The programme is designed to provide you with a solid grounding in the major outlines of recent world history, along with a wide choice of specialised modules to suit your own interest. By combining breadth with depth, it provides a framework within which you will be able to develop both your empirical and conceptual knowledge of the recent past.
You will study two core modules which use some of the best recent historical writing to cover the period since 1914:
Mass society and modernity 1914-1945 (Autumn term)
Globalisation since 1945 (Spring term)
You will also take two ‘skills and methods’ modules:
Historical methods (Autumn term)
Dissertation preparation (Spring term)
You will also choose Optional modules, one per term, or a double Special Subject module over two terms. These are chosen from a wide range of modules available both in and beyond the History department.
You will complete the programme with a 15,000-word dissertation.
Why study this course
This programme will provide you with knowledge and understanding of European and world history in the 20th century. The programme will also equip you with the research skills to read and assess relevant primary sources, the ability to carry out independent research and to write up your research. By the end of the programme you will have acquired the skills and the knowledge to progress to a PhD.
Natalie Hill "Studying for the MA Contemporary History has been one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. The course is widespread and varied, and has pushed me to write some of my best work..."
Patrick Longdon "The MA far exceeded my expectations. The selection of modules meant that I could pursue an eclectic mix of disciplines and specialisms in the first two terms, which allowed me to decide upon a fruitful and fascinating dissertation topic for the final term. The body of work I put together over the year could not have prepared me better for my doctoral studies... I am proud to say that the MA in Contemporary History at the University of Birmingham was fundamental in allowing me to pursue my passion for history further"
You will study four core modules:
Mass society and modernity, 1914–45
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.
This module introduces you to the major developments in historical approaches since the Second World War and to some of the major schools of, or tendencies in, historical research such as the Annales School, the English historians’ response to Marxism, cultural history, the linguistic turn, gender, history of science and critical social theory (Geertz and Foucault). The focus is on the application of the ideas to historical practice then and now.
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. You will have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, but you will also attend available generic sessions on skills run on the Research Skills module and available across the University.
You will then take two optional modules, one per term, or a double Special Subject module over two terms.
Special subject modules include:
Imperialism and the global environment: Europe and the transformation of the tropical world
The history of grand strategy
Building nations in the 'bloodlands": A history of conflict, occupation, and independence in East Central Europe ca. 1880-1953
British army on the western front
The Russian revolution
Facing the fuhrer and the duce: British foreign and defence policies towards the European dictators 1935-40
Britain and home front in the Second World War
Of rice and men: NGOs and humanitarianism since 1945
Activism, affluence, and apathy: citizenship, politics and democracy in post-war Britain
Where there is discord: making Thatcher's Britain
Planes, trains, boats, and autos: transporting people (and other things) in twentieth-century Britain
Mass media and the making of modern Britain
Homelessness in Modern Britain, 1900 to the present
Optional modules available include:
Speaking to the people: political communication in twentieth-century Britain
Blood for oil? energy and history in the global twentieth-century
Everyday life and survival under Nazi and Soviet occupation, 1939-1953
Jewish Religious responses to the Holocaust
Hard rain's gonna fall: culture, politics, and society in the nuclear age
Britain's wars of colonisation and decolonisation, 1815-1960
The costs of war
The United States and World War II
Sex and sexualities in the modern British world, 1880-1970
Twentieth-century China in images and ideas
Conflict in the modern Middle East
You may also choose from modules within the Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Fees and funding
We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2014/15 are as follows:
Home / EU: £5,940 full-time; £2,970 part-time
Overseas: £13,665 full-time
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.
University of Birmingham graduates - including those due to graduate in summer 2014 - may be entitled to a fee reduction through the College of Arts and Law Alumni Bursary scheme.
You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, such as History, Politics, Cultural Studies, 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:
How to apply
Learn more about applying
Apply for the MA full-time or part-time
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