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The MPhil provides intensive training in studying the history of Britain, Europe and the wider world between c.1500 and c.1800. It equips students to write a substantial and significant piece of historical research. This stretching course is designed for those who have taken undergraduate degrees and who now wish to consolidate their knowledge of the early modern period. By examining traditional and innovative methods and interpretations, the course aims to enhance understanding of how early modern history has been conceived and practised.

The course combines taught and research elements over a nine-month full-time programme. The taught element comprises a core course, taken by all students; specialist courses on themes within the period, from which students choose; and various training courses, covering languages and palaeography. Students work towards their own long piece of independent research. The course culminates in the submission of this dissertation.

Throughout the course, students will be supervised by a dedicated member of staff. The supervisor will guide research into an original historical subject chosen and developed by the student. In addition, students will benefit from the stimulus of Cambridge’s bustling research culture. They will be encouraged to attend the several seminar series run on early modern history and also the many other relevant talks, workshops, and events that the Faculty and wider University offer.

The course is designed for those who (will) have completed undergraduate degrees in which history is either the sole or a main component. It is particularly appropriate for those who may wish to continue on to a PhD, whether at Cambridge or elsewhere. (The course is the normal means by which those without an appropriate master’s degree prepare for doctoral study in early modern history at Cambridge.) The course is also intended for those seeking to explore early modern history more deeply as a subject of research: it is a rewarding programme of study in its own right.

Cambridge early modernists hold positions in British and foreign universities and have pursued careers in many other fields (including business, education, government, media, and the law).

Learning Outcomes

Students study in depth key areas of research in early modern history. They have a supervisor who will guide them through the requirements of the course and, especially, advise them in the researching and writing of the dissertation.

In this manner, students are provided with the historiographical knowledge and analytical skills necessary to understand and evaluate existing research and to pursue research in their own fields of intellectual interest. Through individual supervisions and group classes, students are introduced to the more specialised and intensive nature of research required at a postgraduate level.

By the end of the course, students should have acquired:

  • a deeper understanding of their chosen area of early modern history and the critical debates within it;
  • a conceptual and technical understanding that enables the evaluation of current research and methodologies;
  • the technical skills necessary to pursue primary research in their chosen area; and
  • the ability to situate their own research within current and past methodological and interpretative developments in the field.


The Faculty’s MPhil programmes provide excellent preparation for doctoral study and many of our MPhil students choose to stay at Cambridge to pursue a PhD.

Students wishing to continue to the PhD are expected to achieve an overall average of 70 in their MPhil with a mark of at least 70 in their dissertation.


The MPhil in Early Modern History is a nine-month full-time programme which combines elements of formal teaching with independent research. Students on the MPhil will join a group of researchers of all levels within the field of early modern history, allowing them to integrate into the research culture of early modern history at Cambridge.

The MPhil involves three assessed components:

  1. Core course (seven two-hour classes) worth 10 per cent of the overall mark
  2. Two option courses chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (seven two-hour classes for each option) each worth 10 per cent of the overall mark
  3. Dissertation (15,000–20,000 words) worth 70 per cent of the overall mark

In addition, students are required to attend and participate in the weekly Early Modern History research seminars and workshops.

Students may also take optional skills modules in palaeography and languages. These are not assessed elements of the MPhil but will help students develop the skills needed for the MPhil in Early Modern History.



The thesis is Part II of the MPhil in Early Modern History.

All students will submit a thesis of 15,000–20,000 words, worth 70 per cent of the overall mark. 

At the discretion of the examiners the examination may include an oral examination on the thesis and on the general field of knowledge within which it falls.


Each of three modules in Michaelmas and Lent terms (one compulsory core, and two options) will require an essay of 3,000–4,000 words (or equivalent). 

Each will count toward 10 per cent of the final degree mark, for a total of 30 per cent. Taken together, these are Part I, and students must receive passing marks in order to move to Part II.

Students will also prepare a 2,000-word dissertation proposal essay due in the Lent term. This essay will be unassessed but students will meet with their supervisor to discuss the essay and get feedback in preparation for the dissertation.

Practical assessment

All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.

Funding Opportunities

There are no specific funding opportunities advertised for this course, though students in the Faculty of History have enjoyed disproportionate success in the University’s highly competitive central funding competitions, including Gates, Cambridge Trust and AHRC.

For information on more general funding opportunities, please visit the Funding page on the Graduate Admissions webs

Visit the MPhil in Early Modern History page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!




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