History Faculty style guide

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faculty of history

History Faculty style guide



    1. Spelling, punctuation and capitalisation

    2. Numbers and dates

    3. Abbreviations

    4. Translation of Sources

    5. Footnotes

    6. Bibliography







This style guide applies to all MPhil and PhD theses. It is adapted from Cambridge University Press guidelines for Humanities and Social Sciences.

The style for footnotes and bibliography is strongly recommended. However, students may choose from any documented style for footnotes and bibliography, on condition that they apply it consistently. They may wish to consult, for example, the style adopted by journals in the field of their submission, or the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), or the compact version thereof in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). The Faculty does not, however, accept in-text references (Harvard style) and all theses must use footnotes, not endnotes.

This latitude for style choice, which applies to most aspects of the guidance provided below, has been introduced because academic styles vary widely among different journals and publishers, and it would be misleading to require students to adhere to a single system as if that were likely to be the only system required of them in the future. What students need to learn is to be consistent and clear in their use of any given style, and this is what the combination of compulsion and flexibility in this guide seeks to inculcate.

1 Spelling, punctuation and capitalisation:

    1. Punctuation systems should consistently follow British style (except in quotations from other sources, where the punctuation convention of the original should be retained). British style uses single inverted commas, except for quotations within quotations (which have double inverted commas). Punctuation should follow closing inverted commas:

It was ‘too close to call’.

    1. The exception to the above rule is the case of grammatically complete sentences beginning with a capital letter as in the following example.

This is an example of such a grammatically complete sentence.’

    1. Full sentences within brackets have their punctuation within brackets:

He said it. (But I don’t know why.)

But contrast the case of brackets used within a full sentence:

He said it (but I don’t know why).

    1. Use the serial comma: ‘red, white, and blue’ rather than ‘red, white and blue’. 
      Use the possessive ‘s’ following a name ending in -s (Dickens’s, Jones’s, rather than Dickens’, Jones’), except for names from antiquity (Socrates’, Jesus’).

      1. Numbers and dates

Numbers should be written out up to 100, except in a discussion that includes a mixture of numbers above and below this, in which case all of them should be in figures (e.g. 356 walkers overtook 72 others, as 6 fell back, exhausted). However, numbers with units should always be given in figures, with a space between the number and the unit (e.g. 4 cm).

Dates should be written in the form: 20 December 1148; 20 December; AD 245-50. Centuries should be written out (twenty-first century) and 1920s etc. should be written without an apostrophe.

      1. Abbreviations and reference conventions

a. A list of the abbreviations used in the text and the footnotes should be placed at the beginning of the thesis, after the preface.

  1. The following are standard abbreviations which you may employ without having to list them or explain them to the reader: 

    ed., eds., edn

    editor, editors, edition

    f., ff.

    following page or pages

    fol. and fols

    folio, folios

    MS and MSS







    signature number


    translated (by)



    vol., vols.

    volume, volumes

  2. Note that abbreviations are followed with a point: ch., vol., vols. 
    Contractions have no following point, so edn, Dr, St are correct.

  1. You may also give standard (or where there are no standard, invented) abbreviations for journals or materials to which you will be referring frequently in the text or notes. These abbreviations should be listed on a page at the beginning of the submission, which as stated above does not count toward the word limit. Examples are EHR (English Historical Review), MGHSS (Monumenta Germaniae Historica Scriptores).

4 Translation of Sources

Where foreign language sources have been consulted, quotations should be given in the original language with a translation in the footnotes, or vice versa. If sources have been used in translation, the edition/translation consulted must be clear, and only the English version should be cited.  Please note that this guideline does not apply to foreign terms commonly used in English, e.g. ‘Ancien régime.’

5  Footnotes

Use footnotes, not endnotes, for Faculty submissions (though note that most journals require text to be submitted as endnotes for eventual printing as footnotes). These footnotes should give a full form of the reference when first used, in whatever consistent style is adopted (see Section II for a recommended style). Do not use the author-date system – Rublack, 2010 – in either text or footnotes: although this system is used in some types of scholarly works, it is not well suited to most kinds of history and it is important for historians to learn to use a full reference footnoting system.

a) keep footnotes as brief as possible, essentially for reference and not digressions. 

Example of an acceptable discursive footnote:

See D.S. Allen, The World of Prometheus (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), who however understates the extent to which the Athenians felt bound by their laws.

