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European History (MA)

Course Description

This Master's degree in history offers you the chance to study at a department with world-renowned expertise in European history, including British, German, French, Italian, Balkan, Russian and Eastern European history, as well as international, transnational, global and comparative historical perspectives. The programme brings together these different fields and develops new approaches to the history of Europe from the early modern period to the present day. It aims to provide you with an appreciation of key debates that have shaped our understanding of Europe and the most important historical and methodological approaches to critically interpreting the European past. Rather than presuppose one all-encompassing definition of 'Europe', whether geographical, ideological or otherwise, the course highlights the different contexts within which the European past and present can be analysed.

Alongside a wide range of option modules covering many aspects of European history and politics from the early modern period to the Cold War, you will also receive training in research methods and undertake your own dissertation, which makes this programme an excellent entry point for more advanced study at either MPhil/PhD level or professionally.
Key teaching staff on this programme

Course Director: Professor Orlando Figes

Other staff who teach on this MA programme include:

Professor Joanna Bourke
Dr Filippo de Vivo
Professor David Feldman
Professor Daniel Pick
Dr Jessica Reinisch
Professor Julian Swann
Professor Frank Trentmann
Professor Nik Wachsmann.

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
This Master's programme brings together Birkbeck's wide-ranging expertise in European history, covering a wide geographical and thematic spread.
You will be able to follow your own interests, with a wide choice of option modules, while developing your research skills and undertaking a dissertation in an area that interests you.
Our Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is one of the leading research and teaching departments for history in the UK. It is ranked 6th in the UK for the percentage of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent.
Our academic staff are international authorities in their fields, delivering stimulating, research-led teaching.
Our department is home to thriving student societies and a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
We are located 5 minutes' walk from the British Museum and the British Library, while the Museum of London is easily reachable. The Institute of Historical Research is located in Bloomsbury, near the main Birkbeck campus, and has an internationally renowned library collection and seminars that you can attend.
Birkbeck Library has an extensive history collection, including the major specialist journals, and access to online materials.

Visit the European History (MA) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Mary Tapissier

4023.jpg 'I had worked happily in publishing for 40 years and retired at 60, so I wanted to spend some time focusing on various things in my life that I had never had time to examine properly and I knew I would get more out of that by doing it in a structured university environment. Birkbeck was top of my list and the MA in European Cultures appealed to me enormously as something that would marry the interests I had in various countries with things that I had never looked at, for example the Spanish film industry and literature.

'For me it was a pure pleasure to do this degree. One of the most interesting parts of my course was the makeup of my MA group. I was the only English person, which I really enjoyed. Seminars and group work was incredibly varied and vocal, especially because it was an international group with mixed ages. It made me more confident about floating ideas that might seem slightly off the wall. I liked and admired all my fellow students and the staff, which was a large part of the pleasure of doing the course. Staff were very involved, very engaged, very helpful - it was great.

'I wrote my final dissertation on the art of self portraiture in two contrasting French authors, Simone de Beavouir and Annie Ernaux, and I enjoyed it a lot. The course allowed me to pick up on interests that I hadn’t explored fully. It also introduced me to a lot of new cultural areas and those are now things I will seek out, share and enjoy. Studying an MA gives you a skills base and a structure in which you can move forward with all sorts of things. I can’t imagine that I will ever be bored going forwards.

'I’m certainly more confident now, it’s also made me question more, and look at things in more depth. If I don’t know something I now know how to research and find out. Research skills were new for me, to an extent, and definitely something that will continue to be useful.

'I would and I do recommend Birkbeck to others.

'Seminars and group work was incredibly varied and vocal, especially because it was an international group with mixed ages.'

(Student Profile)

David Sutherland

4089.jpg David Sutherland already had three degrees – two from Dundee and one from Queen Mary - when he started studying at Birkbeck. He has since added another two, both from Birkbeck, and is now studying for an MA European History. Aged 66, he has also recently translated a book, The Kaiser’s Reluctant Conscript, from German into English.

'I failed the Scottish 11+ - and that was a great motivator! Although I was let through on appeal I think I set out to prove everyone wrong – I certainly didn’t go straight through the system.

'I studied Physics at my local university, Dundee, and stayed to do a PhD. I saw myself becoming a physicist, but became very interested in IT, then in its very early stages. I decided that was what I wanted to do and went to work for ICL [International Computers Ltd, now Fujitsu].

'I might have stayed in that job for life but I wanted to go to Germany. In the post-war years my school had actively encouraged pupils to think about reconciliation with Germany – we were taught German, rather than French, and I went on a German school exchange. My grandfather fought in the trenches in the First World War and my father was in the army in the Second World War. Given the changed circumstances it seemed worthwhile to live in Germany and help bury past differences.'

David went to work for ICL in Germany at the European Space Agency, and continued to work for them in Stuttgart and Nuremberg, before being headhunted to work for a well-known retailer in Switzerland. He became head of IT for his company but, after a bypass operation, was given early retirement in 2001.

