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Course content

Economic and social history has always formed an important part of the teaching and research within the University of Cambridge's History Faculty. It is widely regarded as one of the best in the world with much pioneering work in social history, demographic history, financial history and the history of economic thought being done here. The MPhil in Economic and Social History provides an extremely thorough training in statistical and social science methodology, while building on other strengths such as an emphasis on researching economic relations and institutions as cultural phenomena.

The MPhil in Economic and Social History combines taught and research elements over an 11-month full-time programme which includes taught modules, training in social science research methods encompassing quantitative and qualitative analytical tools, and a long piece of independent research (15,000–20,000 words).

The course is designed for those who have completed degrees in which history is the main or at least a substantial component and who want to consolidate their knowledge of economic and social history. It is particularly appropriate for those who may wish to continue on to a PhD, at Cambridge or elsewhere, but it is also well-suited for those who seek simply to explore economic and social history at a deeper level. It is expected that this will be the normal means by which those without an appropriate master’s degree from elsewhere will prepare for the PhD degree in Economic and Social History at Cambridge.

Learning Outcomes

Students on the MPhil in Economic and Social History will be provided with an in-depth study of some of the key areas of research in economic and social history and all students will have a supervisor who will guide them through the requirements of the course and, most crucially, the dissertation.

By the end of the course, students will have developed:

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


The MPhil in Economic and Social History is an 11-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 economic and social history, allowing them to integrate into the research culture at Cambridge.

The MPhil involves four assessed components:

  • a core course (eight two-hour classes) worth ten per cent of the overall mark
  • two option courses chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (eight two- hour classes for each option) each worth 10 per cent of the overall mark
  • a 4,000-word dissertation proposal essay and a dissertation (15,000–20,000 words), worth 70 per cent of the overall mark

All students will also be required to attend a number of short courses in Social Sciences Research Methods which provide research students with a broad range of quantitative and qualitative research methods skills that are relevant across the social sciences. These are not assessed but are a compulsory part of the training required for the MPhil in Economic and Social History.

In addition to the above, students will attend the weekly Economic and Social History Research seminars and workshops which prepare students for presenting their work to an academic audience.


Students will receive regular constructive feedback throughout the MPhil.

Students can expect to receive:

  • regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports;
  • written feedback on essays and assessments;
  • feedback on Social Sciences Research Methods courses;
  • oral feedback from peers during graduate workshops and/or seminars;
  • written and oral feedback on dissertation proposal essay to be discussed with their supervisor,
  • formal written feedback from two examiners after examination of dissertation.



The thesis is Part II of the MPhil in Economic and Social History.

All students will submit a thesis of 15,000–20,000 words in mid-August, 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 (one compulsory core, and two options) will require an essay of 3,000–4,000 words (or equivalent), which may be under timed conditions.

Each will count toward ten 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 4,000-word dissertation proposal essay due in the Lent term. This is assessed on a pass/fail basis. Where a student fails the essay it must be compensated with a mark of at least 63 per cent in the dissertation. 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.

Students are also required to pass the Social Sciences Research Methods courses, and may be required to take a practical assessment as part of these courses.

Funding Opportunities

The Faculty puts forward a number of students each year for ESRC scholarships.

In addition, 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 website.

General Funding Opportunities

Visit the MPhil in Economic and Social History page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!