MA Global History

The aim of this course is to put something very big under the microscope. 

By expanding the scale at which historians would normally operate, our Global History MA will present you with an opportunity to think with growing confidence and imagination about your world, its origins, its complexities and continuous transformations across a uniquely broad geographical and chronological scope.

You will be taught the latest skills, concepts and approaches to the subject, and you will share in the imaginative challenges and intellectual vistas that this exciting new field of history is opening up. It is from this largest of historical perspectives that you will be invited to choose your own specialist research topic, culminating in a supervised 15,000-word dissertation.

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

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You will study two course-specific core modules:

  • Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections
  • Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History

Both of these modules are team-taught, drawing on the diverse regional and chronological expertise available in the Department of History. Tutors include: Dr Arezou Azad; Dr Simon Jackson; Dr Sadiah Qureshi; Dr Lucie Ryzova; Dr Gareth Sears; Dr Manu Sehgal; Dr Margaret Small; Dr Kate Smith; Prof. Naomi Standen; Dr Simon Yarrow; and Dr Shirley Ye.

You will also study two core modules focused on developing your research skills:

  • Historical Methods: Research Skills
  • Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation

Full descriptions of these four modules are available below.

You will also choose two optional modules, or a double special-subject module, from a wide range available across the Department of History.

You will complete the MA with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Why study this course

  • 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 and vibrant Department – to further impact your wider academic life whilst at Birmingham you will have the opportunity to attend regular research seminars, conferences, and reading groups within the Department. 
  • 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.
  • Access to academic support services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 


You will study four core modules:

Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections

This Autumn core module offers an introductory survey of global history arranged in a chronological manner. It draws on chronological depth unique in the UK and considerable regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires through the spread of new religions across the multiple shifting political formations in Afro-Eurasia, to early modern voyages of exploration and intellectual movements, and the age of revolutions which gave birth to nations in the midst of global political ruptures. The emphasis is on providing points of cross-cultural, cross-regional ‎comparison and to develop your awareness of key connections, such ‎as trade networks, cultural flows and exchanges, forms of migration, shifting political structures and ‎the emergence of modern states, nations and empires.

Seminar topics will typically include (subject to staff availability): Decline and Fall of Ancient Empires; Empire and its Holy Cities: Caliphate and the East; The Silk Routes; The Long Fourteenth Century: The Rise and Eclipse of a Pre-Western World System; Age of Exploration; India from Colony to Empire; Empire, Development and Decolonisation; Neoliberal Globalisation.

Making Sense of the World: Themes in Global History

This Spring core module is conceived around some of the major processes that shaped history and the key concepts that historians use to make sense of the past. Using case studies of considerable regional breadth and chronological depth, you will familiarise yourself with the building blocks of past and present societies. These key processes and themes include: the importance of the environment in human history; issues of space, geography and the formation of border regions; time and temporality; religion and notions of value; and historically and culturally diverse constructions of subjectivity and social order including gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. The module ends with an in-depth look at a key text bringing many of these themes together, Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.

Seminar topics will typically include (subject to staff availability): Boundaries and Geographical Space in Global History; Environmental Humanities: Energy and Politics in the Age of the Anthropocene; Religion and the Market: Ideas of Value in the Pre-Modern World; Race, Ethnicity and Social Hierarchy; Gender and Sexuality in Global History; Material Cultures; Temporality, Empire and Globe.

Historical Methods

This module introduces you to major developments in historical approaches and to some of the major schools of, and recent directions in, historical research. We will focus on the application of ideas to historical practice then and now.

Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation

This module prepares you for your dissertation research. You will be expected to produce a short dissertation proposal and you will choose a tutor who will supervise your dissertation preparation work (for a list of tutors,see above). You will have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, but you will also attend general sessions on research skills.

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which may include (subject to staff availability):

  • Cities of Paradise and Empire in the Islamic World: From the 15th Century to the Present Day
  • Before Globalization? Afro-Eurasian World History, 500-1800.
  • From Empire to Colony: Indian Society, Politics and Economy, c. 1757-1885.
  • Conflict in the Modern Middle East
  • Hidden from History: Homosexuality through History
  • Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period
  • The Age of Energy: Global Histories of Hopes, Needs, and Carbon
  • The Mirror of Modernity: Global Histories of Photography
  • Globalisation Since 1945
  • West Africa and the Atlantic Slave Trade
  • History and Politics of South Africa
  • Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa
  • Before Postcolonialism: Europe and Its Empires
  • Postcolonial Theory

Alternatively, you may wish to choose a double special subject module. The options available will typically include:

  • Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-slavery in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
  • The Mongols and China
  • The Lure of the Modern: Defining China from New Culture Movement to Cultural Revolution, 1910s-1970s.
  • Modernity, Masculinity and Revolution in Twentieth Century Egypt
  • Game without Thrones: Saga Age Iceland c.900-c.1250
  • Imperialism and the Global Environment: Europe and the Transformation of the Tropical World, 1850-present
  • Building Nations in the “Bloodlands”. A History of Conflict, Occupation, and Independence in East Central Europe ca. 1880 – 1953
  • The Age of Discovery
  • The Russian Revolution, 1917

Please note that the optional modules listed on the website for this programme are intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £7,020 full-time; £3,510 part-time
  • Overseas: £15,660 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years 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.

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

Entry requirements

You will need an Honours degree, normally in any humanities or social science discipline, such as History, Politics, Cultural Studies, or Literature, and normally of an upper second-class standard. All applications are treated on their merits, and we are happy to consider applicants who may have travelled by non-standard routes. Such applicants should contact the programme convenor in the first instance.

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

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.

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

Learning and teaching takes on this course place via seminars, tutorials, reading texts on theory and methods and your own research on primary sources and secondary material.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the lively 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 for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

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.

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 93% 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, museums or the armed forces; others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations from finance, to publishing, to fundraising. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Royal Air Force; Ministry of Defence; University of Birmingham; Big Lottery Fund; Royal Air Force Museum; and University of Oxford.

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.