History PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

As a postgraduate researcher in the Department of History you will have the opportunity to work alongside academic staff whose research is at the forefront of current historical scholarship.

The Department was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014, and is unrivalled in the geographical and chronological breadth of its research. From medieval Afghanistan to the modern United States, our staff provide expertise across British, European and world history from around 500 to the present day. 

Major funding opportunity for Home/EU applicants to this PhD programme

We are part of the Midlands3Cities consortium, offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships. This includes full research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are now open. Find out more detailed information on this scheme.

Dr Aimee Fox-Godden

Dr Aimée Fox-Godden

“One of the best things about the course is the opportunity to build up friendships with like-minded students who are also on the PhD journey. I have found these friendships invaluable, particularly when things might not be going as well as you hoped when researching or writing the doctorate. The opportunity to work with my PhD supervisor has been a fantastic experience. It’s a really important and rewarding relationship and one of the highlights of my PhD experience.”
Ask Aimée a question

The History MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision. 

The History PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice, under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff. 

You can study both the MA by Research and PhD programmes on campus or by Distance Learning

Research degrees in History at Birmingham provide opportunities for detailed engagement with a specific topic, enhanced by the debates and cross-fertilisation of ideas sparked by working in contact and association with members of the UK’s leading History department, as judged in the most recent Research Excellence Framework exercise. Opportunities for collaboration across the University, particularly in the fields of Byzantine, Hispanic and Music History, as well as Philosophy, Politics and Economics, also help to generate stimulating and rewarding research.

The extensive holdings of the University’s library, and ready access to other regional archives and libraries, offer abundant raw material for research. Within the department, groups such as the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) , generate a lively inter- and multi-disciplinary research culture, through delivery papers and broadening intellectual horizons.

Current research topics range from questions such as how England became a Protestant nation in the 16th century, to why smoking played such an important role in 20th century life. Whatever your interest, whether it is cultural or social history in the 6th century, or military history in the 20th century, Birmingham’s History department has someone available to supervise your research with expert knowledge and understanding.

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Profiles of our current History doctoral researchers

Why study this course

  • Core strengths include medieval history, cultural and social history, politics, economics, religion, war studies, the history of the West Midlands, the history of sexuality and emotion, and the history of the environment.
  • We offer exciting opportunities to participate in the broader research culture of the Department of History. This includes seminars and workshops run by postgraduate research students and  those organised by members of staff.
  • Postgraduate research students are a vital, integral member of the Department of History and play a full role in its intellectual life. As such studying for a PhD offers opportunities for this genuine collective approach.
  • The Department of History was ranked first in the country for the quality of research in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.  

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.

Entry requirements

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 following summary indicates our principal areas of research expertise. Please view our staff profiles for further possible research topics

  • British and German Armies
    Contact: Dr Jonathan Boff
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5512
    Email: j.f.boff@bham.ac.uk
  • British 20th-century political history
    Contact: Professor Nicholas Crowson
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5485
    Email: n.j.crowson@bham.ac.uk
  • Society and politics of 17th-century England
    Contact: Professor Richard Cust
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5764
    Email: r.p.cust@bham.ac.uk
  • History of the West Midlands since 1700
    Contact: Dr Malcolm Dick
    Tel: +44 (0)121 4158253
    Email: m.m.dick@bham.ac.uk
  • Counter-Reformation belief and politics
    Contact: Dr Elaine Fulton
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6632
    Email: e.k.fulton@bham.ac.uk
  • History of Nineteenth Century Britain
    Contact: Dr David Gange
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5665
    Email: d.j.gange@bham.ac.uk
  • Air power: history, theory and practice
    Contact: Air Cdre (Ret’d)
    Dr Peter Gray Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423
    Email: w.gray@bham.ac.uk
  • The British economy in the 20th century
    Contact: Dr Julian Greaves
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5760
    Email: j.l.greaves@bham.ac.uk
  • German history since 1870
    Contact: Dr Armin Grünbacher
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5759
    Email: a.gruenbacher@bham.ac.uk
  • Art and material culture of early modern Britain
    Contact: Dr Tara Hamling
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 9510
    Email: t.j.hamling@bham.ac.uk
  • Modern British social history
    Contact: Professor Matthew Hilton
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7697
    Email: m.j.hilton@bham.ac.uk
  • British–German relations since 1945
    Contact: Dr Sabine Lee
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5736
    Email: s.lee@bham.ac.uk
  • 19th–20th century European history; environmental history
    Contact: Professor Corey Ross
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5757
    Email: c.d.ross@bham.ac.uk
  • Race and Immigration
    Contact: Professor Gavin Schaffer
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6629
    Email: g.schaffer@bham.ac.uk
  • Early Modern European exploration, expansion and colonisation
    Contact: Dr Margaret Small
    Tel: +44 (0)121 4145501
    Email: m.small@bham.ac.uk
  • History of religion in the British Army
    Contact: Dr Mike Snape
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3405
    Email: m.f.snape@bham.ac.uk
  • Economic History 
    Contact: Dr Jelle van Lottum
    Email: j.vanlottum@bham.ac.uk
  • Asian History
    Contact: Dr Shirley Ye
    Email: s.ye@bham.ac.uk
  • History of the medieval Middle East, Afghanistan and Central Asia: religious culture, politics and society, cross-cultural interaction, cities, frontiers
    Contact: Dr Arezou Azad
    Email: a.azad@bham.ac.uk
  • Early European economic and social history; the Vikings
    Contact: Dr Chris Callow
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5934
    Email: c.p.callow@bham.ac.uk
  • Economy and society in late medieval England
    Contact: Dr Miriam Müller
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5741
    Email: m.muller.1@bham.ac.uk
  • Religious culture in central Middle Ages (c1000-c1300) especially history of crusading
    Contact: Dr William Purkis
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6626
    Email: w.j.purkis@bham.ac.uk
  • Late medieval English legal history; the friars in England
    Contact: Dr Jens Röhrkasten
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5761
    Email: j.roehrkasten@bham.ac.uk
  • Premodern China, especially c.700-1200; comparative, world and global history; borders, cross-cultural interaction, politics and society
    Contact: Professor Naomi Standen
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6881
    Email: n.standen@bham.ac.uk
  • The late medieval Church and society, especially in England
    Contact: Professor Robert Swanson
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5748
    Email: r.n.swanson@bham.ac.uk
  • England, 900-1200: religious and political culture; issues concerning gender and identity
    Contact: Dr Simon Yarrow
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 414 5744
    Email: s.s.yarrow@bham.ac.uk

Related research

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.