Durham's MA in Medieval History is a broad-ranging Master's programme which seeks to equip students with historical research techniques and approaches, advanced skills in critical analysis and independent study, as well as strong and effective communication skills. The MA programme is designed to enable students with different career ambitions to succeed in their chosen area, and it caters for students of different backgrounds, previous training, and areas of specialisation. The breadth of research interests of the medievalists at Durham allows the department to offer supervision in topics about the medieval world from Late Antiquity through to the sixteenth century. The programme seeks to enable students to build an awareness of the contemporary boundaries of medieval scholarship, to master advanced understanding of historical concepts and methods, and ultimately to make their own contributions to the field.
Durham's History Department is an international centre for the study of the Middle Ages, and is situated in the historic setting of the World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle and the surrounding area. Students of medieval history at Durham benefit from the rich archival and manuscript resources in the collections of the University (at Palace Green Library and at Ushaw College) and in the Cathedral Library, while the wider regional resources for study of the period are also highly significant: these include the landscape of Viking invasion, of Bede, of high medieval monasticism, of centuries of border warfare with their rich and distinctive legacy of castles, and of early industry and proto-capitalism.
The MA in Medieval History is a one-year full-time programme (or two-years part-time). All students are allocated a supervisor at the beginning of the first term, and s/he guides each student through the year. The programme is structured as follows: Michaelmas Term (October-December) -Archives and Sources (15 credits) -Issues in Medieval History (30 credits) -*Skill module (30 credits) - taken over Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms
Epiphany Term (January-March) -Critical Practice (15 credits) -Option module (30 credits)
Option modules allow students the opportunity to learn about a particular topic or issue in medieval history in depth, and to consider different historical approaches to this topic over a full term's study. In previous years, options for medieval history included The Anglo-Saxon World, AD 400-1100, Power and Society in the Late Middle Ages, and The Wealth of Nations. Option modules are taught in weekly two-hour seminars for a full term's study.
Easter Term (April-June), and the summer vacation (until early September) -Dissertation (90 credits, or 60 credits if taking a *Skill module)
Students meet with their supervisors on an individual basis and will discuss the topic, direction and content of their dissertation, as well as the relevant medieval evidence and scholarship which they should explore. The dissertation is a substantial, independent piece of research: the 90-credit dissertation is 20,000 words, while the 60-credit dissertation is 15,000 words. You are not required to write your dissertation on a topic which is in the same period and area as your optional modules, but it is recommended that students discuss their individual programmes of work with their supervisors and/or with the Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes.
The MA can be taken part-time, over two years. In the first year the module combination consists of Archives and Sources, Critical Practice, Issues and in addition a Skills module OR Optional module. In the second year your work will consist of either a 90 credit, 20,000 word dissertation (if you took an Optional module in the first year) OR a 60 credit, 15,000 word dissertation, AND an Optional module (if you took a Skills module in the first year).
Additional courses can be taken on an audit-basis (not for credit), and can include language modules as well as optional modules. You will need to ask and receive the permission of the module leader before auditing a class. If the class is outside the department you will also need to inform the Director of Taught Postgraduates.
Learning and Teaching
The programme 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. Issues in Medieval History has 16 contact hours, all classroom-based; this module is team-taught and exposes students to a wide variety of staff support and expertise. Archives and Sources has 8 contact hours, split between lectures, classes and seminars. Skills modules are taught through seminars or classes and are usually more contact-hour-intensive. In previous years, optional modules were taught in seminars and provided a total of 16 contact hours. Critical Practice involves lectures, a drama workshop, and oral presentation to a group (at a 'mini-conference'). Dissertation supervision involves 8 hours of directed supervision, individually with a dedicated supervisor.