History MA


Fact file

MA History
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Entry requirements
2.1in History or related subject
Other requirements
Written work is complusory for any non-native English speaker. Applicant will be provided with topics from the school
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
University Park
Tuition fees
You can find fee information on our fees table.


This MA allows you to take your studies and passion for history to the next level.
Read full overview

This MA will help you develop the sophisticated analytical skills to understand the past,  while permitting you to specialise in particular period or to explore a variety of different chronological spans. It is designed to encourage both a broad engagement with historiography and research skills.

During the course, you will build on historical enthusiams developed during your undergraduate degree, taking you to a higher level of understanding and comprehension. A specially-tailored core Research Methods module gives you the chance to develop research skills through hands-on sessions in the archives and to determine the theoretical and methodological approaches that best match your chosen dissertation topic. The dissertation itself – taking advantage of expert supervision within the department – allows students to immerse themselves in primary sources and sophisticated debates. 

In your first semester, alongside Research Methods, you choose from team-taught broad modules, permitting you to see different experts’ perspectives on a carefully chosen menu of topics, covering a wide chronological and geographical range, and building on the research expertise of a department in which 98% of all published material in the Research Excellence Framework 2014 assessment was considered internationally recognised. The small group sizes encourage discussion and debate in a friendly and supportive environment, and give you the chance to address topics in a more critical fashion than is often possible at undergraduate level. You also have the opportunity to study modules offered in a wide-range of cognate disciplines, as well as developing specific skills (including languages and paleography). 

Key Facts

  • Ranked 16 out of 96 UK history departments in the Complete University Guide 2018
  • The department has a thriving research community which includes both staff and research students, and will offer you many opportunities to develop your skills and widen your intellectual horizons.
  • We have a wealth of manuscripts and special collections which have won recognition for their national and international importance.
  • In the 2016 postgraduate taught experience survey, 100% of respondents in the School of Humanities said, “The course is intellectually stimulating” and “The course has enhanced my academic ability”.

Course details

The degree contains three elements and is completed over one year full-time or two years part-time.

First semester

You take one of the four 40-credit options designed to appeal to students with interests in medieval history, early modern European history, modern British history and the history of the west after 1945, and global and non-European history.

In addition you will follow the compulsory 20-credit Research Methods option. 

Second semester

You must choose two 20-credit modules (see indicative examples in the module list below) from the History menu, although you may elect to take 20 credits from approved modules in related disciplines instead. 

You must also choose between one of two Faculty-wide, interdisciplinary modules:

  • Research Methods: The Laboratory of the Arts
  • Arts in Society.

Both are designed to give you a firm sense of the role of Arts and Humanities disciplines within wider society and the academic world, and are designed both to facilitate future academic careers and to make you more professionally-adaptable and sensitive to the importance of interdisciplinary approaches, and the digital humanities. 


During the summer you will complete a 60-credit dissertation (12,000–15,000 words) based on primary sources and supervised by a member of staff with expertise in your chosen field.



These modules are likely to be available in 2018-19.

Autumn semester

Power and Authority in the Medieval World
40 credits

As its title suggests, this module addresses questions of who wielded power and to what ends during the middle ages.

  • How was this power resisted?

  • To what extent was it based on economic strength, on force, or on religious belief?

  • How can we unpick its nature from using primary sources and how this has been debated within the historiography?

The content of the module changes from year to year to reflect the specialisms of the teaching staff, but ranges across topics that might vary from the ‘feudal revolution’ to medieval court cases, from the English peasants’ revolt to heresy trials, from the propaganda of English kings to Byzantine iconoclasm, from manorial court rolls to the work of chroniclers, from the Pope and the inquisition to royal taxation.

At the centre of this work is a detailed focus on engaging with medieval primary sources.


Conflict and Coexistence in Early Modern Europe

40 credits

This module uses the theme of conflict and coexistence to examine a range of topics across a wide European geography and early modern chronology.

By studying comparative frameworks (e.g. England and France), case studies (e.g. the Thirty Years’ War), and broader international environments, students will encounter conflict in multiple forms – political, religious, military, ideological, mercantile, and public.

The avoidance of conflict and coexistence are also central to this module, for peoples and governments of the period often looked to peaceful resolutions and solidarity at the same time as they sharpened their wits (and swords) for polemical (and political) combat. 


Past Futures: Britain and the West after 1945
40 credits

In part because so vast a literature exists on the social, cultural, and political history of the post-war period, this module approaches this period from an innovative perspective.

Rather than re-telling familiar narratives that take high politics as their starting-point, it will put these narratives under scrutiny by drawing upon the themes of temporality and memory. As well as exploring the different conception of temporality that informed social and political thought, it will also engage with the ideas of progress and decline, ideas which were often employed not only by scholars and thinkers, but also by artists, writers, film-makers, and journalists to conceptualise events and phenomena. 

