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Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies

Course Description

The Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies offers an exciting new opening for graduates of all disciplines to pursue a taught postgraduate qualification in historical studies. This one-year part-time course offers a unique opportunity for students to combine focused study of key historical themes and concepts in British and Western European history with either a broad-based approach to history or with the opportunity to specialise by period or in a branch of the discipline (political, social, economic, art, architectural and local). The course culminates in the research and preparation of a substantial dissertation.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies forms part of a two-year Master's programme. Students who successfully complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies are eligible to apply to the Master's of Study in Historical Studies (https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/mst-in-historical-studies).

This Historical Studies course offers a stimulating and supportive environment for study. As a student of Oxford University you will also be entitled to attend History Faculty lectures and to join the Bodleian Library. The University’s Museums and Art Galleries are within easy walking distance.

Visit the website https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/about/postgraduate-certificate-in-historical-studies

Course content

Unit 1: Princes, States, and Revolutions
The first unit examines the interaction between the state and the individual from medieval to modern times and focuses upon authority, resistance, revolution and the development of political institutions. It introduces the development of scholarly debate, key historical themes and the critical analysis of documentary sources. Students explore disorder and rebellion in medieval and early modern England; the causes and impact of the British Civil Wars; and the causes and impact of the French Revolution.

Unit 2: European Court Patronage c.1400
The second unit explores cultural patronage in late medieval Europe and examines the diverse courtly responses to shared concerns and experiences, including the promotion of power and status; the relationship between piety and power; and the impact of dominant cultures. It introduces comparative approaches to history, the critical analysis of visual sources and the methodological issues surrounding the interpretation of material culture and the translation of written sources. Students compare the courts of Richard II of England, Philip the Bold and John the Fearless of Burgundy, Charles V and Charles VI of France, and Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan.

Unit 3: Religious Reformations and Movements
The third unit examines the role of organised religion and religious movements in the lives of people in the past. It utilises case studies from different historical periods to explore the impact of local circumstances upon the reception and development of new ideas and further encourages engagement with historical debate and the interpretation of documentary and visual sources. Students explore: medieval monasticism; the English and European reformations of the sixteenth century; and religion and society in nineteenth-century England, including the rise of nonconformity, secularism and the Oxford Movement.

Unit 4: Memory and Conflict
The fourth unit focuses upon a central theme in the study of twentieth-century European history: how societies have chosen to remember (and forget) violent conflicts, and the relationship between public and private memory. It explores the challenges faced by historians when interpreting documentary, visual and oral sources in the writing of recent history. Students examine the theoretical context and methodological approaches to the study of memory and consider two case studies: World War I and the Spanish Civil War.

Unit 5: Special Subjects
In the final unit, students study a source-based special subject and research and write a dissertation on a related topic of their own choice. A range of subjects will be offered, varying from year to year, allowing specialization across both time periods and the historical disciplines. Examples include:

- Visualising Sanctity: Art and the Culture of Saints c1150-1500
- The Tudor Court
- The English Nobility c1540-1640
- The Great Indian Mutiny and Anglo-Indian Relations in the Nineteenth Century
- The British Empire
- Propaganda in the Twentieth Century

The on-line teaching modules

The first module provides a pre-course introduction to history and post-graduate study skills. The second focuses upon the analysis and interpretation of material sources, such as buildings and images and the third upon the analysis and interpretation of a range of documentary sources. All include a range of self-test exercises.

Libraries and computing facilities

Registered students receive an Oxford University card, valid for one year at a time, which acts as a library card for the Departmental Library at Rewley House and provides access to the unrivalled facilities of the Bodleian Libraries which include the central Bodleian, major research libraries such as the Sackler Library, Taylorian Institution Library, Bodleian Social Science Library, and faculty libraries such as English and History. Students also have access to a wide range of electronic resources including electronic journals, many of which can be accessed from home. Students on the course are entitled to use the Library at Rewley House for reference and private study and to borrow books. The loan period is normally two weeks and up to eight books may be borrowed. Students will also be encouraged to use their nearest University library. More information about the Continuing Education Library can be found at http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/conted.

The University card also provides access to facilities at Oxford University Computing Service (OUCS), 13 Banbury Road, Oxford. Computing facilities are available to students in the Students' Computing Facility in Rewley House and at Ewert House.

