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Postgraduate Courses 1999.

There has been a considerable rise in the number of taught postgraduate courses offered at British universities in recent years and in 1999 the choice of course is greater than ever before. In part this is simply because there are now more qualified graduates who are able to pursue Masters degrees, but the proportion of mature students pursuing studies part-time has also risen dramatically.

In this survey, we offer a flavor of the range of the courses available around Britain this year. Most of the degrees, which can be taken over twelve or twenty-four months, require at least an upper second class honors degree in a relevant subject and include historical methodology as a core course. Some courses (especially in ancient and medieval history) require knowledge of such languages as ancient Greek or Latin. In most cases a dissertation has to be written during the summer.

General History

The most widely available Masters course is the `catchall' MA in History, which often allows students greatest freedom to pick and choose modules for their course than nearly any other degree.

Among the many traditional universities to offer a generic MA in History are the University of East Anglia and also Manchester University (with courses on topics as diverse as `Madness in the Modern Age', `Gender in Ancient and Medieval Christianity' and `English National Identity'), as well as Cardiff University. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the University of Glasgow runs an MPhil/PGDip in History and the University of Edinburgh runs an MSc in History.

A number of new universities also offer the MA in History. The University of Portsmouth has options such as `Oral History'; `Film', and `Leisure and Society'. Meanwhile, the University of the West of England's general history course has a variety of optional courses ranging from local to international history.

Other universities to offer the MA in History include Swansea, whose students have to take specialized module topics from the areas of `Cultural and Intellectual History', `Government and the Governed', `The History and Historiography of Wales' and `Family and Community', while Cheltenham and Gloucester (which has particular strengths in Gloucestershire local history, women's history and American history) also offers an MA in History. The University of Southampton's MA in Historical Studies has options on `America in the Jazz Age', `Buildings as Historical Sources' and `Cold War Popular Culture'.

The Open University's MA in History is taught as a distance-learning degree and offers options ranging from the traditional (such as the French Revolution) to the `new histories' of the family and African history.

University College, Worcester's MA in History is run as a part-time evening course which has such optional modules as `Religion and Society in England, 1558-1660', `Financial Journalism 1843-1914' and `Elections and Electors 1688-1872'.


Whereas most courses listed here are run from the history departments of the mentioned universities, degrees in ancient and classical history are usually run by the department of classics.

The University of Bristol's MA in Ancient History and Historiography, for example, is concerned both with the ancient world and with the ways in which its history has been written and rewritten over the centuries. Optional courses include `History, Myth and Identity in Athens and Rome', `Tacitus and Tacitism', `Roman and British Imperialism' and Appropriating the Past'.

The University of Wales Institute of Classics and Ancient History offers an intercollegiate MA in Ancient History, by drawing together the resources of the universities of Cardiff, Lampeter and Swansea. Cardiff University also runs an MA in Ancient History and Society.

The University of St Andrews's MLitt/PGDip in Ancient History has options in such fields as `Hellenistic History', `Roman Law and Society', and the `City of Rome'. The university also runs an MLitt in Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Studies with courses that include `The Disintegration of the Roman Empire' and `Early Religious History and Thought'.

Exeter offers an MA in Roman Myth and History (for students with or without facility in Latin), looking at the ways in which myth and history intersect. King's College, London, offers a wide variety of courses such as its MA in Ancient History, MA in Late Antique and Byzantine Studies. Students also have access to courses from the MA in Classics. Meanwhile, Royal Holloway runs two ancient history courses, the MA in Ancient History and the MA in Hellenic Studies. In addition, the University of Edinburgh runs a PGDip/MSc in Classics and a PGDip/MSc in Classical Archaeology, the University of Birmingham has an MA in Byzantine Studies and the University of Manchester offers an MA in Ancient World Studies.


The University of Kent at Canterbury runs an interdisciplinary MA in Medieval and Tudor Studies run by The Canterbury Centre for Medieval and Tudor Studies, which is cosponsored by the schools of History; English; and Drama, Film and Visual Arts. Options include `Approaches to War in Medieval England', `Town Life', `English Medieval Art' and the `Consolidation of English Protestantism'.

