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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

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 specialise 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

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.


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.

Assessment is by 5,000-word essay.

Entry requirements

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 2,500 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.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

The tuition fees for 2023/24 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

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 Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


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

Department information


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.

As a postgraduate student, you will benefit from working with staff with areas of expertise including medieval, early modern and modern history, African history, South or East Asian history, American history, and modern European history.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 40 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2022
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2023
  • 4th in The Guardian University Guide 2023
  • 4th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023


For a current list of staff, please see the History Department pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 7th in the Power Rank for REF 2021.


The Department of History is located in the heart of Durham, next to Durham Cathedral and Castle, which together form the UNESCO World Heritage Site. We are within easy reach of all university colleges, libraries, lecture rooms, and other facilities.

The Department occupies a group of historic townhouses on North Bailey and Palace Green. Originally built as coffee houses and lawyers’ offices in the 17th and 18th Centuries, these buildings now accommodate academic staff, administrative staff and seminar rooms. All postgraduate classes and supervision meetings take place within the History Department.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

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Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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