structure of the interviews and some of the assessments will be changing for this year. All applicants in the 2020-21 round should instead consult the ‘Pre-interview and interview notes’ document for 2020, which they will have been sent separately.

Cambridge’s new joint degree in History and Modern Languages will give students taking the course the opportunity to develop their knowledge of a foreign language and of the past together. An abundant range of papers can be taken across both subjects, and students will be encouraged to put their language skills to use in their studying of history. Those taking the course will also spend their third year studying or working abroad, further immersing themselves in the language, culture, history and politics of a country in which they are interested.

For entry in 2020, the languages available for study will be French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish. French will be post-A-Level (or equivalent) only and Portuguese will be from scratch only.

Teaching at Trinity College

Trinity is very well-placed to offer teaching in History and Modern Languages. Among its Fellows are experts in all of the languages available in the joint degree, and also historians working in many different fields, from the early middle ages to the late twentieth-century.

In Modern Languages, French is taught by Dr Jean Khalfa, who has particular interests in writing in French from North Africa and the Caribbean. German is taught by Dr Mark Chinca, who works on medieval and early modern literature. Spanish is taught by Ms Erica Segre, who specialises in nineteenth-century Latin-American literature and twentieth-century visual arts. Russian is taught by Professor Emma Widdis, who studies Soviet-era cinema.

Among the historians teaching at Trinity are Professor Joya Chatterji, a specialist in modern world history, including India; Profesor Boyd Hilton, who teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British history; Dr Sachiko Kusukawa, who teaches early modern Europe; Dr Daniel Larsen, who works on international and intelligence history; Professor Peter Sarris, a historian of late Antiquity with particular interests in Byzantium; Dr Richard Serjeantson, who teaches the history of political thought; Professor Samita Sen, an expert in global economic history and modern South Asia; Dr Damian Valdez, who is an historian of Germany; Dr David Washbrook, who teaches world history; and Dr Tessa Webber, who teaches Anglo-Saxon history.

With so much expertise students can be confident that their interests will be fully fostered and catered for.

Course requirements

Applicants will have a variety of relevant examination qualifications, though not necessarily in both languages and history; they will be expected to demonstrate an interest in both subjects and will be assessed on their potential to succeed in them. All Colleges require A-Level/IB Higher level in the relevant language (except Portuguese, which can be studied from scratch). An A-Level/IB Higher level in History is desirable, though not necessarily absolutely required. If a candidate proposes to study Russian from scratch, evidence of language-learning ability will be required.

The application process

Candidates may normally expect two interviews, one in each subject. At interview applicants should be prepared to discuss their relevant interests and potential directions they may wish to follow. Applicants should submit two examples of recent written work, which may be discussed in the interviews.  Prior to the interview in Cambridge, applicants will take an admissions assessment in history. Applicants for post-A-level languages will also take a written assessment in College, based on a short text in English. This hour-long assessment is designed to assess writing skills in a foreign language, the ability to understand an intellectual argument, and to write in English. No special preparation is required.  Applicants for Russian from scratch will be assessed for language aptitude at interview.

Typical conditional offers

Our typical conditional offer for History and Modern Languages is A*AA at A-Level. IB offers are usually for a total of 42 points, with 776 at Higher Level.

Teaching Staff

  • Dr Mark Chinca
  • Dr Jean Khalfa
  • Dr Daniel Larsen
  • Professor Peter Sarris
  • Ms Erica Segre
  • Professor Samita Sen
  • Dr Richard Serjeantson
  • Dr Damian Valdez
  • Professor Emma Widdis

Admissions Assessment

All applicants for History and Modern Languages are required to take the at interview assessment for Modern Languages, if interviewed.

Assessment format

At interview – Modern Languages assessment (post-A level languages):

  • Discursive response in Foreign Language (40 minutes)
  • Discursive response in English (20 minutes)

Modern Languages Admissions Assessment Specification

At interview – Modern Languages assessment (languages from scratch (ab initio)):

  • Discursive response in English (40 minutes)
  • Language aptitude test (20 minutes)

See the sample paper (including guidance on how to prepare) and answer booklet.

You do not need to register or be registered in advance for the written assessment at interview – the College will provide details of arrangements in the emails inviting applicants to interview.

Please note that your performance in the assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.


Applications received 4
Offers made 1
Applications received 2
Offers made 1
Applications received 4
Offers made 2
Applications received 4
Offers made 1