Another interdisciplinary MA in Medieval Studies is offered by the University of Bristol; a degree which involves staff from the departments of English, History of Art, French, Music, Theology and German, as well as History.

The MA in Medieval Studies is also offered at the University of Reading, while King's College, London, runs an MA in Medieval History providing a wide range of study from `the Italian City in the later Middle Ages' to `Official and Unofficial Religion'.

In its MPhil in Medieval Studies, the University of Glasgow aims to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of research and the training of graduate students.

The University of Nottingham's MA in Medieval History is linked with the Institute of Medieval Studies which has its own journal and encourages interdisciplinary study.

Other universities that offer similar courses include the University of St Andrews with its MLitt in Medieval History, the University of Bristol's MA in Medieval Studies, University College, London, and its MA in Medieval Studies and Cardiff University's MA in Medieval British Studies.

Moving forward into the Renaissance and Early Modern Europe, in addition to its MA in Medieval History, the University of Manchester runs an MA in Early Modern History which has a strong emphasis on the history of religion and society in Europe of the period.

Religion was one of the most important factors of Early Modern Europe and, while the University of Warwick covers the broader spectrum in its MA in Religious and Social History, 1500-1700, the University of St Andrews looks at the more specific in its MLitt in Reformation Studies.

Other courses that cover this period include Royal Holloway's MA in Renaissance and Early Modern History, while the University of Sussex offers an MA in Early Modern History that allows students to concentrate on aspects of the history of England, France, Spain and the Low Countries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Modern Period

Modern history is today undoubtedly the most popular area of study from sixth form to post-graduate level, with studies of the twentieth century especially dominant.

The University of Reading's MA in Modern History, 16th to 20th Centuries draws upon the experience of experts in British, European and American history from the Reformation to the present.

The University of Bristol offers an MA in Contemporary History which includes such options as the `Recent Environmental History of the USA', `Economic Change in Contemporary China', `Comparative Welfare States', `Transitional Justice in South Africa', and `Women and Technology'.

Trinity and All Saints University College, Chester, offers an MA in Victorian Studies which has core modules that include `Politics and Society' and `Literature and Culture', and optional courses on topics such as women, science and religion, culture, the economy, technology and the rural labourer. The University of Chester also has an MA in Victorian Studies. Meanwhile, the University of Nottingham offers the interdisciplinary MA in Nineteenth Century Culture and Society.

For those with an interest centred on the twentieth century, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, offers an MA in Contemporary British History since 1939 and Edge Hill University College's MA in History offers modules that cover nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. Keele offers an MA in Contemporary History which considers history since 1945 in an international context.

The University of Salford offers an MA in Politics and Contemporary History, which develops the methodological basis of history and politics, while exploring the common ground between the two disciplines.

The University of Sussex runs an MA in Contemporary History that includes courses on `Empire and Nation', `Women's Lives', `The State in the 20th Century', as well as other topics on this period, and historical method.

Royal Holloway's MA in Modern History: Power, Culture and Society is the largest course in the department, presenting a wide array of subject areas, from `Islamic History' to `Modern World Affairs'.

The MA in Modern History at University College London covers the period from the sixteenth century to the present, linking social, political, cultural, economic and international history.

The MA in Historical Studies: Contemporary Europe at Anglia Polytechnic University looks at both continent-wide developments and the more particular experiences of national and ethnic identities. Subjects include comparative studies of Britain and Italy, religion and politics, and developments in Europe towards the year 2000.

The University of Hertfordshire offers an MA/PGDip in Historical Studies, which includes modules in `Witchcraft', `Women and Work in Britain, 1880-1940' and the `19th-Century Church'.

The University of Warwick has two postgraduate courses on the modern world: an MA in Eighteenth Century Studies and its MA in Culture, Class and Power: Modern Europe since 1850. Also, the University of St Andrews offers an MLitt in Modern Historical Studies, while Middlesex University runs an MA in Modern European History.


Local and regional history remain two of the most popular areas of postgraduate study, especially as many universities can offer a unique insight into their local environment or region.

The Queen's University, Belfast offers an MA in Irish History which surveys the writing of Irish history in its intellectual and political context from the nineteenth century to the present day. For the dissertation, students will work closely with the nearby Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Meanwhile, the University of Ulster offers an MA/ PGDip in Irish History and Politics at Magee College, Londonderry. This course includes modules in the `Emergence of Irish National Identity', the `Making of Ulster Unionism' and the `Northern Ireland Conflict since 1968'.

