Dr Stuart Davis
College Officer, Fellow, Director of Studies
Even though Girton is a large college, we are a close-knit community. Both the History and Modern Languages Fellows are committed to providing a supportive, intellectually stimulating environment: what one student describes as ‘a safe place to be intellectually daring.’ Girton is a place where we go the extra mile to ensure that everyone can fulfil their academic potential.
All the historians at the College meet together regularly for informal ‘current research’ sessions and social occasions, like dinners in Hall and the summer historians’ garden party. Language students enjoy a start-the-year party to welcome new students and those returning from their study abroad, as well as informal seminars on cultural and literary theory, designed to support their work in Tripos papers. Girton also has an active History Society that has organised talks by such prominent local figures as Professor Richard Evans, Professor Orlando Figes, Professor Quentin Skinner, and Professor Tim Blanning. Virginia Woolf’s essay ‘A room of one’s own’ was originally delivered to the Girton History Society (known back then as the ‘One damn thing after another’ Society).
Girton is fortunate to have a dynamic and supportive core of teaching Fellows in Modern Languages, specialising in Spanish and French, as well as a Senior Language Teaching Officer in Italian. College Directors of Studies (DoS) in MML are here to offer individual guidance about the course, and to help students explore their interests and develop their potential. Students meet with their DoS regularly to discuss their progress, and their future plans, whether those be for their Year Abroad or for the potential modules (‘papers’) they might choose. Supervisions take place, where possible, in College. For languages that we do not cover in-house, we have longstanding links with excellent supervisors in other Colleges. Each year, Girton receives a French lecteur from the École Normale Supérieure in Lyon, who supports our French students through small-group supervision in the language. This kind of contact with native-speakers is provided in other languages too.
The joint degree in History and Modern Languages combines the best of both subjects. It offers the opportunity to develop near native-speaker skills in a foreign language while studying a range of papers relating to the culture and history of the relevant language area; options in some languages also include film, linguistics and contemporary politics. Students will also develop analytical skills in History through a wide range of topics in British, European, American and World history, as well as the history of political thought. There will be opportunities to work with historical sources in foreign languages. Like other language students, those who take this course will spend their third year studying or working abroad, thereby immersing themselves in the language, culture, history and politics of a foreign country.
The languages available for study post-A level (or equivalent) are: French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish. Languages available to study ab initio (from scratch) are German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian or Spanish.
Both faculties are regarded worldwide as leaders in their respective fields. The History Faculty is one of the largest in the United Kingdom and is consistently ranked as the best in research and teaching assessments. It has internationally recognised experts in all relevant fields of study. The Modern Languages Faculty is the largest in the United Kingdom and is also consistently rated as one of the best. It offers an unrivalled range of courses taught by leading scholars. The library resources in Cambridge, which support teaching and research in both Faculties, are world-class. The University also has extensive collections of films in all relevant languages, with Girton one of the few college libraries to stock loanable DVDs.