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V1KB07 Social and Economic History (Research Methods) MA Postgraduate Taught  2018


Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time)
Start Date 02-10-2018
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1040

Course Summary


Durham's MA in Social and Economic History at Durham provides training in research methods for historical topics in any aspect of social and economic history. The MA provides quantitative and qualitative research methods appropriate to a wide range of historical approaches. Accredited by the ESRC, this MA is part of our four year funding scheme offered by the North-East Doctoral Training Centre. You can apply for 1+3 funding for this MA followed by a PhD in any aspect of social and economic history with expert supervision available within the Department – and with our partner institution in the NEDTC at Newcastle University. This includes African history, and aspects of governance, as well as traditional social and economic topics. For further information on funding see further below.

The MA programme is shared with the School of Applied Social Science and will help you to build an awareness of the contemporary boundaries of social and economic history and to master advanced understanding of the concepts and methods with which it may be interrogated. It seeks to equip you with a diverse portfolio of research techniques and approaches to enable you to undertake extended independent research in your dissertation, and to make your own contribution to the field. The skills provided by this MA are also transferrable to a wide range of careers.

Durham has a long tradition of economic and social history, on which this MA draws. The breadth of possible subjects for study mirrors the comprehensive and global nature of the department staff: from medieval Europe to modern-day Africa, and from north-east England to the global economy. Durham's History Department is situated in the historic setting of the World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Students of social and economic history at Durham benefit from the rich archival and manuscript resources in the collections of the University (at Palace Green Library - especially the Sudan Archive - and Ushaw College) and in the Cathedral Library, while the wider regional resources for study of the period are also highly significant: the landscape of industrial revolution and of post-industrial response, of globalisation and regional identity.

Course Structure

The MA in Social and Economic History is a one-year full-time programme (or two-years part-time). All students are allocated a supervisor at the beginning of the first term, and s/he guides each student through the year.

You will take 30 credits of core modules from History: Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits); and 30 credits of core modules from the School of Applied Social Sciences: Perspectives on Social Research (15 credits) AND EITHER Qualitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits) OR Fieldwork and Interpretation (15 credits). You will write a 60-credit dissertation (15,000 words) supervised by a member of academic staff in the History Department. You will also choose a 30-credit optional module in History; AND 30 credits of optional modules from Social Sciences: EITHER Statistical Exploration and Reasoning (15 credits) and Quantitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits) OR Applied Statistics (30 credits).

The programme is structured as follows:

Michaelmas Term (October-December)

Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits)

This module is compulsory for all MA students and provides them with the bulk of the disciplinary training providing specific and direct training in disciplinary practices, theories, approaches and methodologies. It is intended to guide all students regardless of their period specialism from a more tutor-led to independent learning on to their dissertation by combining a focus on primary sources across periods with thematic and historiographical approaches. The module will run throughout the entire academic year combining from the outset a focus on hands-on work with primary sources and discussion of related pieces of historiography (social, cultural, political etc.) and theoretical readings concerning specific themes, concepts and theories (gender, power, class, the state, transnationalism, globalization etc.). The module is taught in a series of seminars and familiarises students with the skills and problems integral to advanced historical work. It develops their capacity for independent research, their ability to effectively present oral and written results, as well as their organizational and leadership skills in chairing discussions. TRS provides a context in which students assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend their conclusions in a reasoned setting, advance their knowledge and deepen their understanding of history.

Assessment is by 4,000-word essay centring on particular primary sources or an archive (80% of the module mark). The remaining 20% of the module mark comes from a 20-minute presentation on students’ dissertation topics + 10 minutes Q&A at the MA Conference in the Easter term.

Perspectives on Social Research (15 credits)

This module introduces you to social scientific research, and focuses on establishing cause and interpreting meaning in social sciences. The module also covers the essentials of quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences.

* Statistical Exploration and Reasoning (15 credits; OPTIONAL)

This module covers spreadsheets and data analysis; populations, sample data and sampling distributions; point estimates and confidence intervals; significance tests, cross-tabulation, and Chi-Square tests; correlation and linear regression.

* Fieldwork and Interpretation (15 credits; OPTIONAL)

This module aims to give you a comprehensive view of qualitative field methods used by social sciences, including the collection, management and interpretation of qualitative data. It will cover the relation of explanatory theories to methods of research; ethnography and participant observation; interviewing, focus groups and other group-based research techniques; participatory methods; power relations and reflexivity in qualitative research; management and analysis of qualitative data; and ethical issues in qualitative research.

* Applied Statistics (30 credits; OPTIONAL; runs across Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms)

This module aims to introduce you to the theory and application of statistical methods using relevant applications software, and to develop students' confidence and competence in the use of statistics and the analysis of data relevant to psychologists. You will be taught a variety of parametric and non-parametric statistical data analysis methods, illustrated by examples. The module is taught through lectures and practical sessions.