The University of Aberdeen recognises the Celtic links between Ireland and Scotland in its interdisciplinary Masters Programme in Irish and Scottish Studies. The only course of its kind offered in Europe or North America, this embraces all aspects of Irish and Scottish history, literature, language and culture dating from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Welsh History is covered in Trinity College, University of Wales' MA in Local History: South-West Wales since 1800, while Cardiff University offers an MA in Welsh History.

King Alfred's College, Winchester offers an MA in Regional and Local History and Archaeology which is run on weekday nights with occasional weekend commitments.

The University of Leicester, long renowned for its local history, offers an MA in English Local History: Societies, Cultures and Nation, which offers the core module, `Local and Regional Societies c.410-Present Day'.

Other universities that offer courses in local history include the University of Liverpool's MA/PGDip in Local History; the University of Warwick's MA in Local and Regional History (part-time only); the University of Birmingham's MA in English Local History; East Anglia's MA in Local and Regional History; the University of Essex's MA in Local and Regional History (part-time only, as is Keele's MA in Local History) and the University of Nottingham's MA in Local History.


Offering a very different perspective are the many postgraduate courses in international history.

The University of Salford runs an MA in Contemporary European Studies, which offers up to twenty-five modules comprising politics, history, sociology, economics, language, literature and the culture of Europe from 1870 to the present. The University also offers an MA in Intelligence and International Relations.

Middlesex University's MA in Nationalism, Society and Culture in Modern Europe considers the impact of modernisation and nationalism on people and societies in modern Europe. The programme includes courses on `Modernisation', `Society and Nationalism in Modern Europe', `Nazism and the Collapse of Weimar'; `Yugoslavia', `Ideology and Theory of History' and `Liberalism and Nationalism'.

The School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), London, offers a similar degree in its MA in Nationalism and Identity, although naturally with an emphasis on Eastern Europe. Other degree courses available at SSEES are an MA in Central and East European Studies, an MA in Russian Studies and an MA in Politics, Security and Integration.

The British Empire remains a key area of interest at postgraduate level and a number of courses are being offered on this subject this year. Sheffield Hallam University is offering an MA in Imperialism and Culture, a distance-learning course which examines the relationship between imperialism and culture from the period of European expansion and colonialism to the post-colonial era.

Meanwhile, King's College is teaching its MA in Imperial and Commonwealth History, with the co-operation of teachers from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, LSE and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Courses include `British Imperial History 1870-1918' and `Australia: 20th-Century Social and Cultural History'.

SOAS itself is running the MA in African and Asian History, which allows students to choose three courses from twenty-one options on such topics as `Slavery and Servitude in Sub-Saharan Africa', `Evolution of the State and Politics in Colonial India' and `Nationalism, Sexuality and the Body in China'.

The London School of Economics is running the degree courses, MSc in History of International Relations and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. Similarly, the University of Salford offers an MA in Contemporary European Studies and an MA in Intelligence and International Relations.

Meanwhile, the School of Slavonic and East European Studies is running a similar course, although geared towards Eastern European history, in its MA in Politics, Security and Integration. SSEES also offers the generic MA in History, as well as the above-mentioned courses and an MA in Nationalism and Identity.

The University of Essex is also considering the issue of nationalism in its MA in the History of Nationalism and Ethnicity.

The history of the Americas is a perennially popular topic. The University of Warwick offers an MA in the History of Race in the Americas, while, the University of Sussex offers an MA in American History, the University of Glasgow has an MPhil in American Studies and the University of St Andrews has the course MLitt in Modern American History.

Other areas of the world covered by postgraduate courses include the University of St Andrews's MLitt in Arabic and Middle East Studies.


Social history has proved to be one of the most popular areas of study with students in recent years. Courses such as the University of Essex's MA in European Social History, King Alfred's College, Winchester's MA in Social History and the University of Lancaster's MA in Modern Social History, all reflect the strength of this topic, but those focusing on more specific themes are perhaps more popular, especially in terms of gender relationships.

