The First World War, or Great War, has been described as ‘the seminal event of the twentieth century.' In Britain the war is often regarded as the worst event in our history. The dominant perception is still captured by A.J.P.Taylor’s famous phrase: ‘brave, helpless soldiers; blundering, obstinate generals; nothing achieved.’
The purpose, conduct and outcome of the First World War are inevitably compared to its disadvantage with those of the Second World War, what Studs Terkel called ‘the good war’, the inevitable and heroic struggle against evil and tyranny, a morality tale with a happy ending. At the root of these perceptions are, of course, the scale of the First World War’s casualties, which were unprecedented and – happily – remain unique in British history. It is the casualties that make the war so fascinating and appalling. Even before the guns ceased firing, there were attempts to explain how such a human catastrophe came about and why the scale of loss was so great. Popular explanations have often seemed content with blaming the quality of military leadership – especially British military leadership. This MA programme rests on the belief that a tragedy as great as the First World War deserves less superficial analysis.
To gain a masters degree you will need to complete 180 credits. You will study six core modules (descriptions below).
- Brass Hats and Frock Coats: British Strategy in the Great War
- Operational Development in the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, 1914-1918
- Training, Tactics and Technology in the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, 1914-1918
- Bullets and Billets: The British Experience of the First World War
- Research Skills: Methodology and Sources
- Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation
Each module is worth 20 credits and assessed by an essay of not more than 4,000 words. You will also complete a supervised 15,000-word dissertation, worth 60 credits.
If you become unable to complete the full programme, you may be eligible for an interim award: a Postgraduate Certificate (after successful completion of 60 credits); or a Postgraduate Diploma (after successful completion of 120 credits).
You will study six core modules before completing your dissertation, which will be based on a substantial and sustained investigation of an historical problem – of your choice – relating to the First World War, undertaken in the light of current knowledge and after an analysis of available primary material. You will receive one-to-one advice and supervision from an expert in your chosen field.
The core modules are as follows:
Brass Hats and Frock Coats: British Strategy in the Great War
The module will analyse the determinants of British strategy during the First World War, paying particular attention to historical, political, economic and diplomatic factors. It also explores the evolution of British strategy under the discipline of events, including the divisions that this produced among the political and military high command. It also looks at the conditions and difficulties of coalition warfare and the extent to which British war aims were fulfilled at the Paris peace conference.
Operational Development in the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, 1914-1918
The module will analyse the methods the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front used to plan and execute battles and how these methods changed over time. Particular attention will be given to the evolution of C3I (Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence), weapons systems and doctrine.
Training, Tactics and Technology in the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, 1914-1918
The module will analyse the recruitment, training and tactical development of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front during the First World War. Particular attention will be paid to the period of voluntary recruitment (August 1914-January 1916) and the introduction of conscription, the British army’s pre-war and wartime methods of training and tactical preparation, and the impact of new technologies on training, tactics and weapons systems.
Bullets and Billets: The British Experience of the First World War
This module analyses the war experience of different groups and classes including the combat soldier and his officer, the military commander, the civilian and women. Particular attention will be paid to issues of discipline, morale and dissent, and their management.
Research Skills: Methodology and Sources
This module introduces you to the historiography of the First World War and to a variety of different research methodologies and research sources. A series of case-studies will focus on key research sources (published and unpublished) for the British experience of the First World War, including: the Official History; the diaries, memoirs, letters and autobiographies of contemporary actors; archival sources, especially the National Archives of the United Kingdom: Public Record Office.
Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation
The module introduces you to the techniques necessary for the location of literature and sources relevant to your dissertation research. You will become familiar with the relevant bibliographical aids for the location of secondary and primary sources, and will be introduced to a range of libraries, archives and data sources.
Fees and funding
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:
Home/EU: £3,105 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.
Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments.
Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.
Learn more about 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.
Birmingham Masters Scholarship Scheme
For 2015 entry the University has 224 new £10,000 scholarships available for Masters students from under-represented groups. These scholarships have been jointly funded by the British Government; the allocation of the awards, which is the fourth highest in the UK, further cements Birmingham?s place amongst the very best higher education institutions for postgraduate study. The application deadline is 31 July 2015.
A good Honours degree in History or an equivalent discipline. Other professional experience or qualifications comparable to degree standard will also be considered. Examples might include law, accountancy, management, or published work in a relevant field. Every submission is considered on its own merits.
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:
How to apply
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