Oxford University HAT History Aptitude Test Past Papers Format Syllabus
OXFORD UNIVERSITY HISTORY APTITUDE TEST
QUESTION ONE (30 marks)
This is an extract taken from a book about environmental history. Environmental history is a
relatively new field of academic study which explores how ecological and environmental
factors affect human societies. Please read through the passage carefully and think about
what it is trying to say. You do not need to know anything about the subject to answer the
Environmental history derived much of its early impetus from political commitments. Many
historians wanted some sort of moral engagement, some sense that they were contributing
to the betterment of society by searching out ways in which capitalist societies had degraded
the environment. Various more ecologically benign societies than our own were located,
sometimes rather fancifully, in the past. This political engagement seems to have declined
sharply in the United States and Europe, though not in India. I am not entirely sure why.
Perhaps it is partly a matter of the rise of a younger generation that has outgrown the
preoccupations of the 1960s. Perhaps some of it is influenced by William Cronon’s
persuasive contention that the idea of ‘wilderness’ is a myth—that all ecosystems have been
shaped by human intervention. But, most of all, it is clear that many other fields of study too
are less informed by political commitment today than twenty-five years ago.
Environmental history often arouses the indignation of readers who think that it leaves out
people, or reduces them to abstractions. Human agency disappears, while climate, viruses
or technology hog the spotlight. This is true of some environmental history, generally
including my own, although many other environmental historians write with flesh-and-blood
individuals dominating the stage. It is of course not merely environmental history that can be
written in this way: much work emphasising impersonal social forces has the same flavour.
The issue is connected to that of scale. The historical profession has had for over 100 years
a strong tendency to use the nation-state as its preferred unit of analysis. Bureaucratic
states were good record keepers, and maintained archives. But for many sorts of history,
including most environmental history, the nation-state is the wrong scale on which to
operate. Environmental historians, by virtue of rubbing shoulders with geographers, who are
acutely conscious of issues of scale, are among the best provisioned to lead the historical
profession away from its reliance on the nation-state format. In any case, environmental
history on the small scale, like social history, can be written from the bottom up, with real
people in the foreground. But large-scale environmental history inevitably tends to
emphasize processes and forces, both cultural and natural, rather than the doings and fates
of individuals. But is global history, currently very fashionable, any different? In any case,
environmental history ought to give us a dose of humility; we ought to accept that we are
only one species among many, and should gracefully share top billing at times with bison,
tsetse flies, and tropical storms.
(a) To what extent does the author communicate his approval of the current relationship
between environmental history and ‘political commitment’? Referring only to the first
paragraph, write a single, grammatical sentence in your own words.
(b) According to the author, what challenges does the field of environmental history face,
and how should it respond? With reference to the passage as a whole, answer in your own
words, in no more than fifteen lines.
QUESTION TWO (30 marks)
(IF YOU HAVE APPLIED FOR HISTORY AND ECONOMICS, DO NOT ANSWER
QUESTION TWO BUT TURN TO THE END OF THIS PAPER AND ANSWER QUESTION
Write an essay in which you explore the relative importance of short-, medium-, and long-term causes for any process of historical change with which you are familiar.
Please note: You will be assessed on the relevance of your argument to the question, your
choice of evidence, and the quality and clarity of your analysis.
QUESTION THREE (40 marks)
This source is an edited extract consisting of a series of numbered articles. It is from a
longer constitutional document, called the Code Noir, which was issued by the King of
France in the late seventeenth century. The Code Noir referred to France’s overseas
colonies in the Caribbean. Candidates do not need to know anything about French imperial
history in the 17th century, and must not draw on any outside knowledge that they may have.
I. All the slaves who will be in our islands will be baptised and instructed in the Catholic
religion. Those who will buy newly arrived slaves must inform the Governor of the said
islands within a week or face a discretionary fine. Our officials will give the necessary orders
to have them instructed and baptised.
II. We forbid any public exercise of any religion other than the Catholic faith; we wish that
offenders be punished as rebels against the French state. We prohibit all secret religious
meetings, which we declare treason, and masters who allow or tolerate such meetings
among their slaves will be subject to the same penalties.
III. We charge all of our subjects, whatever their status, to observe Sundays and holidays
that are kept by our Catholic religion. We forbid them to work or to make their slaves work on
these days, from the hour of midnight until the other midnight. The penalty will be the
confiscation of both all sugar produced and of the slaves who were made to work illegally, as
well as discretionary further punishment for the masters.
IV. We forbid priests to officiate at the marriages of slaves unless they can show the consent
of their masters. We also forbid masters to force slaves to marry against their will.
