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Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)



How it works


There are two ways to study Politics and International Relations at Cambridge.

You can either apply through the Human, Social and Political Sciences course or the History and Politics course.


Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) 


In the first year students can spend up to 50 per cent of their time on Politics and International Relations. In the second and third years, students, if they wish, can concentrate exclusively on Politics and International Relations.

Students in the second and third years can also do joint Politics and Sociology or Politics and Social Anthropology.



History and Politics 


History and Politics is a Joint Honours degree. It offers subjects from our highly-regarded History and Politics and International Relations courses, together with bespoke papers which will allow students to explore the space between the two disciplines.

Politics and International Relations at Cambridge rests on the conviction that the political and international worlds need to be understood together and historically.

We seek to explain how the political and international worlds in which we live came to be. In the first year, we look at the foundations of modern politics and international relations.

In politics, we examine the nature of the state and democracy and consider how far there are alternatives in the modern world to these practices and the political ideas and arguments that lie behind them. 

In international relations we explore politics beyond the state, focusing on topics ranging from the world economy to war and peace, to climate change and protest, all from a globally oriented and historically informed perspective.






History and Politics

First year: Four papers

Four Papers chosen from the following:

POL1: The modern state and its alternatives

POL2: International conflict, order and justice 

Plus two options from Sociology, Social Anthropology, Psychology, Biological Anthropology and Archaeology


First year: Four Papers

Four papers from the following:

Evidence and Argument

POL1: The modern state and its alternatives

POL2: International conflict, order and justice 

A paper in British Political History (1688 - 1886 or since 1880) or European History (1715 - 1890 or since 1890)

Second year: Four papers

POL3: International Organisation

POL4: Comparative Politics

POL7: The History of Political Thought to c.1700


POL8: The History of Political Thought from c.1700-1890

Either an optional essay paper in Politics and
International Relations or Statistics or a paper in another subject.

Second year: Four Papers

A paper in the History of Political Thought (either covering the period from the Greeks up to 1700 or the 18th and 19th centuries)

A paper on either Comparative Politics or International Organisation

A further History paper, covering World History, American History, or British Social and Economic History

A long essay paper, a historical project, or a paper on Statistics and Methods

Third year

In Part IIB Politics and International Relations, you may choose to offer four papers, or three papers and a dissertation.

The one requirement is to take POL 9 and at least one other paper in the subject.

Other choices are to extend your knowledge of the history of political thought, or study the politics of a particular area such as Europe or Africa. 

Students can also opt to replace one of these papers with another subject.

An optional dissertation on any topic.

Third Year

A paper in General Themes and Issues, which considers general issues in history and politics and the relationship between the two disciplines

Three other papers from a wide range of options:

History Specified Subjects, which currently include papers on the transformation of the Roman world, modern India and the American experience in Vietnam, 1941-75

Specialised papers in Politics and International Relations, for instance on the politics of a particular region such as Europe or the Middle East, the politics of gender, or the politics of conflict and peacebuilding

Further papers in the History of Political Thought

A 10-15,000-word research dissertation