Durham's MA in Modern 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 modern historians at Durham allows the department to offer supervision in topics about modern history from the nineteenth century through to contemporary history. The programme seeks to enable students to build an awareness of the contemporary boundaries of modern 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 Modern period, and is situated in the historic setting of the World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle, and the surrounding area. Students of modern history at Durham benefit from the rich archival and manuscript resources in the collections of the University (at Palace Green Library - especially the Sudan Archive - and Ushaw College) and in the Cathedral Library, while the wider regional resources for study of the period are also highly significant: the landscape of industrial revolution and of post-industrial response, of globalisation and regional identity. Modern History at Durham is comprehensive and international in its reach, with specialists in the cultural and political history, visual culture and media studies, sports history, regional and international histories. Area specialisms include the British Isles, Continental Europe, Africa, North America, China and the Steppe regions.
The MA in Modern 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 Modern History (30 credits) -*Skill module (30 credits) - taken over Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms Students may choose to take a skills module: these are mainly medieval/ancient languages (e.g. Old English, Old Norse, Latin, Greek), modern languages for reading (e.g. Academic French, Academic German), or research skills (e.g. palaeography). Students who take a skills module write a 60-credit dissertation instead of a 90-credit dissertation.
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 modern history in depth, and to consider different historical approaches to this topic over a full term's study. In previous years, options for modern history included: The Wealth of Nations; Race in Modern America; 'Tribe' and Nation in Africa since 1800; Interpretations of Terror and Genocide in Modern Europe; Tradition, Change and Political Culture in Modern Britain; Gender, Nationalism and Modernity in East Asia; History, Knowledge and Visual Culture (a full list of MA option modules is available at: https://www.dur.ac.uk/history/postgraduate/ma_degrees/optionalmodules/). 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)
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 Modern 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. Optional modules are taught in seminars and provide 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.