Are you interested in taking your knowledge of history to a higher level?
Do you want to add to your repertoire of skills? Or maybe you want to continue your professional development?
This two-year distance learning programme offers you the opportunity to explore a number of historical themes, drawing on the Department of History’s broad range of expertise. You may pursue one of three pathways through the MA: Contemporary History; Global History; or Modern British Studies. This will determine your choice of core modules and the theme of your dissertation, but you also have the opportunity to study two optional modules in other areas which suit your particular interest.
Dr Daniel Whittingham
“The dissertation is an exciting opportunity for people, really to go in-depth into their chosen area of study. You write a dissertation on a topic of your choice. You get to work with the supervisor who is an expert in the field, so I would say this is the most rewarding part of the experience, and something really to look forward to. ”
You will follow one of three pathways through this MA: Contemporary History, Global History, or Modern British Studies.
Each pathway has two specific core modules:
- Contemporary History: Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945; Globalisation since 1945
- Global History: Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections; Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History
- Modern British Studies: New Directions in Modern British History; Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies
Two additional core modules are common to all pathways:
- Historical Methods: Research Skills
- Research Methods & Skills: Dissertation Preparation
You will also choose two optional modules from the other pathways of this programme.
You will complete the MA with a 15,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choice, but which is related to your chosen pathway.
- Taught by experts – you will study alongside some of the finest minds in History. The Department of History was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
- Join an active online community - studying by distance learning is not a lonely experience within the Department of History. You will get to meet interact with students from all over the world – virtually – which will impact on your learning experience.
- Flexibility – you will have an exciting opportunity to really go in-depth into your chosen area of study. For example writing your dissertation is an exciting opportunity for you to really go in-depth into an area which interests you whilst also working with a supervisor who is an expert in the field.
- Career changing - a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role.
- Personal tutors - you will be assigned a personal tutor. Personal tutors are available to answer questions regarding the content of your programme, and also to give advice and provide clarification if you don't understand something, for example what an assignment question demands.
You will study two pathway-specific core modules:
Contemporary History pathway
- Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945
The module examines various aspects of the first half of the twentieth century, focussing particularly—but not only—on Europe and America. It examines the rise of mass society and modernity as social and cultural phenomena; the rise of mass politics in Europe, America, and beyond; the phenomenon of mass statelessness; the main strands of totalitarian ideology and liberal democracy; mass mobilisation in war and politics; economic and military conflict; and the growing ascendancy of the United States.
- Globalisation since 1945
The module examines various aspects of global history in the second half of the twentieth century. It takes its cue from a growing literature which sees ‘globalisation’ as a key feature of global history over the last half century. It will explore key areas in the process of globalisation: the creation of international institutions of truly global reach after the Second World War, in particular those connected to the United Nations and Bretton Woods; decolonisation, and the subsequent globalisation of the nation-state as the standard state form within a new world order, and of new conceptions of state ‘technopolitics’ to go with it; the global political, military, and cultural confrontation of the Cold War; the international political economy of oil; the global politics of the environment and of population control; and the global spread of a universalising discourse of human rights.
Global History pathway
- Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections
This module is an introductory survey of global history. It will draw on considerable chronological depth and regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires, such as Rome and China, through new medieval empires in Afro-Eurasia, early modern voyages of exploration to the age of revolutions which gave birth to new nations in the midst of global political ruptures.
- Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History
This module will be split into two parts: ‘Understanding the Past’ and ‘Past Understandings’. The former deals with key issues in global history, such as: the formation of the world’s geography at the macro-level of continents; periodisation and the issues of how to distinguish between historical periods on such a grand scale; the creation of border regions; and the importance of the environment in human history. The second section will explore different ways in which past peoples have understood the global world. This will examine the importance of religion, debates about the status of indigenous knowledge and finish with an in-depth look at a key text bringing together many of the themes of the course, Amitav Ghosh’s In An Antique Land.
Modern British Studies pathway
- New Directions in Modern British History
This module will expose you to some of the key debates and moments in Modern British Studies and its associated historiography. There are difficulties in identifying organising narratives for understanding modern Britain. How do we write history that remains intellectually inclusive, avoids privileging historic and contemporary historiographical concerns and creates conversations that cut across regional, temporal and disciplinary boundaries? This module will introduce you to historical works that have stimulated new visions the past and its role in public life. If British society and culture has changed, so has the way that historians have approached and conceptualised it. While the module focuses on a series of key interventions, we will situate these in the context of broader debates about Modern Britain.
- Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies
This module goes beyond thinking about Britain in terms of the great and the good and introduces you to rich and diverse sources through which historians have tried to understand the contours of everyday life in the past. The module will enable you to capture the pluralistic and inchoate messiness of ordinary life and historical change. A seaside postcard can be just as useful to a historian as a work of art. It is a module that will give you grounding in the interpretation of different sources and the problems and possibilities these present in studying the past.
You will also take two core modules in research and dissertation preparation:
- Historical Methods
This module introduces you to approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War. These include developments such as the Annales School, historians’ response to Marxism and to anthropological theory, the linguistic turn, gender and critical social theory. The focus is on the application of ideas to historical practice, investigating how medievalists, early-modernists and modernists have adapted these approaches to their particular field of study.
- Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation
This module covers what the dissertation project will entail. You will be expected to produce a short dissertation proposal for submission and you will be allocated a tutor who will supervise your dissertation preparation work.
Your remaining two modules are optional, and will be chosen from those available on the other pathways of the MA; other modules may be available in any given year.
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:
- Home/EU: £3,420 part-time
- Overseas: £7,425 part-time
As this is a part-time programme, the above fee is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.
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 tuition 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.
You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard.
Learn more about entry 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:
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
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Additional Guidance for
applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study
Making your application
Please clearly state in your application (at the top of your ‘Personal Statement’) which pathway you are applying for: Contemporary History; Global History; Modern British Studies.
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
Although much of the course is delivered through our ‘virtual learning environment,’ support is always available.
You will have a personal tutor and dissertation supervisor to guide you and answer any questions, and you have access to a wide range of online resources too.
You also have the opportunity to meet other students and academic staff through online chats and discussion forums.
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.
Support with academic writing
As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.
International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).
The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.
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.
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.