Undergraduate Diploma in English Social and Local History (from 2025)

Course details

Do you have a passion for English history? Are you fascinated by the interweaving of historical events with the lives of ordinary people and their communities?

This course provides a stimulating introductory survey to the social history of England and the development of English local communities from the early medieval period to the late twentieth century. You will have the chance to study two topics in depth, either relating to a specific period, or to one theme over a long period of time.

The wide historical span of the course gives you scope to engage with periods in local and social history you may not yet be familiar with. We will also guide you through some of the major sources you are likely to encounter, helping build your skills of critical interpretation and your ability and confidence in undertaking independent research.

Taught mainly through residential weekends, the course makes excellent use of Oxford’s historical resources, with activities including tours of the city’s pre-Reformation college chapels and of historically poorer working areas of west Oxford.

Please note:

This page is intended as an overview of the course, and some information listed may be subject to change before applications open in September 2024. 

Quick links

Who is this course for?

To enjoy and do well on this course, you must have a high level of motivation, enthusiasm and interest in local history, and a willingness to devote time to study over a two-year period.

Although prior historical study will be an advantage, you do not need any formal academic qualifications in history to apply for the course. If you have little or no recent experience of study or examinations, don't be deterred, as help and guidance will be provided as part of the course. Our current and previous students come from a wide range of backgrounds, from acting to banking and from retail work to social work.

How you will study

Per year, the course is usually taught through:

  • six residential weekends of 12 hours each
  • one field trip (for example to Winchester, or Bath)
  • three online chat tutorials.

Most of the teaching is undertaken by the Course Director and academic staff, with support from additional specialist lecturers.

The course’s two modules (see below) alternate annually, with a new intake of about 12 students each year. This means that students in their first and second years are taught together.

Teaching delivery

This course is expected to be taught in person at Rewley House, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA. Should circumstances dictate, the teaching can be moved online (either fully or partly).

The course in detail

Course content

The Diploma has two modules, which divide at about the year 1660. Students can take the modules in either order.

  • Module 1: English Social and Local History to c.1660
  • Module 2: English Social and Local History from c.1660

Module 1: English Social and Local History to c.1660

This module covers the period from the later Anglo-Saxons (roughly c.800CE) to the Restoration of the monarchy following the Civil Wars and Republic (1640–60). Its emphasis is on the lives, occupations, beliefs and environments of people and the communities they lived in. It covers such diverse topics as church and religion, monasteries, the changing nature of towns and rural communities, the worlds of work and leisure, migration and population change, and the Black Death. Later parts cover the Reformation, social change under the Tudors and early Stuarts, and the breakdown of English society leading up to and during the Civil Wars. Additional activities usually include a visit to Oxford college chapels and a trip to Winchester. Special subjects currently cover English landscape history 1100-1650, popular politics and rebellion, 1381-1607, and the English Civil War and Republic.

Module 2: English Social and Local History from c.1660

This module covers the period after the Restoration and up to the late 20th century. It looks at how the dramatic social changes of modernity have changed the lives of English people and their communities. Topics range from the vibrancy of Restoration society – the age of Samuel Pepys, the Great Fire of London, coffee houses, William Hogarth, and the East India Company – through the Georgian and Victorian worlds. It covers the impact of enclosure, industrialisation, and the growth of empire, as well as the wealth and poverty of Victorian England. Later topics include the impact of the World Wars, and the drastic social changes brought by the 20th century. Additional activities include a tour of west Oxford, a field trip to Bath, a workshop on sources about crime and poverty, and a workshop on oral history. Special subjects currently cover The Restoration: Society and Politics in England, 1660-1700, Family and Community in Rural England, 1650-1900, and Social Unrest and Popular Politics, 1840-1940.


Each year, you will work on:

  • three essays of 2,500 words: these are traditional, university-style history essays based on a set question. You will have a choice of around six questions per essay, usually one per topic.
  • one source exercise of 3,000 words: these are commentaries based on primary sources (in transcription/translation where appropriate). You will usually have a choice between three topics/sets of sources. These could include, for example, manorial court records, poor law papers or diary extracts. Students will be expected to comment on the usefulness of the sources for historians.
  • one extended essay of 6,000 words: this will be set by special subject tutors. You will have a choice of around six different essay topics.