V. We forbid slaves belonging to different masters to gather, whether claiming for a wedding
or otherwise, on pain of the whip and the branding, and repeated offences can be punished
with death. This we leave to the decision of our judges.
VI. Masters who are convicted of having permitted or tolerated such assemblies will pay for
all the damage that may have been done. A fine for the first offence will be doubled for
VII. We forbid slaves to sell sugar cane for whatever reason, even with the permission of
their master, on pain of whipping for the slaves and a fine for the master. We also forbid
slaves to sell any kind of commodity, even food and firewood, without the express
permission of their masters proven through possession of a ticket, on pain of confiscation of
the goods and profits to the loss of the master.
VIII. We wish, to this end, that two persons be charged by our officers in each market to
examine the commodities that will be carried by the slaves, together with the tickets of their
IX. Each week masters will have to furnish their slaves with a good supply of vegetables, as
well as salted beef and fish in proportion. We forbid them from giving to the slaves cane
brandy in the place of essential subsistence. They must also provide them with adequate
cloth and canvas.
X. The slaves who are not fed and clothed by their masters in the manner ordered here will
notify our attorney and give to him their statements. The masters will, if the information also
comes from elsewhere, be prosecuted, which is essential to make restitution for the
barbarous and inhumane treatments of masters toward their slaves.
XI. The slave who has struck his master or the wife of his master, his mistress or their
children to bring blood to the face, will be punished with death.
XII. Masters will be permitted to manumit1their slaves, without being required to provide any
XIII. Slaves who are made universal beneficiaries in the wills of their masters, or named
executors of their wills, or tutors of their children, will be deemed manumitted.
XIV. We command manumitted slaves to retain a particular respect for their former masters;
such that any offence they commit against them will be punished more severely than if it had
been done against another person. We declare them, however, free of any other burdens or
services that their former masters would like to claim, either on their persons or on any
possessions that they may hold.
XV. We grant to manumitted slaves the same rights, privileges and liberties enjoyed by
persons born free; desiring that they merit this acquired liberty and that these laws produce
in them the same effects that the good fortune of natural liberty causes in our other subjects.
What does this extract from the Code Noir tell us about the relationship between
slaves and masters?
1 Manumission is the term for the legal freeing of slaves.
QUESTION FOUR (30 marks)
FOR HISTORY AND ECONOMICS CANDIDATES ONLY
Please write your answer on a new right-hand page of your answer booklet.
A shop sells three different types of milk: full-fat milk, semi-skimmed milk and skimmed milk.
All of them are priced at 50 pence per pint and they are sold in one pint containers. T hese
milks differ in their protein and fat content per pint. One pint of full-fat milk contains 20 grams
of fat and 15 grams of protein, one pint of semi-skimmed milk contains 10 grams of fat and
20 grams of protein and one pint of skimmed milk contains 1 gram of fat and 20 grams of
Consider a consumer who has 50 pence to spend on milk.
1. How much fat and protein can he buy if he purchases
(a) full-fat milk,
(b) semi-skimmed milk,
(c) skimmed milk?
2. Using x-y axes with grams of protein on the vertical axis and grams of fat on the horizontal
axis, illustrate the set of protein-fat combinations in grams which he can afford feasibly to
buy. Fully label your diagram.
3. Supposing that our consumer does not like fat but wants to buy a pint of milk. What would
4. Supposing instead that our consumer likes fat as well as protein and wants to buy a pint of
milk.What might he buy? Explain.
Suppose that, instead of being sold in one pint containers, milk is dispensed from large
refrigerated vessels and consumers bring their own containers to the shop and fill them with
any amount of milk they choose.
5. Using x-y axes with grams of protein on the vertical axis and grams of fat on the horizontal
axis, draw the set of protein-fat combinations which our consumer can afford feasibly to buy.
Fully label your diagram.
6. Suppose our consumer prefers a diet in which the protein and the fat he gets from milk
are consumed in equal quantities. What quantities of full-fat milk, semi-skimmed milk and
skimmed milk will he buy?
A new type of milk is to be introduced called “Balanced Milk”. One pint contains 15 grams of
Fat and 15 grams of Protein. It is expected to be priced at 50 pence per pint.
7. For our consumer who likes equal quantities of fat and protein, who has 50 pence to
spend and can buy any amount of each type of milk by filling his own containers, draw the
set of protein-fat combinations he can afford feasibly to buy indicating where Balanced Milk
lies relative to that set. Fully label your diagram.
8. Would you expect him to buy this new type of milk? Explain.
9. At what price would he be just indifferent between buying Balanced Milk and buying a
mixture of full-fat and semi-skimmed milk instead?
10. If you were advising the firm launching Balanced Milk on the market, what price would
you suggest that they set?