Are you interested in taking your knowledge of history to a higher level? Do you want to add to your repertoire of skills? Or maybe you want to continue your professional development?
This two-year distance learning programme offers you the opportunity to explore a number of historical themes, drawing on the Department of History’s broad range of expertise. You may pursue one of four pathways through the MA:
Modern British Studies.
Your chosen pathway will determine your choice of core modules and the theme of your dissertation, but you also have the opportunity to study two optional modules in other areas which suit your particular interest.
Birmingham’s Department of History is ranked the best in the country*, with 87% of its research rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of its quality. Research in the department spans the medieval to the modern, including topics such as China’s Middle Period, the material culture of the early modern household, and non-governmental organisations in modern Britain.
This research expertise is evident within our teaching within our programmes drawing on the diverse regional and chronological expertise available in the Department of History.
*Research Excellence Framework 2014
Masters Scholarships available for September 2021 Entry
From £1500 discounts for current students, £1500 scholarships for our very best candidates, to our College of Arts and Law Masters Fees Scholarship, there are lots of funding opportunities available to study with us in September 2021.
Why study this course?
Research expertise – Times Higher Education ranked the Department of History first in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
Excellent reputation – the University of Birmingham has been ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study History in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
Flexibility – you will have an exciting opportunity to explore your chosen area of study in-depth, through your choice of optional modules and dissertation topic.
Career changing – a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role.
Ongoing support – you will be assigned a personal tutor who will guide and support you throughout the programme
Core modules: pathway-specific
You will study two core modules that are specific to the pathway you are studying:
Contemporary History pathway
Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945 The module examines various aspects of the first half of the twentieth century, focussing particularly—but not only—on Europe and America. It examines the rise of mass society and modernity as social and cultural phenomena; the rise of mass politics in Europe, America, and beyond; the phenomenon of mass statelessness; the main strands of authoritarian ideology and liberal democracy; mass mobilisation in war and politics; economic and military conflict; and the growing ascendancy of the United States.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Globalisation since 1945 The module examines various aspects of global history in the second half of the 20th century. It takes its cue from a growing but often problematic literature which sees 'globalisation' as a key feature of global history over the last half-century. It will begin by examining the key institutions of a 'new world order' built after the Second World War; in particular, those connected to the United Nations and Bretton Woods. It will then explore the interplay of key actors: inter-governmental organisations; nation-states (especially, the USA, the USSR and the non-aligned); multinational corporations and non-governmental organisations.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Global History pathway
Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections This module is an introductory survey of global history. It will draw on the considerable chronological depth and regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires, such as Rome and China, through new medieval empires in Afro-Eurasia, early modern voyages of exploration to the age of revolutions which gave birth to new nations in the midst of global political ruptures.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
The Making of the World: Themes in Global History
This module is conceived around some of the major processes that shaped history and the key concepts that historians use to make sense of the past. Using case studies of considerable regional breadth and chronological depth, you will familiarise yourself with the building blocks of past and present societies. These key processes and themes include the importance of the environment in human history; issues of space, geography and the formation of border regions; time and temporality; religion and notions of value; and historically and culturally diverse constructions of subjectivity and social order including gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. The module ends with an in-depth look at a key text bringing many of these themes together, Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Medieval Studies pathway
Approaches to Medieval StudiesMedieval Studies is a field to which many different disciplines contribute. The aim of this module is to expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines (such as archaeology, history, language and literature, art history, etc.), in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research. Seminars will also deal with a selection of contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
Understanding Medieval DocumentsThis module will introduce you to the study of medieval documents in their original, unedited forms. The first five weeks of the module will cover some of the basic formulae found in administrative documents, and the second half of the module will focus on the basics of palaeography (common abbreviations; different hands). By the end of the module, you should be able to identify and translate some of the basic formulae found in charters and administrative documents.
Modern British Studies pathway
New Directions in Modern British HistoryThis module will expose you to some of the key debates and moments in Modern British Studies and its associated historiography. There are difficulties in identifying organising narratives for understanding modern Britain. How do we write history that remains intellectually inclusive, avoids privileging historic and contemporary historiographical concerns and creates conversations that cut across regional, temporal and disciplinary boundaries? This module will introduce you to historical works that have stimulated new visions of the past and its role in public life. If British society and culture has changed, so has the way that historians have approached and conceptualised it. While the module focuses on a series of key interventions, we will situate these in the context of broader debates about Modern Britain.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Sites and Sources in Modern British StudiesThis module goes beyond thinking about Britain in terms of the great and the good and introduces you to rich and diverse sources through which historians have tried to understand the contours of everyday life in the past. The module will enable you to capture the pluralistic and inchoate messiness of ordinary life and historical change. A seaside postcard can be just as useful to a historian as a work of art. It is a module that will give you grounding in the interpretation of different sources and the problems and possibilities these present in studying the past.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Core modules: all pathways
You will also take two core modules in research and dissertation preparation:
This module introduces you to approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War. These include developments such as the Annales School, historians’ response to Marxism and to anthropological theory, the linguistic turn, gender and critical social theory. The focus is on the application of ideas to historical practice, investigating how medievalists, early-modernists and modernists have adapted these approaches to their particular field of study.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation
This module covers what the dissertation project will entail. You will be expected to produce a short dissertation proposal for submission and you will be allocated a tutor who will supervise your dissertation preparation work.Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Your remaining two modules are optional.
Medieval Studies pathway
Medieval Studies students can take either of the two Global History modules (Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections; The Making of the World: Themes in Global History) or the bespoke Medieval Warfare module:
Medieval WarfareThis module will introduce you to medieval military tactics, technologies and theories of warfare in the period c.400-c.1500. You will explore case studies and primary source material (in translation) from across the medieval world, from Tang China to al-Andalus, and from theories of the Just War to the development of fortifications and siege engines. Seminar topics may include: Barbarians and Romans; Slaves on Horses (the rise of the Caliphate); Gunpowder, Treason and Plots (Tang China); Carolingian warfare from Charles Martel to Charles the Fat; Alfred the Great; the Norman Conquest; the Crusades; From Genghis Khan to the Golden Horde; the Hundred Years’ War.
All other pathways
Students may choose from any of the other core pathway modules. Other modules may be available in any given year.
In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation.
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.
The deadline for all students applying to our distance learning courses is Thursday 9 September 2021.
Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.
Our Standard Requirements
You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard.
Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.
English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.
IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:
TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - Minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component
Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.
The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver local support.
In addition to a range of campus-based events and workshops, Careers Network provides extensive online resources and comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.
You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.
Postgraduate employability: History
Our History postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by a range of employers. These skills include familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.
Over the past 5 years, 81% of History postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). Some of our History postgraduates go on to use their studies directly, for example in heritage or in museums. Others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations including finance, marketing, teaching and publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include the Royal Air Force, Ministry of Defence, University of Birmingham, Royal Air Force Museum and the University of Oxford.