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MA in Garden and Landscape History

Course Description

Students will learn how to acquire knowledge from a range of sources including history, horticulture, architecture, garden archaeology and other subjects, to develop an appreciation of the study of garden history as a cultural discipline.

Students will be able to appreciate the differences in garden-making over time and in different countries, from the 16th century to the present day in Britain, Europe and America. Emphasis will be on design and management, ownership, and the culture from which these examples have evolved.

This degree will provide an academically rigorous environment in which students will learn a range of academic research and writing skills. Teaching will be undertaken at the Institute of Historical Research (http://www.history.ac.uk/), with a strong emphasis on tutor/student interaction in class. There will be practical sessions at museums and libraries, as well as visits to gardens in London. There will also be an optional field trip to Italy in the spring.


The course will be run on a full-time basis over one year. Teaching will take place on Thursdays from 10:00 to 17:00 and will be divided between two terms. The third term will be dedicated to dissertation preparation and writing. Please get in touch if you would like to see the full timetable.

Students must complete core module 1, core module 2 (selecting three options from the six provided), and core module 3 - a 15,000 word dissertation in order to be awarded the full MA.

However, there are a range of options available for flexible study:

Those wishing to pursue this course on a part-time basis can complete Modules 1 and 2 (the taught elements of the course) in their first year and Module 3, the dissertation, in their second year
Module 1 can be undertaken as a standalone unit leading to a PGCert, the credit for which can be banked should the student wish to complete the MA at a later date (within a prescribed time frame) Please enquire for further details.
Module 1: Researching Garden History (60 credits)

The first term will showcase the huge variety of resources available to study garden and landscape history from archaeology, architecture, cartography, horticulture, manuscripts, paintings and other works of art, from the sixteenth century to the present day.

Sessions include:

Early maps of gardens (British library)
Garden Archaeology (Hampton Court)
Gardens and Architecture referencing Drawings Collection at the RIBA and V&A
The Italian Renaissance and English Gardens
The eighteenth century garden + visit to Chiswick House
Gardening and Photographic images

A 5,000 word report on the history of a garden chosen by the student and an accompanying presentation.

Module 2: Culture and Politics of Gardens (60 credits)

This module consists of six optional units of which students must choose three.

These sessions aim to:

Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of gardens and landscapes in different countries
Develop students’ critical analysis and judgement
Demonstrate the importance of context and the relationship of garden and landscape history to other disciplines such as literature, social history, film and visual media and the history of ideas
The module will look at Historiography, theory, the connection between culture and politics in landscape making and the expansion of the skills of term one across regional boundaries.

For instance, the influence in Britain of the Italian Renaissance’s new ideas on garden making, including architecture, sculpture and hydraulic engineering; iconography in gardens and landscapes; formality in garden-making as an indicator of the power of the owner, from the sixteenth century onwards, as in France; different aspects of the ‘natural’ garden from the eighteenth century onwards; conflict between the ‘natural’ and the formal in the nineteenth century between William Robinson and Reginald Blomfield in Britain; gender and garden making; and shifting boundaries between architect, landscape architect and plantsman relating to the status of those designing gardens and landscapes in the 21st century.

Students will choose one unit from each group:

Students will choose one unit from each group:

Group A
French gardens of the seventeenth century
The evolution of the English garden in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries

Group B
The eighteenth-century garden
The American garden

Group C
The Suburban Garden in England between the wars
Twentieth- and twenty-first-century gardens

Please note: Optional units are subject to change. Please consider this a guide only.


Two 5,000 word assessed essays on two of the three options taken, and an assessed student presentation on the outline of the intended dissertation.

Module 3: Dissertation (60 credits), 15,000 words

Mode of study

12 months full-time or 24 months part-time.

Visit the MA in Garden and Landscape History page on the School of Advanced Study website for more details!

Student Profiles

Arts and Humanities Research Council (LAHP) studentships - No. of awards TBC

The LAHP studentship competition will open for applications on 1 December 2015, and the closing date is Friday 15 January 2016. Studentship candidates are advised to apply for a place to study well in advance of the closing deadline for LAHP studentship applications to ensure that they have the opportunity to consult with proposed supervisors in preparing the LAHP studentship application form. It is suggested that candidates make their applications for a place to study in the School by 29 January 2016. AHRC scholarships cover fees and, in all but exceptional circumstances, maintenance allowance (stipend). Overseas students are not normally eligible for AHRC funding. The primary criterion on which applications are judged is academic merit.The 2015 maintenance rates for doctoral students are £15,863 (full-time). Rates may be subject to change.

Value of Scholarship(s)

£15,863 (full-time)


To be eligible to apply for a LAHP studentship in the forthcoming round, candidates must either be applying to start a programme of postgraduate study in the 2016-17 academic year, which starts in October 2016; or, if they have already commenced doctoral study, they may apply for funding for the remainder, provided that, at the start of the AHRC award, they have at least 50% of the period of study remaining.

Application Procedure

The closing date for applications is Friday 15 January 2016.

Further Information



SAS Studentships (Coffin Fund for Promising Students) - 2 Awards

The School is able to provide two SAS Studentships via the Coffin Fund for Promising Students. In 2015-16, the awards are £12,500 to cover tuition fees and contribute towards maintenance costs (where applicable) and will be awarded to two students who have demonstrably excelled in their undergraduate degree.

Value of Scholarship(s)



The primary criterion on which applications are judged is academic merit. The successful applicant will be of exceptional quality, evidenced by previous academic achievement at undergraduate level, with an outstanding mark achieved in the final-year project/dissertation. Successful applicants will have a genuine and demonstrable interest in undertaking a master’s degree at the School of Advanced Study. In addition, awards are open to students who are:
• self-funded and domiciled in the UK, European Union (EU) or overseas;
• studying full-time or part-time for a maximum of two years;
• undertaking masters courses in any subject (excluding MRes, Distance Learning, PGDip and PGCert)

Application Procedure

In order to apply for a SAS studentship (Coffin Fund) at the School, you must have applied to study here. For further information on SAS postgraduate studies, please see Master’s degrees or the Institute websites, and then the information on how to apply. The SAS studentship (Coffin Fund for Promising Students) competition for 2016-17 closes spring 2016.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

First-class or upper second-class degree (or overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject. Applicants with relevant experience and skill may also be considered.

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