Example of an unacceptable discursive footnote:

Allen argues that the Athenians determined their own law, without professional judges, legislators, or bureaucrats, and that this led them to see the law as a tool to use in rhetorical argument rather than as a binding and independent constraint. However this understates the extent to which the Athenians felt bound by their laws. They referred to them as ‘the laws of Solon’ and appeal to the laws, or to their violation, was a trump card in political dispute.

  1. Do not over-footnote, but do make clear which reference goes with which item (do not put five or six citations all in one footnote at the end of a paragraph, but key each to its relevant sentence). Where you have several references in a single footnote, separate items by a semi-colon. In most cases, the footnote indicator comes at the end of a sentence, and after punctuation.

  1. Put a full stop at the end of every footnote.

  1. The footnote numbering begins anew in each chapter.

  1. Insert a space after “p.” if you use it, e.g., p. 23 and pp. 23–34.


The Cambridge University Press Guide for Humanities and Social Sciences at https://authornet.cambridge.org/information/productionguide/hss/ is normally available online. If you choose to use this style, you may consult the Guide for additional information on minor points. You may alter the style for your own purposes so long as you are consistent (for example, medievalists and early modernists often omit the name of the publisher as this is either irrelevant or unknown for manuscripts and for early printed books). Alternatively, you may use any other consistent and documented style that you choose. At the risk of repetition, it must be stressed that the crucial issue is consistency within a single piece of work.

The style convention for footnotes given here is to give a full reference at the first citation, and then author-plus-short-title in subsequent citations. The examples below use lower case in titles except for proper nouns; this should always be followed in the case of French and Latin titles, but in English and German titles either upper case or lower case may be used for non-trivial words in book titles.

First (or ‘full’) reference to books, articles, and manuscript source may be given as in the following examples (you may choose between giving authors’ names exactly as in their works, and using initials-plus-surname for all authors), giving where relevant the specific page number(s) to which you are referring:


Rosamond McKitterick, The Frankish kings and culture in the early middle ages (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995), 1-11.

A. T. Runnock, Medieval fortress building, new edn, 2 vols., (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), vol. I, pp. 135-7.

[Here ‘pp. 135-7’ are the specific pages to which reference is being made; there is alternatively a different convention, of dropping the ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’ when a volume number is cited, as it is here.]

G. S. Rousseau and Pat Rogers (eds.), The enduring legacy: Alexander Pope, tercentenary essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 44.

[Here ‘p. 44’ is the specific page to which reference is being made. CUP style permits the ‘p.’ here, but its use is not mandatory, and you may choose to omit it so long as you do so consistently.]

Chapter in edited volume:

Mary Laven, ‘Testifying to the self: nuns' narratives in early modern Venice', in Judicial tribunals in England and Europe, 1200-1700, eds. M. Mulholland and B. Pullan (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003), 147-58.

[Here ‘147-58 is the complete page range of the chapter.]

Journal articles:

David Porter, ‘A peculiar but uninteresting nation: China and the discourse of commerce in eighteenth-century England’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33 (2000): 181-199.

[Here ‘33’ is the volume number, which must be given, and ‘181-199 is the complete page range of the article. It is not necessary to give the journal issue number or month in addition to the volume. If you do decide to adopt a convention of giving either issue number or month (which must be done consistently), omit the other: so either Journal of American History, 91:4 (2005), or Journal of American History, 91 (March 2005), but not Journal of American History, 91:4 (March 2005).]

Arthur Jerrold Tieje, ‘A peculiar phase of the theory of realism in pre-Richardsonian fiction’, PMLA 28 (1913), 213-52, at p.214.

[Here PMLA would be set out in an abbreviations list, otherwise spelt out here at first reference.]

Manuscript material:

Richardson to Lady Bradshaigh, 15 December 1748, Richardson / Bradshaigh letters, Forster collection, XI, fol. 7, Harvard University.

Unpublished theses or dissertations:

H. R. Southall, ‘Regional unemployment patterns in Britain, 1851 to 1914’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge (1984), p. 72.

Short reference

After the first mention, references to the source in the notes should take a shortened form. A shortened reference includes only the last name of the author and an improvised short title for the book (containing the key word or words from the main title, so as to make the reference easily recognisable and not to be confused with any other work), followed by the page number of the reference. Thus:

Rousseau and Rogers (eds.), Enduring legacy, p. 45. 
Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p. 74.

Porter, ‘A peculiar but uninteresting nation’, p. 182.