For instance, the University of Lancaster runs an MA in Women's Studies and Social History, while the University of Essex offers an MA in Women's History (part-time only) and an MA in Gender History and the MA in History of Race, Class and Gender.

Meanwhile, Royal Holloway's MA in Women's History is notable for studying women's history over the long term in Britain and the Continent, rather than merely the modern struggle for suffrage. Also, London Guildhall University is validating the MA in Modern British Women's History in collaboration with the Fawcett Library (the national research library for women's history).

The London Centre for the History of Science, Medicine and Technology combines the expertise of UCL, Imperial and the Wellcome Institute in its MSc in the History of Science, Medicine and Technology. Similar courses are available at the University of Lancaster with its MA in the History of Science, and the University of Warwick with its MA in the Social History of Medicine. The University of East Anglia also runs an MA in the History Of Medicine, ranging from the ancient Greeks to the Welfare State.

While the History of Science may appeal to those students prepared to cross the borders between arts and science, economics similarly appeals to those with an interest in history combined with a grasp of often technical and mathematical economics. Manchester University's MA in Social and Economic History is a good example of this, as it includes both social science theory and analytical studies of historical periods. The University of East Anglia, too, runs an MA in Economic and Social History.

The London School of Economics runs two relevant Masters courses: an MSc in Economic History (with a choice of two syllabuses, either Europe, America and Japan, or Africa, Asia and Latin America) and an MSc in Economics and Economic History; a joint course with options including micro- and macro-economics and quantitative economic history.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other Masters courses in economic history to choose from. The University of Birmingham offers an MA in Social and Economic History, while the University of Leicester has an MA in International Economic History as well as an MA in Global Urbanisation. The University of Glasgow has an MPhil in Contemporary Economic History and finally an MA in International Economic History: Globalisation and Change is offered by the University of Liverpool.


As many MAs are undertaken as a stepping-stone to more advanced postgraduate studies, it is not surprising that there are a significant number of courses that focus on methodology. The University of Lancaster runs an MA in Historical Research, as does the University of Liverpool. The University of Essex takes a more British outlook in its MA in Researching British History. Meanwhile the University of Glasgow concentrates on the uses of new technology in its MPhil/PGDip in History and Computing.

The University of Hull runs an MA in Historical Research which draws on the combined resources of the social and economic history department and the history department and has particular strengths in maritime and local history, South-East Asian studies, histories of labour, and agriculture.

A philosophical approach is presented by the University of Sussex in its MA in Intellectual History and the History of Political Thought, while the University of Lancaster offers an MA in the History of Ideas.

The rise in popularity of cultural history in recent years has been accompanied by more interdisciplinary courses, which contain some modules pertaining to history while others are from such fields as literature, art and drama. Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, is typical in this in its MA in Culture and Barbarism which takes a broad look at the different aspects of culture, while its MA in Film and Communications Studies includes courses that access film and society. Other courses, such as Cardiff University's MA in Music, Culture and Politics and the University of Reading's MA in Science Fiction: Histories, Texts, Media similarly draw upon history to add context to the course.

Manchester University's MA in Cultural History focuses on the transformation of history itself (especially by considering the effect of post-modernism on history) by considering the past through such disciplines as literature, sociology, politics and art in optional courses from the ancient world to the twentieth century.

Methods of manipulation are analysed in the University of Kent at Canterbury's MA in Propaganda, Persuasion and History. Options include propaganda in such fields as the Cold War, the French Revolution and the women's suffrage movement.

The University of Wales, Lampeter, runs a PGDip/ MA in Visual Representations in History which not only looks at the modern era of film and other visual media, but also explores art from the Middle Ages.

Perhaps inevitably, there are a number of courses on offer that do not neatly fit into these groups but carry obvious appeal to those interested in a historical perspective. For instance, University College, Chester, runs an MA in Landscape, Heritage and Society, as well as an MA in Military Studies. An MA in Religious History is run by St Mary's College, Twickenham, while the University of St Andrews has an MLitt in Maritime Studies and the University of Warwick has an MA in Humanities.

For further details, contact the Director of Graduate Studies at the relevant university. Alternatively, the History Today website carries more information and addresses.
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Title Annotation:history programs at British universities
Author:Bates, David
Publication:History Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 1999
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