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Medieval History (MA)

Course Description

This Master's degree in history considers the culture and society of the medieval period, which is usually understood as stretching from the transformation of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. The programme will introduce you to a variety of topics within this broad span of time, including religion and heresy, philosophy and political thought, gender, the expansion of urban communities, power and kingship, and the dynamics of historical change. You will develop your ability to critically assess and analyse historical evidence and we will look at the archaeological record, documentary evidence, including parliamentary petitions, guild records and manorial court rolls, and literary sources by authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer and William Langland, among others. While the focus is on Britain, you will also study the British medieval experience comparatively alongside that of mainland Europe, in particular France and Italy.

After the core module, you can choose option modules that will further extend your exploration of the period and engage your passion for particular topics. The dissertation allows you to pursue independent research in an area of personal interest under the expert supervision of one of our research-active academics. If you are interested in how societies develop over time, this course will give you a stimulating and complex perspective on this fascinating period.

Key teaching staff on this programme

Course director: Dr Caroline Goodson

Staff involved in teaching the MA include:

Dr Rebecca Darley
Professor Vanessa Harding
Professor John Henderson
Professor Matthew Innes.

Other medievalists at Birkbeck include:

Dr Alison Finlay, a lecturer in English, specialising in Old Icelandic sagas and heroic poetry, and Old English.

Professor Anthony Bale, a Reader in English who works on late medieval texts and culture.
Dr Isabel Davis, a lecturer in English who works on late medieval texts and culture.
Dr Zoe Opacic, a lecturer in art history, who works on late medieval art and architecture.
Dr Robert Maniura, a lecturer in art history who works on late medieval art and architecture.

Why study this course at Birkbeck?

Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
Birkbeck has research and teaching strengths in the medieval period and you will be taught by academics with expertise across history, English literature, cultural studies and interdisciplinary combinations.
This programme allows you to follow your own interests, with a wide choice of option modules, while developing your research skills and writing a dissertation in an area that interests you.
Our Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is one of the leading research and teaching departments for history in the UK. It is ranked 6th in the UK for the percentage of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent.
Our academic staff are international authorities in their fields, delivering stimulating, research-led teaching.
Our department is home to thriving student societies and a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
We are located 5 minutes' walk from the British Museum and the British Library, while the Museum of London is easily reachable. The Institute of Historical Research is located in Bloomsbury, near the main Birkbeck campus, and has an internationally renowned library collection and seminars that you can attend.
Birkbeck Library has an extensive history collection, including the major specialist journals, and access to online materials.

Visit the Medieval History (MA) page on the Birkbeck, University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Rachael Chambers

4070.jpg She says: ‘I found I was reading a lot of historical biographies and particularly medieval history. I had enjoyed history at school, but at 18 an academic choice wasn’t so appealing. However, with a degree in drama, I knew I needed to carry on studying, and an MA in something I was really interested in was the next step.’

‘I also knew I could only afford to do an MA if I worked at the same time. Birkbeck was great - it gives you that opportunity because you can work full time. I was determined to have no loans and no debt from doing this degree, and I knew that if I got the MA it would be a great stepping stone to working in a history-related field.’

Rachael got her first proper office job, as an administrator at a sports betting software company, to fit in with that aim. She started an MA in Medieval History at Birkbeck a year or so later, in October 2011.

She says: ‘Working while studying led to me getting my current job. After the software company I went to work for a football club as a PA, where I learned great skills for my CV and gained more experience in an administrative environment.’

‘I am now assistant to the director of the V&A Museum of Childhood – a job I love! I had to have a history degree to do the job, and I really enjoy working with people who are interested in culture, who read books and who are interested generally in the same things as me.’

Being an MA student at Birkbeck was a “fantastic experience”. Rachael adds: ‘As a Master’s student you have to take responsibility for your own reading and don’t expect to be led by the hand, but the support was always there. I have great respect for my tutors, and really enjoyed the modules and lectures. I sometimes found it difficult to balance work and study when writing essays and doing my dissertation – but I got there!’

‘I am on the first rung of my career now. I applied about 20 times for jobs like this previously, but I found the museum culture impossible to get into without a history degree. My MA helped me get my foot in the door.’


Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarships - Fee Waiver - 2 Awards

Birkbeck College is pleased to announce the first call for Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarships, named in memory of one of the greatest historians of the last century. From 1947 until his death in 2012, Eric Hobsbawm was a loyal member of Birkbeck College.The Scholarships have been set up to encourage the next generation of talented historians to pursue original, high-quality and exciting research in history by assisting financially with study and research costs.Applicants are invited for two full fee-waiver scholarships for MA study in the department of History, Classics and Archaeology (£6,950). Overseas applicants and part-time applicants are welcome, as well as home/EU full-time applications (part-time awards are pro-rata).The Eric Hobsbawm Scholarships have been made possible thanks to many large and small donations from his friends and former students. Birkbeck College gratefully acknowledges the help and support of the Hobsbawm family.

Value of Scholarship(s)



Overseas applicants and part-time applicants are welcome, as well as home/EU full-time applications (part-time awards are pro-rata).

Application Procedure

Applicant for the MA fee-waiver scholarships must apply through the usual process for a place on the MA programme (see information elsewhere on this website). In addition, applicants are asked to submit two documents directly to the department:1) a one-page statement outlining what they hope to achieve by taking the MA programme, noting in particular what they hope to research for their dissertation2) a one-page personal statement that includes a basic CV, and a note on the applicant’s financial circumstances.

Further Information



School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, Postgraduate Taught (PGT) Bursary - Single Award

Applications are invited for one 'Postgraduate Taught' Bursary worth £6,000, to be awarded to a candidate with an outstanding academic record who shows high potential for strong performance on one of the School's 'Postgraduate Taught' programmes.This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the departments listed below; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This £6,000 award is in the form of a bursary (i.e., there is no 'fee waiver' but the bursary may be used towards payment of fees). If awarded to a part-time student, the bursary will be paid for two years of PGT study.Please note that in order to apply for funding you must also complete an application for a place at Birkbeck on an MA/MSc programme within the School of SSHP or the MPhil. Stud. in the Department of Philosophy, either before or at the same time as applying for funding.Prospective studentsCandidates will be expected to fulfil similar academic criteria to those demanded by external funding bodies. They will normally possess at least an upper second class honours degree or equivalent.

Value of Scholarship(s)



This competition is open to new Home/EU and International students who are applying for either a full-time or part-time MA/MSc place in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy; the competition is also open to students who are applying to the Department of Philosophy and the degree of M.Phil. Stud. Philosophy.This competition is open to new students only.

Application Procedure

Before you apply, you should contact the relevant department for advice.Once you have identified a relevant programme, you will need to:Apply online for the relevant MA/MSc or MPhil. Stud. (Dept. of Philosophy) degree in the normal wayDownload the SSHP Postgraduate Taught Bursary Application Form Word iconThe SSHP Studentship application form should be returned to Jane Halstead, Assistant School Manager, via the following email address:[email protected] STATE ‘PGT BURSARY’ AND DEPARTMENT APPLIED TO IN THE ‘SUBJECT’ LINE OF YOUR E-MAIL.Any queries relating to the PGT Bursary can also be sent to this email address.

Further Information



Postgraduate Support Scheme for final-year undergraduates (full-time) - 20+ Awards

We are pleased to announce that, for October 2015 entry, Birkbeck has a limited number of new £10,000 postgraduate scholarships. These scholarships are for students progressing from a full-time undergraduate degree to a part-time Master’s degree starting in 2015/16.

Value of Scholarship(s)



To be eligible for the scholarship you must be:Starting a 2-year part-time taught Master’s degree in 2015/16
Domiciled in the UK/EU
Progressing from an undergraduate course for which you were charged the higher tuition fee (applicable since 2012–13)
Studying at postgraduate Master’s level for the first time

Application Procedure

If you want to apply for this support, you must follow these steps:Submit an application for your intended course
Submit an application for the Postgraduate Support Scheme

Further Information


Entry Requirements

At least a second-class honours degree. We also offer a 1-year Graduate Certificate in History , which can be used as a conversion course if you want to study history at postgraduate level, but have a degree in a significantly different discipline. If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

Course Fees

Part-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa

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Recipient: Birkbeck, University of London
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