Classics > Courses > Undergraduate > Ancient and Modern History > Prelims Course Structure

Course Descriptions: Preliminary Examinations (Prelims)

The following provides an example of courses typically available. It cannot be guaranteed that university lectures or classes or college teaching will be offered in all subjects in every academic year. For full descriptions and breakdown of options please consult the Ancient and Modern History Prelims handbook.

FOUR papers must be offered:

Paper 1: A period of General History

For details of modern history options please see the Faculty of History website.

A choice of four options is available:

370–900: The Transformation of the Ancient World

1000–1300: Medieval Christendom and its Neighbours

1400–1650: Renaissance, Recovery and Reform

1815–1914: Society, Nation and Empire

Paper 2: A period of Greek or Roman History

Choose from:

Greek History c. 650–479 BC : The Archaic World

Our knowledge of Greek History down to the great war with Persia is based on historical allusions in the works of archaic poets, traditions handed down largely by oral transmission and preserved in Herodotus or later writers, and on the evidence of archaeology. This was a crucial period in the development of Greek culture. The great phase of Greek expansion overseas (‘colonisation’) continued during it. But in the sixth century the Greeks themselves came under pressure from their eastern neighbours, first the Lydians and then the great new power of Persia. The city-state established itself firmly as the dominant form of social organisation. Lawgivers wrote comprehensive codes – or so later Greeks believed. In many places the leisured classes developed a luxurious life-style centered on the symposium, though Sparta went the other way in the direction of austerity. Exploitation took new forms, with chattel-slavery apparently growing greatly in importance. Many cities were under the rule of ‘tyrants’ (not necessarily the hate figures they later became), but by the end of the period democracy had been established in Athens by Cleisthenes, and the first tragedies were being performed. The delight of studying the period is greatly increased by charm of the two main literary sources for it, Herodotus and the early Lyric poets.

Roman History, 241-146 BC: Rome and the Mediterranean

From the year after the end of the cataclysmic first Punic war to the year before the cataclysmic tribunate of Tiberius Gracchus, this period saw the Roman conquest of Greece and much of the Hellenistic east, and indeed the development of Rome into an imperial state exercising dominion throughout the Mediterranean world. It saw also the developing effects of this process, upon the Romans and, not least, upon those with whom they dealt, in Italy itself and overseas. This time marked the beginning of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic. It might be said also to have marked the end of liberty for Greece and much of the rest of the Mediterranean world: the ‘freedom of the Greeks’ was proclaimed by a Roman general in 196 BC, but in 146 BC both Corinth and Carthage were sacked and destroyed. Rome itself and Italy prospered, but wealth and empire brought tensions both within and between these.

This is also a time that produced one of the greatest historians of antiquity, Polybius of Megalopolis, whose subject was the establishment of Roman dominion and the effects of this upon the lives of all the peoples involved. A contemporary of the events, and detained in Rome in the 160s and 150s, he enables (and enlivens) productive study of this period, which saw, amongst so much else, the beginnings of Roman history writing. Inquiry is aided by an increasing number of surviving inscriptions and an increasingly detailed archaeological record.

Paper 3: One Optional Subject

One of the optinal subjects specified for the Preliminary Examination in History, including two Ancient History Options on The World of Homer and Hesiod or Augustan Rome.

Please note that the Ancient History Optional Subjects have “gobbets” (i.e. passages from primary sources for comment), whereas Modern History Optional Subjects do not.

Optional Subjects 2011-12
Theories of the State (Aristotle, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx).
The Age of Bede c.660-c.740.
Early Gothic France c.1100-c.1150.
Conquest and Frontiers: England and the Celtic Peoples 1150-1220.
English Chivalry and the French War c.1330-1400
Crime and Punishment in England, c.1280-c.1450
Nature and Art in the Renaissance.
Witch-craft and witch-hunting in early modern Europe.
Conquest and Colonization: Spain and America in the Sixteenth Century.
Revolution and Empire in France 1789-1815.
Women, Gender and the Nation: Britain, 1789-1825.
The Romance of the People: The Folk Revival from 1760 to 1914.
The American Empire 1823-1904.
The Rise and Crises of European Socialisms: 1881 – 1921.
Radicalism in Britain 1965-1975
The World of Homer and Hesiod, as specified for Preliminary Examination in Ancient and Modern History.
Augustan Rome, as specified for Preliminary Examination in Ancient and Modern History.

Paper 4: One of the following papers:

For details of modern history options please see the Faculty of History website.

Approaches to History (as for History)
Historiography: Tacitus to Weber (as for History)
Herodotus (with selections to be read in Greek) (as for History)

Sallust, Jugurtha (to be read in Latin)

The text studied in Sallust’s Jugurtha is his account of Rome’s war against an African chieftain in the last decade of the second century BC. The war itself presented a serious threat to Rome’s interests in Africa which had been intense since the destruction of Carthage in 146 BC at the end of the Third Punic War. Sallust’s pamphlet gives a military and political history of the conflict in which the Roman army was at first commanded by the general Metellus; he was superseded by Gauis Marius, the first of the military dynasts of the late Republic, who defeated Jugurtha and brought the war to a successful conclusion.

Sallust’s account is of interest for more than the factual details of the war. It is one of the most important historiographical documents of the late Roman Republic, written as it was in the 40s BC, when its author had experienced personal success and failure in a political career conducted in the death-throes of the Republican system of government. Sallust comments both explicitly and implicitly on the corruption of the senatorial governing class and charts, in the rise of Gaius Marius, the growing personal power of a general and politician who was the first of the series of the leaders, which later included Pompey and Caesar, who were to bring the Republic to an end.

Beginning Ancient Greek

This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in ancient Greek above GCSE level or equivalent.)

The course will allow takers to read simple, if probably adapted, prose texts. Candidates will be required to show knowledge of some of the main grammatical structures of ancient Greek and of a small basic vocabulary. The paper will consist of prepared and unprepared prose translations, with grammatical questions on the prepared texts.

Beginning Latin

(This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in Latin above GCSE-level or equivalent.)

The course will allow takers to read simple, if probably adapted, prose texts. Candidates will be required to show knowledge of some of the main grammatical structures of Latin and of a small basic vocabulary. The paper will consist of prepared and unprepared prose translations, with grammatical questions on the prepared texts.

Intermediate Ancient Greek

(This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in ancient Greek above AS-level or equivalent.)

Candidates will be required to show an intermediate level knowledge of Greek grammar and vocabulary (including all syntax and morphology, as laid out in Abbott and Mansfield, Primer of Greek Accidence).

The set texts for the course are: Xenophon, Hellenica I (Oxford Classical Text) and Lysias I (Oxford Classical Text). The paper will consist of a passage of unseen prose translation, three further passages for translation from the two prescribed texts, and grammatical questions on the prescribed texts.

Intermediate Latin

(This subject is not available to candidates with a qualification in Latin above AS-level or equivalent.)

Candidates will be required to show an intermediate level knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary (including all syntax and morphology, as laid out in Kennedy’s Revised Latin Primer).

The set texts for the course are: Cicero, letters in D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Cicero: Select Letters (Cambridge, 1980), nos 9, 17, 23, 27, 39, 42-3, 45; Tacitus, Agricola (Oxford Classical Text); Pliny, letters in A. N. Sherwin-White, Fifty Letters of Pliny, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1969), nos 25, 29.

The paper will consist of a passage of unseen prose translation, three further passages for translation from the prescribed texts, and grammatical questions on the prescribed texts.