IT requirements

To study at this level you are expected to have some IT skills, access to a computer and the internet. Your course requires you to engage with the Virtual Learning Environment for course materials and uses the Department’s online assignment submission system. Students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet, and some level of experience and skill including the use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

The computer you use should meet our recommended minimum computer specification.

Teaching staff

Course Director: Dr Jonathan Healey

Academic support will be provided by the Course Director and guidance on specific topics will be given by the tutors who teach them. 

In addition to the academic support provided by course staff, the Department runs a programme of Study Skills workshops designed to enable you to develop and improve the skills needed for effective study. For further information and to book a place, please email: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk or contact +44 (0)1865 280892.

For advice on educational opportunities, credit transfer, disability and/or special needs provision and sources of funding, please email: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk or contact +44 (0)1865 280355.

Contact information

For general guidance, application and admissions advice, course specific information, or credit transfer: undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk, +44 (0)1865 270312.

For information about disability support or sources of funding: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk, +44 (0)1865 280355.

For information about Study Skills courses: studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk, +44 (0)1865 280892.


How to apply

Applications will open in September 2024.

Once open, clicking the 'Apply’ button will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee and guidance on completing and submitting your application.

You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:

  • a written statement of about 200 words stating why you wish to undertake the course.
  • proof of English language ability if a non-native English speaker. Further information on English language requirements can be found here. Please note that candidates are required to have the higher-level score.
  • contact details for one referee

If possible, your referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose a referee who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. A reference from a family member is not acceptable.

Admissions decisions will be based on an assessment of knowledge, relevant experience, academic ability, potential and suitability for a course of study. We welcome applicants without traditional qualifications, including those with relevant career or life skills.

Selection criteria

Even if a course has no specific academic entry requirements then: (a) assessment of an applicant’s academic ability and suitability for the course of study will still take place and (b) since applications for many courses often significantly exceed places available, each application will be judged against the gathered field of applicants for each course each year.

The University is committed to promoting diversity, equality, inclusion, and widening access, including during the admissions process. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

Short-listed applicants will be invited for interview.

The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

An Undergraduate Diploma will be awarded on completion of the course. You will be invited to receive your Diploma at the annual Awards Ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre.

Students who successfully complete this two-year course will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in English Social and Local History. The Diploma carries a Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) rating of 120 points at FHEQ Level 5. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. These credit points are widely recognised in terms of credit for transfer to other higher education institutions, including the Open University and modular universities such as Oxford Brookes University. 

Opportunities vary for the transfer of credit, so students who are considering taking this course in order to transfer credit are advised to discuss the possibilities with the Course Administrator on undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk or student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

Learn more about the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS points).


The course fees will be published once applications open.

Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For a price guide, see last year's fees here: £3,620 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £6,210 (Overseas students). 

Information for applicants from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

On 11 May 2021 the UK Council for International Student Affairs published new regulations and guidance to be used in assessing the fee status of students commencing courses in August 2021 and later. We will be using this guidance to carry out fee status assessments for students commencing courses in 2021/22 and later, including students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland. 

If you are an EU national and do not live in the UK then you are likely to be charged Overseas fees. Students with settled and pre-settled status in the UK and some other categories of students who work in the UK can qualify for Home fee status as long as they meet the residence criteria.

Students from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland

If you are from outside the UK/Republic of Ireland, you will be classed either as an ‘Overseas’ or 'Islands' student.

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.

English language requirements

Please check the information on the specific English language requirements for this course. Applicants are required to have the higher level scores.


The Department for Continuing Education offers history day and weekend courses, weekly learning programmes and summer schools.

In the undergraduate programme we offer the Certificate in History, the Certificate of Higher Education, the Diploma in English Social and Local History and the Advanced Diploma in Local History.

At postgraduate level we offer the following programmes: Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural HistoryPostgraduate Certificate in Historical StudiesMSt in Historical StudiesMSt in the History of DesignMSt in Literature and Arts, MSc in English Local HistoryDPhil in Architectural HistoryDPhil in English Local History and the DPhil in Literature and Arts.

You may also be interested in studying History of Art.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.


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