'I came back to Britain and discovered my IT qualifications were not considered up to date. So I did a Masters in Internet Technology at Queen Mary in 2002 and worked as a designer/developer until 2009. I might not have pursued my interest in German but for my brother in law, who suggested doing a BA in German at Birkbeck. After finishing a day’s work, I would head down to Birkbeck for the evening. I enjoyed the social environment and the opportunity to develop my reading. It was fascinating and great fun. Now I’m doing a Master’s in European History!

(Student Profile)

Oana Filote

4109.jpg Although Oana says that studying for her BA had been quite exhausting, moving straight into an MA was made manageable because the tutors at Birkbeck were so helpful and approachable. She says: “The tutors were really amazing. If we needed material or information, in addition to the standard course materials, they would always help us to locate what we needed and offer advice on where to look. The library services are really great too.”

Oana found the other students on her course supportive too: “If there was something that I didn’t understand then I would discuss it with them and we could raise it in class.”

The possibility of studying modules from different areas was another important factor for Oana. “I wanted to gain a broad understanding of social issues across Europe. For example I was able to study race and racism in francophone cultures, film studies, museum studies and the holocaust.” The flexibility of the course meant that Oana was able to discover a new area of study, museum studies, which was not available in her own country. She combined her long-standing interest in the holocaust with her newly discovered interest in museum studies and focused her dissertation on the Jewish Museum, where she is now working.

Studying for the MA was definitely a career move for Oana, but she has found that completing the MA has also brought her other benefits, such as increased confidence and new skills in essay writing and organising her research.

Oana finishes: “I have got so much out of my time at Birkbeck: I have met some brilliant friends, developed my skills, and discovered new areas for work and study and experienced what it is like to study at the University of London. My life would definitely be more dull if I had not come to Birkbeck.”


Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarships - Fee Waiver - 2 Awards

Birkbeck College is pleased to announce the first call for Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarships, named in memory of one of the greatest historians of the last century. From 1947 until his death in 2012, Eric Hobsbawm was a loyal member of Birkbeck College.The Scholarships have been set up to encourage the next generation of talented historians to pursue original, high-quality and exciting research in history by assisting financially with study and research costs.Applicants are invited for two full fee-waiver scholarships for MA study in the department of History, Classics and Archaeology (£6,950). Overseas applicants and part-time applicants are welcome, as well as home/EU full-time applications (part-time awards are pro-rata).The Eric Hobsbawm Scholarships have been made possible thanks to many large and small donations from his friends and former students. Birkbeck College gratefully acknowledges the help and support of the Hobsbawm family.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Overseas applicants and part-time applicants are welcome, as well as home/EU full-time applications (part-time awards are pro-rata).

Application Procedure

Applicant for the MA fee-waiver scholarships must apply through the usual process for a place on the MA programme (see information elsewhere on this website). In addition, applicants are asked to submit two documents directly to the department:1) a one-page statement outlining what they hope to achieve by taking the MA programme, noting in particular what they hope to research for their dissertation2) a one-page personal statement that includes a basic CV, and a note on the applicant’s financial circumstances.

Further Information



School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Postgraduate Taught (PGT) Bursary - Single Award

Applications are invited for one 'Postgraduate Taught' Bursary worth £6,000, to be awarded to a candidate with an outstanding academic record who shows high potential for strong performance on one of the School's 'Postgraduate Taught' programmes.This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the departments listed below; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This £6,000 award is in the form of a bursary (i.e., there is no 'fee waiver' but the bursary may be used towards payment of fees). If awarded to a part-time student, the bursary will be paid for two years of PGT study.Please note that in order to apply for funding you must also complete an application for a place at Birkbeck on an MA/MSc programme within the School of SSHP or the MPhil. Stud. in the Department of Philosophy, either before or at the same time as applying for funding.Prospective studentsCandidates will be expected to fulfil similar academic criteria to those demanded by external funding bodies. They will normally possess at least an upper second class honours degree or equivalent.

Value of Scholarship(s)



This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This competition is open to new students only.

Application Procedure

Before you apply, you should contact the relevant department for advice.Once you have identified a relevant programme, you will need to:Apply online for the relevant MA/MSc or MPhil. Stud. (Dept. of Philosophy) degree in the normal wayDownload the SSHP Postgraduate Taught Bursary Application Form Word iconThe SSHP Studentship application form should be returned to Jane Halstead, Assistant School Manager, via the following email address:[email protected] STATE ‘PGT BURSARY’ AND DEPARTMENT APPLIED TO IN THE ‘SUBJECT’ LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL.Any queries relating to the PGT Bursary can also be sent to this email address.

Further Information



Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Second-class honours degree in a humanities subject and references. We also offer a 1-year Graduate Certificate in History, which can be used as a conversion course if you want to study history at postgraduate level, but have a degree in a significantly different discipline. If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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Recipient: Birkbeck, University of London

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