Laven, ‘Testifying to the self’, p. 148.

Manuscript material:
Southall, ‘Regional unemployment’, p. 72.
‘Richardson / Bradshaigh letters’, fol. 116.
BN n.a.fr. 20628 (Thiers Papers), fol. 279.

The author may be separated from the short title, e.g. in footnote formulations such as:

As Runnock observes, the fortress inevitably had a secondary religious function. Medieval fortress building, p. 134.

You may choose to use ‘Ibid.’ [no italics] to refer to the work mentioned in the immediately preceding reference, so long as there is no danger of confusion.


Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p.134. 

Ibid., p. 108.
But not:
Runnock, Medieval fortress building, p.134; ‘Richardson / Bradshaigh letters’, fol. 116. Ibid., p.108.

Films, sound recordings, music videos, television programmes:

Use common sense to construct a consistent system of referencing. Include the date produced and for films, the country and director. Example: Kate Nickerson [Arnold Manoff nom de plume], writer, and Sidney Lumet, director, ‘The Death of Socrates: 399 B.C.’, episode of ‘You Are There’, CBS, national USA broadcast, 3 May 1953.


Websites should be cited in roman without angle brackets: 

http://www.cambridge.org. Although some authorities now counsel that there is no need to give the date of access to a site, the DNB and other important historical sources recommend it in view of frequent updating, and so you should include it, adapting the following form as appropriate:

John Morrill, ‘Cromwell, Oliver (1599-1658)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, May 2006 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6765, accessed 15 June 2007].

However, you should avoid citing websites where unnecessary, e.g. where a manuscript or source is readily available in print.


To cite an interview that you have conducted, give the name of the person interviewed (unlessthe interviewee has asked to remain anonymous), the kind of interview (e.g. Personal interview, Telephone interview), and the date, for example:

  1. Gordon Brown. Personal Interview. 25 December 2009.

The interview should also be listed in the bibliography, where it may be suitable to provide more detail on the nature and circumstances of the interview (for example venue and duration).

6 Bibliography

  1. Bibliographies should be divided into these sections, as applicable:

    1. Primary manuscript sources [manuscripts from the period studied]

    2. Primary printed sources [printed editions of sources from the period studied]

    3. Secondary sources [works by historians or others, subsequent to period studied]

  2. In all these sections, items are listed in alphabetical order. In the case of printed sources, this is done by the first or only author’s surname. In the case of works without an author, it is done by title, but these are in the same alphabetical listing.

  3. Put a full stop at the end of every bibliographical entry.

  4. A bibliography should generally contain all the sources cited in the text and notes and any other important titles that you have consulted or used in preparing the submission.

  5. The form of entries in the bibliography is similar to that for the full reference, except that the author's surname and first name or initials are inverted. The bibliography does not give references to specific page numbers where information can be found, but rather lists pages only where they are the full page range of a journal article, book chapter, or other similar section of a larger whole.

  6. Whatever style is adopted, items in a bibliography should have what is called a ‘hanging indent’, that is, the first line is flush with the left margin, but subsequent lines are indented three or four spaces. (This is as shown in the examples below.)

Examples for books and articles in bibliography

Runnock, A.T., Medieval fortress building, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Salter, Elizabeth, ‘Piers Plowman and the pilgrimage to truth’, Essays and Studies, 11 (1958), 30-48.

Tieje, Arthur Jerrold, ‘A peculiar phase of the theory of realism in pre-Richardsonian fiction’, PMLA, 28 (1913), 213-52.

Archival and manuscript sources in bibliography

In the case of primary manuscript sources, if few sources have been used, the alphabetical listing is by the name (surname or first word of organization) of the individual item and its manuscript collection, as follows. You will note that, with classical, medieval and early modern manuscripts, it is common for collections to be numbered as well as named, and (unlike modern sources) usual to list individual manuscripts, although not down to the level of the individual folios referenced.


James Madison Papers. Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

National Fountain Pen Association Papers. Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI.

Jemima O’Rourke Diary. Alamance County Historical Society, Graham, NC.

Rawlinson MS D. 36. Papers on learning collected by Francis Turner. Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Donald Rumsfeld Papers. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

However, an alternative to the above convention is widely used by medieval historians: this is to give the alphabetical listing by the place, followed by the library, and then the shelf mark of the collection. Medievalists should follow this convention and others may choose to do so on the advice of their supervisor. Example:

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson MS D.36. Papers on learning collected by Francis Turner.

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