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‘The world will not get better on its own’ – Professor Eric Hobsbawm, late President of Birkbeck

The Department of History, Classics and Archaeology has a distinguished tradition as an international centre of excellence. Known for research and teaching alike, our faculty and students explore an unusually broad range of historical periods and societies.

From Prehistory to the Present

Our research and teaching spans the whole of human history. We are one of very few departments in Britain to include archaeologists, classicists and historians investigating every period from prehistory to the early twenty-first century. Our research covers ancient Greece and Rome as well as medieval, early modern and modern societies. Our expertise also encompasses much of the globe. We have more than 40 specialists in, for example, medieval Byzantium, colonial India, and modern China, as well as ancient Rome, Tudor London, Nazi Germany and more.

For students, we offer an unrivalled breadth of modules, stretching around the globe and across thousands of years. We cater to all levels of study, including short courses and BA, MA, MRes and MPhil/PhD degree programmes. Our wide range of expertise allows us to supervise dissertations and theses on a much broader array of topics than most departments.

This diversity of perspectives brings major benefits for our research. We converse and collaborate across disciplinary, chronological and geographical boundaries on a daily basis. Our scholarship is strengthened by a comparative dynamic; we enjoy learning from each other even as we specialise in different times and places.

Engaged with the World

While studying the past, members of History, Classics and Archaeology engage the here and now, addressing current concerns and collaborating with colleagues in London and far beyond.

We are intensely proud of our role in a university dedicated to providing world-class evening teaching to people from all walks of life. Our flexible model attracts working, mature, part-time, and first-generation students, along with many others. By offering training in history, classics and archaeology for both traditional and non-traditional students, we advance our mission that the past matters for everyone. Indeed, this principle directly informs some of our programmes, such as the BA in Contemporary History and Politics and the MA in Public Histories.

From our foundation, we have engaged with the pressing debates of the present. Our long-time head of department, Eric Hobsbawm, demonstrated how a scholar can successfully speak to huge numbers of people outside the traditional academic system. We have built on this legacy by taking our research to wide audiences through popular books, television and radio programmes, exhibits, blogs and documentaries. We also work with community groups and other non-academic organisations to support and guide their own engagement with the past.

We collaborate with many partner institutions, such as the British Library and the British Museum, whose distinctive resources and collections enrich our teaching and research. We also work closely with affiliated research centres such as the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre, and the Centre for the Study of Internationalism.

Excellence in Research and Teaching

The Department is renowned as a centre of original and influential research. We are consistently ranked among the top ten departments in the UK in official research assessments. In REF 2014 we were ranked seventh nationally (Times Higher Education research intensity table), with 85 per cent of our research portfolio deemed world-leading or internationally excellent. Our academic staff are widely recognised authorities in their field. We are regularly awarded major research grants to pursue our diverse investigations of the past. We collaborate with other colleges of the University of London in running research seminars at the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of Classical Studies, in addition to hosting events, conferences, public lectures and workshops.

We teach in our areas of expertise, allowing students to benefit from the deep knowledge and commitment of each member of our staff. In the most recent National Student Survey, we were ranked as the best department in London for teaching quality and overall student satisfaction, and among the top ten departments in the country. Fully 98 per cent of surveyed students deemed our courses to be ‘intellectually stimulating’ and delivered by ‘enthusiastic’ instructors.