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Durham University


V1KC07 History MA Postgraduate Taught 2021


Please note: 2021-22 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Applicants will be informed of any changes which we are required to make to course entries as a result of Covid-19.

Degree MA
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 Year (full-time) or 2 Years (part-time)
Start Date October
Location Durham City
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Department(s) Website

Course Summary


The course is designed as a research preparation masters. It is intended to encourage you to be intellectually ambitious by inducting you into a community of historians. It invites you to understand the relationship between your own specialist field and the historical discipline in general as well as to communicate with wider audiences. You will feel sufficiently confident in your own disciplinary identity and mastery of the subject to be able to converse with those in other fields.

The course is taught with an emphasis on disciplinary training supplied by the Department’s subject specialists with expertise in an outstanding range of areas (Europe, Britain, North America, Africa, China and Japan) and interdisciplinary engagement, while offering opportunities for supported independent study. You will be able – and are indeed encouraged – to access and use Durham’s exceptional cluster of libraries, archives, and special collections.

All students on the MA in History are required to take the team-taught core module Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits) which runs throughout Michaelmas (Autumn). Depending on whether you opt for the 60-credit Dissertation pathway or the 90-credit Dissertation pathway, you will also take either 3 or 2 optional modules (each worth 30 credits) which run either in Michaelmas or Epiphany or throughout both terms. The options may also be language, skills and content modules, provided by other centres, courses and departments with the consent of all parties concerned. All these elements have embedded within them a range of content, subject-specific skills, and key skills.

While the taught MA in History aims to provide a deep and broad grounding in History as an academic discipline it also allows students to specialize in distinct research areas. Proposed research areas are:

  • African History: Dissertation with a focus in African History, Core Module, one Optional Module in African History; one Foreign Language Module (Arabic, or French) or any other Optional module.
  • East Asian History: Dissertation with a focus in East Asian History; Core Module, one Optional Module in East Asian History; one Foreign Language Module (Chinese or Japanese) or any other Optional module.
  • Transnational History: Dissertation with a focus in Transnational History; Core Module, one Optional Module in Transnational History; one Foreign Language Module (German, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Japanese, or Arabic) or any other Optional module.
  • Medieval History: Dissertation with a focus in Medieval History; Core Module, one Optional Module in Medieval History; Palaeography; one Foreign Language Module (Latin, Greek, Old English, German, or French) or any other Optional module.
  • Early Modern History: Dissertation with a focus in Early Modern History; Core Module, one Optional Module in Early Modern History; Palaeography or one Foreign Language Module (Latin, French, German, Italian, or Spanish) or any other Optional module.
  • Modern History: Dissertation with a focus in Modern History; Core Module, one Optional Module in Modern History; any other Optional or Skills module (e.g. foreign language).
  • Visual Culture: Dissertation with a focus in Visual Culture; Core Module; one Optional Module in Visual Culture; one Foreign Language (French, German, Italian, or Spanish) or any other optional module

Core modules:

This Themes, Reading and Sources module is compulsory for all MA students and provides you with the bulk of the disciplinary training providing specific and direct training in disciplinary practices, theories, approaches and methodologies. It is intended to guide you regardless of your period specialism from a more tutor-led to independent learning on to your dissertation by combining a focus on primary sources across periods with thematic and historiographical approaches.

The module combines 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, globalisation etc.). The module is taught in a series of seminars and will familiarise you with the skills and problems integral to advanced historical work. It will develop your capacity for independent research, your ability to effectively present oral and written results, as well as your organisational and leadership skills in chairing discussions. Themes, Reading and Sources provides a context in which you will assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend your conclusions in a reasoned setting, advance your knowledge and deepen your understanding of history.

Assessment is by 4,000-word essay (80% of the module mark). The remaining 20% of the module mark comes from a presentation on your dissertation topics plus Q&A at the MA Conference in the Easter term.

Examples of optional modules:

These modules focus on a specific theme or problem within various areas of History and provide subject-specific knowledge and skills. They are taught by the Department’s subject specialists in a series of seminars with an emphasis on work with primary sources providing a 'step up' from Level 3 in terms of disciplinary engagement with historiography, approaches, methodologies, concepts and theories.

Optional modules might include:

  • Anglo-Saxon Societies and Cultures: Interdisciplinary approaches to early medieval England
  • The Liberal Arts – Learning, knowledge and power in the high middle ages (c.1100–c.1300)
  • Feudalism: The uses and abuses of a historical model
  • The Archaeology of the Book: Codicology from antiquity to the Renaissance
  • Visualizing Revolution: The Image in French Political Culture, c.1789-1914
  • Intellectuals and Public Opinion in Global History
  • Elections in Africa: A cultural and political history, c. 1950–2016
  • Serious Fun: A history of sport from the late middle ages to the present
  • A Safe Democracy? Constitutionalism, extremism, and political violence in modern England, c. 1890–1939

Assessment is by 5,000-word essay.

In order to facilitate cross- and interdisciplinary engagement, you may opt to take modules from cognate MA courses such as those offered by Centre for Visual Arts and Cultures (CVAC) and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS) with the consent of all parties concerned.

You may also opt to take a language or skills module or both (Modern Languages; Latin; Greek; Old Norse, Palaeography), generally taught in seminars and assessed by an unseen examination.

Course Learning and Teaching

This course 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.

You are required to submit the following information with your online application:

  • Two Academic References – from people who are familiar with your work, commenting on your suitability for the programme
  • 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
  • A sample of written work(up to 2500 words for MA courses)
  • Academic Transcripts and Certificates, if available– a copy of your undergraduate degree and postgraduate courses (dependent upon which degree course 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.
  • Personal Development Self-Assessment Table – Applicants are requested to complete and submit a self-assessment table with their online application. A copy of the form is on the department webpage here.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £21,250.00 per year
Home Student £9,900.00 per year
Island Student £9,900.00 per year
International non-EU Student £21,250.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £11,700.00 per year
Home Student £5,500.00 per year
Island Student £5,500.00 per year
International non-EU Student £11,700.00 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

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 University 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 that they make to the Department. As a postgraduate student, you will 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 here, such as the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies and the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture. Durham University 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.