About the Course

The range of options in the ASNC Tripos is not available in any course offered by any other university. The particular virtues of the Tripos may be said to be threefold:

First, it is cross-cultural. That is to say, we study the history, languages and literatures of various peoples active in different parts of northern Europe, separately and in relation to each other. The main areas in question are as follows: Anglo-Saxon England; the Celtic lands (Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany); and Viking-Age Scandinavia (with Iceland, Orkney, Shetland, etc.).

Secondly, it is inter-disciplinary. That is to say, the course provides the interested student with an opportunity to acquire, develop and apply expertise in some or all of a number of different though complementary disciplines. The disciplines in question include the study of early languages (notably Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Medieval Welsh, and Medieval Irish), the appreciation of the literatures to which knowledge of these languages gives access, the pursuit of early medieval history (with some archaeology, as well as numismatics and place-name studies), and the application of the various skills involved in the handling of medieval manuscripts.

Thirdly, it is source-based. That is to say, the course is founded on the premise that such studies are best pursued through the knowledge which can be acquired only by first-hand exposure to, and direct analysis of, the primary texts; and we naturally take full advantage, in this respect, of the exceptional resources which Cambridge has to offer, in its University Library and in its faculty and college libraries.

In ASNC, you will thus have the opportunity to study a variety of subjects, many of which you may not have encountered before, and can enjoy the pleasure of breaking new ground for yourself:

  • medieval history, covering the various inhabitants of Britain and Ireland (Celts and Anglo-Saxons), and the Vikings (in their own homelands and overseas);
  • medieval languages and literatures, ranging from some of the grandest epic, heroic and mythological poetry to the great prose literature of Ireland, England, Wales, and Iceland;
  • palaeography and codicology, being the study of ancient handwriting and ancient manuscripts (a subject not available in any other university at undergraduate level);
  • archaeology (whether in the papers which we teach ourselves, or in papers which we 'borrow' from the Archaeology & Anthropology Tripos and which are taught within that Faculty);
  • and much else besides (including onomastics, numismatics, liturgy, art-history, and other things).

For further information about the ASNC subjects, go to Department (About ASNC). No prior knowledge or experience of any of the subjects that we cover is expected: all courses are taught from scratch, and all students start on equal terms, with a willingness to learn and a readiness to enjoy. The range of choice is extended by the availability of several very attractive papers 'borrowed' into both Parts of our Tripos from other Triposes.

While you have an opportunity to combine different fields and disciplines, you remain free to place the emphasis where you choose (so that you can, if you wish, focus on 'Germanic' subjects, or on 'Celtic' subjects, or on language and literature, or on history).

As an ASNC, you become a member of a small but very select, enthusiastic and friendly Department, which is widely renowned for what it does. You also acquire an intellectual training which will equip you for a wide variety of jobs after graduation.

ASNaCs Past and Present

Here we have collected some comments from past and present students, which will give you personal impressions of the experience of reading ASNC at Cambridge.