Particular attention will be devoted to Britain and the United States. But the module will locate the trajectories of these nations within broader transnational settings and expose the way in which actors and institutions understood these contexts. To give just one example, one session addresses the way in which conceptions of British decline were constructed in relation to the perceived progress of nation states in continental Europe. 


Topics in Global History, Society, and Culture

40 credits

Designed for students who wish to step beyond a focus on purely British or European history, this module investigates subjects and approaches that cross the traditional geographic, temporal, and conceptual boundaries of historical study.

The module looks at historical developments in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Worlds, and the eastern and southern quadrants of the Mediterranean World (the Middle East and North Africa), although Europe also plays its part as a point of comparison and as a coloniser and place of origin of travellers.

Movement of peoples, ideas (including science and medicine), goods, and influence between regions is a particular focus of study, be it the transatlantic passage of enslaved Africans, the spread of the Enlightenment to Asia and Africa, attempts to forge pan-German identities in Europe and pan-Asian identities in East Asia, or the reciprocal influence of nineteenth-century Indian and British societies and cultures.

Individual seminars focus on a wide range of topics and scholarly debates that are broadly relevant in contemporary historical scholarship.


Research Methods
20 credits

This is a compulsory module for all those taking the MA in History.

Its first aim is to ensure that all students are able to engage with theoretical texts and are in a position to think critically about how they might use theory in their own research. This element of the module also encourages students to think about inter-disciplinarity, and about how best to draw on methods, approaches, and theories developed in cognate disciplines.

The second aim is to provide students with sets of practical skills to enable them to be effective researchers, familiarising them with archives and archival practices, developing their ability to identify significant research questions, to deal with historiographies and to detect gaps within them, and to write convincing research proposals.


Spring semester

Exploring English Identity
20 credits

Recent historians have been conscious of English identity not as a stable phenomenon that needs to be described, but rather as an artificial historical construct, ambiguous, hotly debated and subject to regular change and revision. This module examines the ways in which that identity has been constructed in different periods, while keeping an eye on how, in the present day, those periods themselves have been used to create an ‘historic’ sense of English identity.

Among the themes to be considered will be the relationship between Britishness and Englishness, and the ways in which the promotion of identity has depended upon ideas of inclusion and exclusion.

Themes for analysis which transcend seminars include consideration of race, religion, culture and politics in the making and representation of English national identities.


Heresy and Religious Dissent in the Middle Ages
20 credits

Through close analysis of original documents from the medieval period, this module engages students in discussion of the nature of correct and incorrect religious belief in the Middle Ages (c.600-c.1500), as well as with the responses to it by churchmen and secular rulers.

It is convened by the staff of the Medieval Heresy and Dissent Research Network, and students will be taught by heresy scholars who are leaders in their field.


Memory and Social Change in Modern Europe

20 credits

This module is designed to enhance understanding of various conceptual approaches to the study of modern history.

Chronological in its treatment of different themes, it uses specific case studies as prisms for the examination of common themes, notably memory, identity, and social change. A transnational perspective will be employed to explore the construction and representation of national, political, local, and ethnic identities, which are born out of (and continue to shape) social change. In addition, these collective identities will be analysed in terms of memory and commemoration, considering how the recent past is remembered and memorialised.

In so doing the module will introduce students to many of the key debates within the literature and will engage with a range of primary and secondary source material.

By the end of the module, students will have acquired a sound understanding of how the past has contributed to the construction of contemporary identities in Europe and beyond.


Foreign Policy and Appeasement,1933-39
20 credits

The aim of this module is to provide students with a thorough understanding of British foreign policy and appeasement from the advent of Nazism in Germany in 1933 to the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe in September 1939.

Students should gain knowledge of how British foreign policy evolved to meet the challenges posed by the revisionist powers, both in Europe and beyond. In addition, students will gain a thorough appreciation of what is meant by the term appeasement, the various strategies of appeasement that were employed, the contemporary critiques and critics of appeasement, the various domestic, political and economic constraints that arguably precluded the pursuit of any alternative policies, the ultimate failure of appeasement to prevent the Second World War, and a comprehensive awareness of the historiography of appeasement.

This will provide students with a more sophisticated understanding of the origins of the Second World War and an enhanced appreciation of the foreign policy-making process, based on extensive use of primary-source material.


The cold war in the Caribbean
20 credits

The purpose of this module is to analyse the impact of the Cold War on the Caribbean and the manner in which events in the region helped shape the conflict between the superpowers.

Students should get a clear sense both of the manner in which regional events related to the broader international conflict and the way that Cold War priorities shaped regional politics. The curriculum also encompasses discussion of the issues which arose as a consequence of British decolonisation in order to provide a sense of the connections between the end of empire and the Cold War.

Among the topics students will be expected to discuss are the:

  • failure of Cheddi Jagan to free Guiana from British and American influence
  • political conflict over the American base at Chaguaramas in Trinidad
  • Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • controversy over America's policy towards the Dominican republic and Haiti
  • covert war in Nicaragua
  • invasion of Grenada in 1982.

