Our innovative History and Drama degree allows you to study both subjects in depth, focusing on the creative practice of the theatre and the uncovering of the past.
As a student of history, you also discover both the early modern and modern periods, and explore challenging questions concerning the impact of political, social and cultural change on individuals, social groups, and regions. At Essex, we teach you to find your own critical voice, and to view history through the eyes of ordinary people, giving them the voice they often lacked at the time.
Studying theatre and drama at Essex enables you to examine some of the most influential play-texts ever written, and to be ready to take part in shaping the essential performances of tomorrow. This degree is a chance to unlock and explore your creativity. You will be performing and producing work in the professional context of our state-of-the-art Lakeside Theatre, and will be developing a wide range of creative, critical and practical skills that will open the door to a future in the theatre, cultural industries or a wide range of other graduate careers.
At Essex, we offer a rich combination of practical workshops, critical seminars and lectures, and employability opportunities delivered by an experienced team of playwrights, directors, and actors, as well as leading academic theatre specialists.
You will be able to choose from a wide range of modules, covering topics such as:
- modern British history
- gender studies
We are ranked third for drama in the Guardian University Guide 2021 and top 20 for dance, drama and cinematics (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021). Our history students love studying with us – 92% of our History students expressed overall satisfaction with their course (NSS 2020).
Your education extends beyond the university campus. We support you in expanding your education through offering the opportunity to spend a year or a term studying abroad at one of our partner universities. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year abroad or employed on a placement abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course. Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
Maximise the impact of your degree, build your CV and gain invaluable real-world experience. When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year.
Undertaking a placement can allow you to gain relevant work experience within an external organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the cultural industries.
You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and the placements team.
If you complete a placement year you’ll only pay 20% of your usual tuition fee to Essex for that year.
Our expert staff
Our history staff are among world leaders in their field, and our enthusiasm for our subject is infectious. Our flexible course is combined with a supportive structure which helps you to pursue the modules best-suited to your interests. We take the time to get to know you as an individual, welcome you into our scholarly community, and value your views. Our teaching and research concentrates on the period from 1500 to the present and covers a wide geographical area that includes British and European history, as well as Latin America, the USA, China, Russia and Africa.
Become part of the theatre industry by studying with people in the theatre industry. All staff in the Centre for Theatre Studies are professional theatre-makers as well as leading academics in our individual fields. We share a passion for creative and engaging teaching, bringing you ideas and practices informed by our global research interests.
The Lakeside Theatre is a purpose-built 200-seat venue in the heart of the University campus. We stage productions by leading touring companies and new work written, produced and directed by our own staff and students. Additionally, the Lakeside Studio is an intimate fully equipped black box theatre. Each year, we invite proposals from current and former Essex students to make work for this space as part of our Homegrown Shows programme.
The Lakeside Theatre also makes a connection to the cultural hubs of our country as a host of the prestigious National Theatre Live and Royal Shakespeare Company Live screenings.
We programme practical workshops by world-leading invited artists to help you develop new performance skills.
Our students have access to the University’s Media Centre, equipped with state-of-the-art studios, cameras, audio and lighting equipment, and an industry-standard editing suite.
When it comes to history, at Essex, you have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, you are part of a tight-knit, campus community with close ties to several small but excellent museums and heritage sites in the nearby town of Colchester (‘Britain’s First City’); on the other hand, you can travel from campus to London in an hour, which puts the world’s best museums, galleries, and heritage sites at your fingertips;
Our facilities enable you to gain curatorial experience, engage in object-based learning, and learn digital skills, a cornerstone of our approach to heritage and museums.
We have close links with many of cultural sites and institutions in Colchester, including the iconic Firstsite gallery, which support hands-on activities and your practical learning.
Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection.
Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions and talks by curators and artists, as well as exhibitions organised by our postgraduate curatorial students.
Our Centre for Curatorial Studies is home to staff who specialise in the history of exhibition design and curate high profile exhibitions.
The skillsets developed at Essex have seen our students find success in the performing arts and a range of creative and heritage industries including journalism, museum and archive services, librarianship, television production, broadcasting, radio presenting, gaming, magazine editing, copywriting, press relations and marketing, as well as in business, commerce and law. You will also be equipped to take on roles within government and the Civil Service, teaching, charitable organisations and finance.
Why we’re great
- We explore the synergy between History and Drama. Students of drama engage with texts and theatre practices within many varied historical contexts, and explore social and political organisation through dramatic works from ancient Greece to the theatre-makers of the present day.
- Our History team specialises in public history, while your Drama tutors are practitioners and industry insiders. Your teachers have shaped this joint-honours degree to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to build a successful career in all kinds of industries.
- We are 17th nationally for overall student satisfaction in drama (NSS 2020).
We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of core/compulsory modules, and optional modules chosen from lists.
Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The course content is therefore reviewed on an annual basis to ensure our courses remain up-to-date so modules listed are subject to change.
Teaching and learning disclaimer
Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.
The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently approved for 2022 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.
On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Teaching will take the form of lectures, seminars, practical workshops and skills-based training sessions
- We offer a unique combination of theoretical and creative approaches
- Class sizes are up to 20 students and taught in specially designated teaching rooms
- A typical timetable is a mixture of one hour lectures and three-hour seminars and/or practical workshops
- The assessment for each module is designed to carefully complement the content and teaching on that module
- Assessment might be academic essays, practical assessments, review and reflective writing, research presentations and examinations
- A mark for class participation is included in your coursework mark
In your final year, you can choose to work on an independent History, Practical Theatre or Theatre Studies project.
The History project presents an opportunity to engage in independent research on a topic of your choice and to create a new piece of history. You can choose to write either a traditional 8,000-10,000 word dissertation, or design a public history output and 5,000 word report. This public history output could take the form of a series of museum exhibition boards, a podcast, web resources or a play or film script.
The Practical Theatre project offers you the chance to devise a piece of solo performance work, or in partnership with a group of other students. You will also write an essay supporting the piece. Members of the group may take on the following roles: directing, acting, costumes, set and sound design, producing, dramaturgy.
The Theatre Studies project is a 10,000 word dissertation on an area of particular interest to you. This may be the work of a specific playwright, or group of playwrights; a movement, mode or style of theatre; the work of a particular practitioner, theatre or theatre company; a theme within dramatic literature; or a period of theatre history.