Undergraduate Diploma in English Social and Local History

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 a tour of the city’s pre-Reformation college chapels and work on 18th-century crime and punishment at Oxford Castle.

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 Georgian 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.

Students starting the course in 2021 will study Module 2 first, followed by Module1 in 2022-23.

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 tour of medieval Oxford, a visit to Oxford churches and chapels, a session at the Ashmolean Museum, and a trip to Winchester. Special subjects currently cover 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 field trip to Bath, a workshop on sources about crime and poverty, and a workshop on oral history. Special subjects currently cover 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 2,000 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

The Course Director is Dr Jonathan Healey, Associate Professor in Social History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. He came to OUDCE in 2012, before which he was a Fellow in History at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. He is primarily a social historian of early-modern England, and has published articles on poverty, famine, social structure, and local politics and disorder. He has written a book on the poor in 17th-century Lancashire.

Academic support will be provided by the Course Director and guidance on specific topics will be given by the tutors who teach them. You will be able to contact the Course Director at any time during office hours on 01865 280161, or by email: jonathan.healey@conted.ox.ac.uk

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 the Course Administrator on +44 (0)1865 270312.

Award and credit transfer

Successful students will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Diploma in English Social and Local History. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. 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.

The Diploma carries a Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) rating of 120 points at FHEQ Level 5. You may be able to transfer these credit points to other HE institutions. If you are considering taking advantage of transferring credit, you are recommended to consult our Course Administrator (email: undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk or tel: +44 (0)1865 270312).

Contact information

If you would like an informal discussion on academic matters before making your application, please contact the Course Director, Dr Healey, on +44 (0)1865 280161 jonathan.healey@conted.ox.ac.uk

For queries on applications and admissions: +44 (0)1865 270312 undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

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

How to apply

This course will open to applications from Monday 21 September 2020.

Fees and expenses

The fee for 2021-22 is £2,978 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,031 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available. Please be aware that fees will usually increase annually.

Following an announcement by the Universities Minister on 23 June 2020, EU fee status students starting a course in 2021/22 will no longer be eligible to pay fees at the ‘Home’ rate and will instead be charged the higher ‘Overseas’ rate. This change will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK or Ireland, who will continue to be charged fees at the ‘Home’ rate for the duration of their course. 

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


The Department for Continuing Education offers history day and weekend courses, weekly classesonline short courses and summer schools. In the Undergraduate programme we offer the Foundation 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 a Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural HistoryPostgraduate Certificate in Historical StudiesMSt in Historical StudiesMSt in the History of DesignMSt in Literature and Arts, and MSc in English Local History along with the DPhil in Architectural HistoryDPhil in English Local History and 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.

English language requirements

Check information on the specific English language requirements for this course.

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.