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Textbook, novel, film: top recommendations for history students


Faculty: Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
School: School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Course: BA (Hons) History
Category: All about university

31 March 2023

Rohan McWilliam

Prof Rohan McWilliam, Course Leader for ARU's BA (Hons) History, recommends a textbook, novel and film for students to try before joining the history degree at ARU.

History text

What is History? by E.H. Carr. The book every history student should have read.

E.H. Carr was a distinguished historian of the Soviet Union. In a famous series of lectures, he pondered the art of writing history and asked if objective history was really attainable.


Graham Swift, Waterland (1983). This novel is set in the Fens (not far from ARU in Cambridge).

It is about a history teacher in a school, but also far more than that: it is about the natural world and about what kind of history we should be writing.


Citizen Kane (1941). Orson Welles’s masterpiece is often considered by critics to be the greatest film ever made. It certainly changed the language of cinema and repays multiple viewings.

The film was based on the life of newspaper proprietor William Randolph Hurst (the Rupert Murdoch of his day). The film showed how film could rival the novel as an art form and make a statement about the American Dream.

By Prof Rohan McWilliam

Rohan is Course Leader for ARU's BA (Hons) History. Find out about this and other degree courses at one of our Open Days.


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