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Department of History

MA in Modern History

Brief Overview

Durham's MA in Modern History is a broad-ranging Master's programme which seeks to equip students with historical research techniques and approaches, advanced skills in critical analysis and independent study, as well as strong and effective communication skills. The MA programme is designed to enable students with different career ambitions to succeed in their chosen area, and it caters for students of different backgrounds, previous training, and areas of specialisation. The breadth of research interests of the modern historians at Durham allows the department to offer supervision in topics about modern history from the nineteenth century through to contemporary history. The programme seeks to enable students to build an awareness of the contemporary boundaries of modern scholarship, to master advanced understanding of historical concepts and methods, and ultimately to make their own contributions to the field.

Durham's History Department is an international centre for the study of the Modern period, and is situated in the historic setting of the World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle, and the surrounding area. Students of modern 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. Modern History at Durham is comprehensive and international in its reach, with specialists in the cultural and political history, visual culture and media studies, sports history, regional and international histories. Area specialisms include the British Isles, Continental Europe, Africa, North America, China and the Steppe regions.

For more information on academic staff engaged in research into modern history at Durham, please see individual staff pages and our research projects.

V1K707 Modern History MA

Degree MA
Year of Entry 2015
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year
Location Durham City
Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 1075


The MA in Modern History is designed to introduce you to the advanced study of the Modern period.

The course explores issues of critical thinking, guided research through seminars and individual sessions, and independent learning. The Modern specialists in the Department offer a wide range of options and subject areas, with particular strengths in western European, British, United States, African and Chinese history. Within these areas of strength coverage is equally broad. Late modern Europeanists focus on the history of French social and political thought, the social and political history of Germany from the Weimar period to the present, Russian and Soviet history, the history of film and propaganda, sports, and environmental history. The Modern British historians specialise in intellectual history, the history of political thought, social and economic history, political history, and the cultural history of the post-Second World War period. Staff with US interests focus on the business history of the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the role of US foreign policy in the Cold War period, and Native American history and the New Deal period. The Department's African specialists work on north-eastern African in the colonial and post-colonial periods. With the unique resource of the Library's Sudan Archive close to hand, the Department is the natural home for historical study of Sudan in particular; but staff have research expertise covering a wider region. Our modern Chinese historians specialise in social, gender and cultural history. Durham has a substantial and wide ranging collection of Chinese primary material dating from the eighteenth century as well as good holdings of secondary works. For the study of Modern History language courses (modern French and German) can also form part of the course.

Durham has substantial archival sources for research, from the Sudan Archive, to political papers, including the Early Grey Family Papers, as well as access to the collections of Ushaw College (the RC seminary in northern England since the early nineteenth century), and a range of online and micro-film resources.

Course Structure

The course consists of 180 credits, divided between modules, some of which are core, some of which are optional.

  • You must take two 15 credit core modules, and complete the 30 credit module, Issues in Modern History
  • You may then take an optional module for 30 credits from the list below
  • In addition you may take a skills module for 30 credits
  • With an optional module AND a skills module you then take a 60 credit dissertation
  • With an optional module ONLY you then take a 90 credit dissertation.

Core Modules

  • Archives and Sources (15 credits)
  • Critical Practice (15 credits)
  • Issues in Modern History
  • Dissertation (60 credits or 90 credits).

Optional Modules

Modern optional modules are:

  • Tradition, Change and Political Culture in Modern Britain
  • Cultures of Consumption in Modern Europe*
  • Race in Modern America
  • Gender, Nationalism and Modernity in East Asia
  • 'Tribe' and Nation in Africa
  • Interpretations of Terror and Genocide in Modern Europe
  • The Wealth of Nations.

Other optional modules that can be taken are:

  • The Anglo-Saxon World AD 400-1100
  • The Anglo-Norman World*
  • Power and Society in the Late Middle Ages
  • The Archaeology of the Book: Codicology and Culture from Antiquity to the Renaissance*
  • Courts and Power in Early Modern Europe 
  • Negotiating Life in the Early Modern World
  • Gender, Medicine and Sexuality in Early Modern Europe*
  • The Idea of Politics.
*Modules marked with an asterisk are unavailable 2014-15.

Skills Modules that may be taken are:

  • German Reading Skills for Research
  • French Reading Skills for Research.

The MA programme in History offers higher-level students opportunities to develop advanced research skills, to broaden and deepen their subject knowledge, and to develop skills in time management and effective use of resources. The programme stresses independent learning, leading up to the writing of a dissertation. The MA programme is flexible and responsive to student choice and preference, as well as delivering core and compulsory training in historical study.

The programme is delivered primarily through small group seminar teaching with some larger classes, and lecture-style sessions. These teaching methods are common to all three courses, Medieval, Early Modern and Modern. Students take two compulsory modules, an optional module, and may take a skills or language module as well. If the latter is taken they complete a 60 credit dissertation; if not, a 90 credit dissertation.

Termly division of contact hours between terms depends on student choice. All students take Issues in Medieval/Early Modern/Modern History in the first term, with 16 contact hours, all classroom-based. Issues modules are team-taught, and expose students to a wide variety of staff support and expertise. Additionally the first half of Historical Research Methods (called Archives and Sources) is taken in this term, giving 8 hours of contact, split between lectures, classes and seminars. This module is convened by the MA Director. Language courses run through Terms 1 and 2, as do some optional modules that contribute to interdisciplinary programmes. Language courses are more contact hour intensive. Optional modules provide a total of 16 contact hours and are seminar taught. These are for the most part taken in Term 2, along with the second half of Historical Research Methods (called Critical Practice). Critical Practice involves lectures and group presentation, and is assessed by oral presentation in a mini-conference. Dissertation supervision involves 8 hours of directed supervision, individually with a dedicated supervisor. This begins in Term 2 and continues into Term 3 and the summer session. 

Subjects required, level and graded

A good 2.1 or GPA of 3.5, or equivalent. A first degree in History or a related subject is required.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study

Requirements and Admissions

The University accepts the following alternative English language tests and scores.

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Fees shown are for one year. Total fee will depend on the length of your programme. All fees are subject to annual increases. For more information please visit the Tuition Fees page

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