Course aims

The Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies course is designed to:

- provide a structured introduction to the study of medieval and modern British and European history;

- develop awareness and understanding of historical processes, such as continuity and change, comparative perspectives and the investigation of historical problems;

- provide the methodology required to interpret visual arts as historical evidence;

- equip students to evaluate and interpret historical evidence critically;

- promote interest in the concept and discipline of history and its specialisms;

- enable students to develop the analytical and communication skills needed to present historical argument orally and in writing;

- prepare students for progression to study at Master's level.

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

- display a broad knowledge and understanding of the themes and methodologies studied;

- demonstrate a detailed knowledge and understanding of key topics, the historical interpretation surrounding them and the relationship between local case-studies and the national perspective;

- utilise the appropriate critical and/or technical vocabulary associated with the disciplines, periods and themes covered;

- identify underlying historical processes, make cross-comparisons between countries and periods and explore historical problems;

- assess the relationship between the visual arts and the cultural framework within which they were produced;

- evaluate and analyse texts and images as historical evidence and utilise them to support and develop an argument;

- develop, sustain and communicate historical argument orally and in writing;

- reflect upon the nature and development of the historical disciplines and their contribution to national culture;

- demonstrate the skills needed to conduct an independent research project and present it as a dissertation within a restricted timeframe.

Assessment methods

The Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies is assessed through coursework. This comprises: four essays of 2,500 words each, two source-based exercises of 1,500 words each and a dissertation of 8,000 words. Students will write one essay following each of the first four units and the dissertation following unit 5. There will be a wide choice of assignment subjects for each unit and students will select a dissertation topic relating to their special subject with the advice of the course team. Students will be asked to write a non-assessed book review following the first pre-course online module and the source-based exercises will follow the second and third online modules.

Assignment titles, submission deadlines and reading lists will be supplied at the start of the course.

Tuition and study

A variety of teaching methods will be used in both the face-to-face and online elements of the course. In addition to lectures, PowerPoint slide presentations and tutor-led discussion, there will be opportunities for students to undertake course exercises in small groups and to give short presentations on prepared topics.

University lectures

Students are taught by the Department’s own staff but are also entitled to attend, at no extra cost, the wide range of lectures and research seminars organised by the University of Oxford’s History Faculty. Students are able to borrow books from both the Department’s library and the History Faculty Library, and are also eligible for membership of the Bodleian Library.

Find out how to apply here - http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford

Visit the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies page on the University of Oxford website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Christine James

"I thoroughly enjoyed both the depth and breadth of the range of the course"

"The lectures are stimulating and thought-provoking"

‘For anyone who is looking for a flexible way to study without having to give up work or who has family commitments, this course is a fantastic way to have your cake and eat it! The tutors are both incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic and very supportive of part-time students and you soon find that you are diving into class discussions and assessments without hesitation. The lectures are stimulating and thought-provoking and, although most of the research and writing is done at a distance, I have never felt isolated. Oxford itself is a beautiful and welcoming place, whose only drawback is that studying does not leave enough time to explore it fully. My advice to anyone contemplating this course is to book a few extra days if you can spare the time!’


Oxford scholarships - No. of awards TBC

Key facts :
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs.For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria, you will be automatically considered.
The vast majority of Oxford scholarships are awarded to applicants who submit their course application by the January deadline. Oxford scholarships worth over £1,000 are advertised through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search. You should use this tool to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.In order to be considered for some scholarships offered by departments, you need to enter a scholarship reference code in the relevant section of the graduate application form. If this is the case, the code will be provided in the scholarship information given on department websites. When are Oxford scholarships awarded?:
Most Oxford scholarships are awarded between late February and June. The approximate date by which decisions are expected to be made will normally be given in the scholarship information, as linked through the Fees, Funding and Scholarship Search.A scholarship may be awarded either at the same time or after you are offered a place by your department. It may be awarded either before or after you have been offered a college place.

Value of Scholarship(s)

worth over £1,000


See the website

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information


Entry Requirements

The course team welcomes applications from candidates with an undergraduate degree in any subject discipline. This might include candidates who have studied history in the past and wish either to update and hone their historical skills and knowledge or to broaden their approach to the discipline.

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