Epiphany Term (January-March)

Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits) continued on from Themes, Reading and Sources module taken in Michaelmas Term.
Option module (30 credits)

Option modules allow you the opportunity to learn about a particular topic or issue in medieval history in depth, and to consider different historical approaches to this topic over a full term's study. In previous years, options included: Power and Society in the Late Middle Ages; The Wealth of Nations; Race in Modern America; 'Tribe' and Nation in Africa since 1800; Tradition, Change and Political Culture in Modern Britain; Gender, Nationalism and Modernity in East Asia; History, Knowledge and Visual Culture (a full list of MA option modules is available here). Option modules are taught in weekly two-hour seminars for a full term's study.

* Qualitative Research Methods (15 credits; OPTIONAL)

This module covers introduction to theory and research practice in qualitative methods; ethnography and grounded theory; group discussions; data analysis and management processes.

* Quantitative Research Methods (15 credits; OPTIONAL)

This module covers analysis of survey data versus experimental data; sampling and sample design, and questionnaire design; numerical taxonomy and cluster analysis in practice; methods for representing complex systems.

Easter Term (April-June), and the summer vacation (until early September)

Dissertation (60 credits)

You will meet with your supervisor on an individual basis and will discuss the topic, direction and content of your dissertation, as well as the relevant medieval evidence and scholarship which you should explore. The dissertation is a substantial, independent piece of research of 15,000 words. You are not required to write your dissertation on a topic which is in the same period and area as your optional modules, but it is recommended that you discuss your individual programmes of work with your supervisors and/or with the Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

The formal requirements and structure of the programme can be found here; a full list of optional modules is available here.

The MA can be taken part-time, over two years: please contact the Department if you are interested in exploring this option further.

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme is delivered primarily through small group seminar teaching with some larger classes, and lecture-style sessions. Termly division of contact hours between terms depends on student choice. Skills modules are taught through seminars or classes and are usually more contact-hour-intensive. Optional modules are taught in seminars and provide a total of 20 contact hours. Dissertation supervision involves 8 hours of directed supervision, individually with a dedicated supervisor. Social science modules are taught through lectures, seminars, workshops, and practical classes.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

Subject requirements are a 2:1, with an overall average score of 65% or above, or a GPA of 3.5 or above, or equivalent. An undergraduate degree in History or a related subject is required. 

English Language Requirements

IELTS 7.0 (with no component under 7.0) or equivalent scores in an alternative accepted English language test. Details of alternative accepted tests and the requirements for your subject and level of study can be found here. In some cases, English language proficiency can also be evidenced in other ways. You can find further information regarding this, here.  

How to apply

Full details of how to apply for a postgraduate programme at Durham University can be found here. Please also consult the Department advice and guidance here.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

How to apply

Required to submit the following information with online application:

  • Two Academic References- please ask your referees to email their references directly to or attach with the online application form if able.
  • An Academic CV- this should be no longer than 2 A4 pages and should contain information about your academic achievements to date and any related-work experience you have undertaken.
  • Sample of written work(up to 2500 words for MA programmes)
  • Academic Transcripts and Certificates, if available - copy of your undergraduate degree and postgraduate programmes (dependent upon which degree programme you are applying for) transcript and/or certificate, if degree already attained.
  • A 750-word outline of your intended research, concentrating on the research problem you will address, the research context in which it is located, and the methods, critical approaches, and sources you will use. You can upload this as part of the online application form, or if you have difficulties with this, you may email it to an attachment. For advice on writing your research proposal and what it should contain, please see here.
  • Personal Development Self-Assessment Table- Applicants are requested to complete and submit a self-assessment table with their online application, or as a separate attachment by Please find the Personal Development Self-Assessment Table here.

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £7,300.00 per year
Home Student £7,300.00 per year
Island Student £7,300.00 per year
International non-EU Student £18,000.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £4,100.00 per year
Home Student £4,100.00 per year
Island Student £4,100.00 per year
International non-EU Student £9,900.00 per year

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding

Career Opportunities

Department of History

For further information on career options and employability, including the results of the Destination of Leavers survey, student and employer testimonials and details of work experience and study abroad opportunities, please visit our employability web pages.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits


Department Information

Department of History

Durham attracts some of the best postgraduate students from the UK and internationally, and within the History Department we support these students to develop themselves and their careers. Our postgraduates are an important part of our research community and we place an extremely high value on the contribution which they make to the department.
Postgraduates work closely with our academic staff, who are world-leading experts in their fields. Training is provided to assist students in developing their research skills. All postgraduates are encouraged to share their work with the departmental and wider community, by means of seminars, workshops, postgraduate-led conferences, and by publication. Postgraduate students benefit from working with staff with areas of expertise including medieval, early modern and modern history, African history and modern European history.
Postgraduates also benefit from opportunities for interdisciplinary research conversations through research institutes and centres, such as the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies and the Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures. Durham is exceptionally well provided with libraries, providing access to a huge collection of material. Durham is also home to an unusually extensive and diverse range of archives and special collections, from Magna Carta to the Sudan Archive.