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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) and Epiphany (Winter) terms. 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.

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 will run throughout the entire academic year combining 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 centering on particular primary sources or an archive (80% of the module mark). The remaining 20% of the module mark comes from a 20-minute presentation on your dissertation topics plus 10 minutes Q&A at the MA Conference in the Easter term.

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
  • What was Religion? Interdisciplinary approaches to religious history
  • The Public Sphere in Britain, 1640–1715
  • 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

Assessment is by 5,000-word essay.

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, Paleography), generally taught in seminars and assessed by an unseen examination.

Course Learning and Teaching

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.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply


Visit the MA History page on the Durham University website for more details!




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