In considering how the outcomes of the various case studies can be explained students should become conversant with the available primary and secondary material. Various kinds of primary sources including autobiographies, memoirs and government documents will be utilised in order to analyse particular themes and episodes.


The Asia-Pacific War and Modern Memory

20 credits

This module explores the historiography of the Asia-Pacific War with reference to the problems of historical evidence, memory, interpretation, authentication and the political uses of history.

Through English-language and some translated sources, it will analyse and reappraise the current trend of historical revisionism in Japan.


Latin and Paleography

20 credits

The module teaches the two essential skills required for medieval historical research: beginner’s Latin and Palaeography.

The Latin component will introduce students who have not studied the language before to Latin of the sort used in medieval documents. It is a basic introductory course, which systematically progresses through aspects of Latin grammar, syntax and vocabulary, that will allow students to begin to translate medieval Latin documents. This will be supplemented by studying typical medieval documents available in an edited format. The ability to read early manuscripts is a fundamental skill for all those interested in researching the medieval period.

The palaeography component will introduce students to the various types of handwriting used in medieval documents. It will enable students to begin to read these documents in their unedited, manuscript forms.



MA Dissertation in History
60 credits

The dissertation is the single most important element of your MA and constitutes 60 credits of your the total 180 credits.

The dissertation enables you to produce a sustained piece of research (12,000 to 15,000 words) on a topic of your own choice – provided that we think it is feasible and there is someone in the department who can supervise it, you really can work on almost any historical topic.

Through the dissertation you can produce a piece of genuinely original research based on primary sources, and located within the context of existing historiography. The wide variety of interests within the department from gender history to international relations, from the history of ecology to the history of photography, from history of medicine to history of war means that there is plenty of scope for you to pursue your own enthusiasms. 



Non-subject specific modules

All students will take one of the following two modules:

Research Methods: The Laboratory of the Arts

This module enhances students’ research skills, to support engagement in high-level research on a disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and transdisciplinary basis. An array of research techniques and methodologies will be critically reviewed and students will develop skills in gathering research insights from a range of sources drawn from across the Faculty.

Arts in Society

This module is designed to encourage students to think about the broader context of the Arts: to appreciate, evaluate and communicate the value of the Arts beyond the academy. Students will engage with the practices and techniques required to produce advanced research and develop the skills to communicate this research to a variety of audiences.

Professional development modules

Depending on your course you will also have the option to select from a range of professional development modules.


The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.



UK/EU Students

The majority of postgraduate students in the UK fund their own studies, often from a package made up of personal savings, parental loans or contributions, bank loans and even support from a trust or a charity. From 2016 postgraduate student loans have become available for MA programmes, up to a limit £10,000 p.a.

We recognise that access to funding is often a crucial factor in a potential students decision to pursue postgraduate programmes, and in choosing the right place to study.

Funding is available to UK/EU candidates on a competitive basis in the form of the Tranfield Scholarship, Pauline Roberts Scholarship, and the Weston Scholarship.

Fee waivers are available for students from EU countries. Funds and scholarships are also amiable for part-time students. For more information, please contact the Department or visit the departmental funding opportunities web page.

Please also see more information about the University student funding


Government loans for masters courses

The Government offers postgraduate student loans for students studying a taught or research masters course. Applicants must ordinarily live in England or the EU. Student loans are also available for students from Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



One of the principal functions of the MA is to provide students with the requisite historical skills to undertake a doctoral (PhD) research in History, and is therefore an essential step towards an academic career. The MA in History is valued within careers in education at all levels.

MA History graduates also pursue careers in a range of other areas. During your degree, alongside your academic knowledge, you will develop many transferable skills that are attractive to employers, such as data analysis, presentation, communication, independence, teamwork, negotiation, and time management. 

These days, History postgraduates can be found pursuing careers in areas such as planning and policy, law, communications, media, journalism, publishing, public relations, advertising, marketing, management, archives, the armed forces and police, libraries and museums.

The University of Nottingham Careers and Employability Service offers a wide range of careers related activities and provide information about many major graduate employers. Students are strongly advised to participate in their activities and attend employers talks and training sessions offered.

Average starting salary and career progression

According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britains leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students. Consequently and owing to our reputation for excellence more than 94% of postgraduates from the Faculty of Arts enter employment, voluntary work or further study during the first six months after graduation**.

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.

** Data is taken from known destinations of the 2013/14 leaving cohort of Nottingham home/EU postgraduates who studied full-time.

Average starting salary and career progression

According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students. 

In 2016, 96% of postgraduates from the School of Humanities who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £22,370 with the highest being £30,000.** 

* The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.  
**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK. 

Career Prospects and Employability 

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from careers advice about how you can use your new found skills to their full potential.

Our Careers and Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops.

Explore it - Virtual Nottingham

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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Dr David Laven
Department of History
The University of Nottingham
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