The history tutors at St Anne’s are committed to the classical model of the Oxford tutor: someone who both teaches and researches. They believe that the sense of forward movement and openness in research fertilizes teaching, just as the need for clarity and transparency in teaching disciplines research. Here is a brief listing of our special interests: Professor Howard Hotson researches early modern Europe in the period c.1550-1660, and the international intellectual communities which criss-crossed it; Peter Ghosh is interested in the history of social and political theory and also of historical writing, so he has spent time with Edward Gibbon, Benjamin Disraeli and Max Weber. Our third tutor is a 20th-century American historian (it was Gareth Davies who is about to leave us for a Chair in London, but he will of course be replaced), and this is good news for students since modern America is one of the most popular parts of the syllabus
These interests feed into the teaching of core, ‘outline’ papers, and our broad coverage here means that, particularly at the beginning of the course, students can expect to spend a reasonable proportion of their time working in College and getting to know each other. However, lectures and seminars are all given on a University-wide basis, and the more specialized parts of the syllabus are – self-evidently – taught by specialists. This is surely one of the attractions of the largest history faculty in the world (yes!), and the probability that later on in your course you will be taught outside College is much greater.
We believe that being socially relaxed – ditching fake assumptions about Oxford pomposity and stuffiness – leaves more space for thought. Thus, the essential premise of any tutorial or teaching engagement is one of absolute equality between tutors and students. You can expect to learn from a tutor, of course, but still a tutorial is not like a school class. There is no hierarchy whereby what the tutor says is right just because she or he says so. We are, all of us, are only as good as the quality of our arguments or evidence.
One particular advantage for historians at St. Anne’s is the College Library which, in addition to its sympathetic and reader-friendly staff, is one of the biggest and most-used in the University. Everyone expects to use the University libraries too, but having a substantial extra tier of book provision, where you can have the books to hand, makes a significant difference to your life. This is still true in a digital age where, particularly for books that require close reading, students prefer hard copy. Another helpful feature is a system of widespread small travel grants to students to facilitate stimulating foreign travel, which can add to both your present and historical understanding.
The great advantage of history as a degree course is its breadth. In career terms it is a way of keeping your mind and your options open. Hence the variety of career paths taken by our graduates. These include staying on to do Masters degrees, or joining elite professions and metropolitan employments such as the law, the City and the civil service. Then there is journalism, where we have a strong and distinguished tradition and – ‘last not least’ – there is a strong desire to render public service, as for example through teaching, voluntary organizations or aid work.
But in the final analysis human variety easily outstrips any short description.