MRes Twentieth Century British History

Twentieth century Britain is one of the most exciting areas of modern history.

With new documents being released every year and new archives being added to all the time, new researchers are finding an incredible range of topics to explore, examine and reassess. Ideal for those interested in questions about Britain’s recent past, this course is designed to develop skills in critical analysis and academic research, enabling you to acquire research skills and to understand and apply research methodologies to the study of twentieth century British history.

The Department of History was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

Sam Humphries

“The course offered lots more than I hoped for. It taught me crucial methodological understandings about how historians work and how to deploy and engage with them in my own research. These modules, alongside the fellow students and staff in the Centre, changed my work and approach to the subject for the better in ways I could not have conceived beforehand, changing my project fundamentally. The environment with passionate individuals each able to help you with your work has been immensely rewarding.”

The degree consists of four elements which make a total of 180 credits:

  • 20,000 word thesis (120 credits)
  • Historical Methods (20 credits)
  • Sites and Sources in Modern British History (20 credits)
  • Research Skills Training (20 credits)

The courses are assessed in various ways – by examination, coursework and attendance. 

Why study this course

  • The programme offers you the opportunity to pursue an independent research project, supported by taught elements and opportunities for group discussion. While it can be studied as a standalone qualification, it also provides an ideal stepping stone for doctoral research.
  • History at Birmingham has also been judged ‘excellent’ in the QAA Teaching Quality Assessment, which took into account the training and supervision of postgraduate students.
  • History at the University of Birmingham was ranked first among all History departments in the country in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, with no less than 45% of our research judged to be ‘world-leading’. The Department covers a wide range of British, European and world history from the early medieval period to the present.


The degree consists of four elements which make a total of 180 credits:

Historical Methods (20 credits)

The purpose of this module, which is taken during the autumn semester, is to study some major historians of different 'schools' or 'approaches' along with the ideas which inform such historical work. It is taught by a range of specialists in the fields of political, economic, social, cultural and intellectual history. The module is compulsory for all MRes students in the Department of History and so provides both an intellectual and social forum. Assessment is by a 4000 word essay.

Sites and Sources in Modern British History (20 credits)

This is the core module of the degree, to be taken in the spring semester. It introduces you to a variety of methodological and thematic approaches to the study of twentieth century British history. Team taught you will be exposed to the key methodological issues concerning the study of twentieth century British history and the problems and issues historian of modern Britain encounter with sources. Assessment is by a 4000 word essay.

Research Skills Training (20 credits)

This module will vary according to your interest and requirements. All students will receive bibliographical training and some training in IT. In addition linguistic, palaeographical, quantitative methods and other training will be offered. This is quite a flexible module and, where appropriate, you may wish to substitute certain skills courses for a theoretical or historiographical essay related to your field of research instead.

Thesis (120 credits)

The main component of the programme is a 20,000 word thesis on an agreed topic which relates to the history of twentieth century Britain and which can be appropriately supervised by a member of academic staff. If you are interested in studying for this degree, you should contact the Department of History with a proposed topic of research so that a suitable supervisor can be found. We strongly encourage you to do this in advance of making your formal application, if at all possible: the sooner you have a clear idea of your basic research field, the better! The research interests and areas of supervision offered by staff in twentieth century British history are broad and embrace all aspects of modern Britain.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Graduates on this programme will normally have a background in which the study of history, international relations and/or politics has been a substantial component.

For overseas applicants, an honours degree in a relevant subject, such as History or Politics, is required, normally at an upper second class level or its equivalent.

Mature students add diversity and experience to the learning community and we actively encourage applications from people over the age of 21 at entry who may not meet the standard programme entry requirement.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The Twentieth Century British History MRes is taught by members of the Birmingham Centre for Modern and Contemporary History (BCMCH), which provides an intellectual forum for academic staff and postgraduates working within the field, and provides a base for research both for its members and in collaboration with other institutions.

BCMCH draws together the expertise of the School of History and Cultures, the Modern Languages Department, American and Canadian Studies and the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) meaning that you’ll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the University. It also supports a research seminar series of invited speakers throughout the academic year as well as an annual lecture series and various informal reading groups. 

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Birmingham’s History graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by a range of employers. These skills include: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.

Over the past five years, over 92% of History postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Some of our History postgraduates go on to use their studies directly, for example in heritage, museum or archivist work. Others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations from finance to civil service to fundraising. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Alcester Heritage Network; HSBC; KPMG; Ministry of Defence; and the National Trust.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.