MA Medieval Studies

Designed to develop your understanding of medieval history, or introduce you to it if you have not studied it before, this is a taught degree with some provision for dissertation research.

We offer uniquely wide ranging expertise across the whole medieval period, from c. 300 to c. 1500. We cover all of the countries of western Europe, Scandinavia, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia and China, and have a broad range with thematic interests including religious cultures, socio-economic history, the Crusades, Islamic history, gender, manuscript studies, drama, regional literatures and history (West Midlands, Scotland, Spain, Iceland, Byzantium, Afghanistan, northern Eurasia), material culture, comparative history and the ‘global Middle Ages’.

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

 

This programme offers an opportunity to engage in advanced study of your chosen discipline through a range of core and optional modules. In all teaching you are encouraged to apply class material to your own specific research interests and your dissertation.

The programme includes six taught modules, made up of:

  • Two interdisciplinary core modules
  • One pathway-specific core module
  • Three optional modules (usually including a language)

Full module descriptions are available below.

Assessment

Most core and optional modules on this course are assessed by written assignment. See module descriptions for further details.

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

Why study this course



  • Excellent research reputation - The Department of History was ranked first in the country in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Global approach - You will have the opportunity to study anything from the Vikings to Islam in Afghanistan. This is unparalleled in the UK. 
  • Employability - You will be able to use this programme as a launch pad for further careers within or outside of academia, obtaining a firm grounding in historical methods, and a broad knowledge of relevant topics through coursework and engaging with the academic community at Birmingham and beyond. 
  • Research networks - Postgraduate students across several schools run their own research network, the EMREM Forum (Early Medieval - Medieval - Renaissance - Reformation - Early Modern. The EMREM Forum organises regular seminars, training sessions, writing workshops and an annual postgraduate conference that has inspired similar ventures at other universities. 
  • 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.

Modules

You will study two core modules on all pathways:

Approaches to Medieval Studies

This module will expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines, in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research. In the first half of the semester, you will directly compare different disciplines' approaches and methods, using key texts and case studies on important themes in the study of the Middle Ages (such as gender, space, the life-cycle, social groups, the nature of power). In the second half of term, seminars will focus on contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
Assessment: 2,500-word assignment and oral presentation

Research Skills for Medieval Studies

This module will equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to postgraduate dissertation research with confidence. Themes studied will include: building a bibliography; academic writing; footnotes and citation; and writing and delivering academic papers. You will also meet with your dissertation supervisor for a number of one-to-one tutorial meetings to discuss your chosen research topic and to develop a bibliography of primary and secondary materials as appropriate. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay and oral presentation

In addition, you will choose one pathway-specific core module:  

Medieval Archaeology pathway - Creating Europe: Complex Societies 1000 BC-AD 1000

This module explores the nature of complex societies in Europe from the Iron Age to the early medieval period, and their interactions with the state-organised societies of the Mediterranean. It is organised thematically and chronologically, focusing on interpretations of complex societies, large-scale economic and political systems, ethnicity, elite culture, chiefdoms, state formation, empire, urbanism, coinage, and long-term change. Case studies are drawn from a wide range of cultural contexts in north-west and central Europe, using both archaeological and historical evidence. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Medieval History pathway - Historical Methods

This module focuses primarily on the development of history writing since the Second World War. You will be introduced to some of the major schools of or tendencies in historical research in turn, in all of which medievalists have played a significant role: 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).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Byzantine Studies pathway - Methodologies in Byzantine Studies

This module provides an introduction to predominant research methodologies in Byzantine studies. You will be given introductory training in a variety of subject areas, such as historical writing, charters and documents, art history, numismatics, epigraphy and sigillography.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay  

Medieval Literature pathway - Meeting Medieval Manuscripts

From the sole-surviving manuscript of Beowulf to William Caxton’s introduction of the printing press to England, this module is designed to open up the fascinating world of medieval manuscript studies and book history. Throughout the semester we’ll use new online and digital resources to explore a series of key manuscripts and printed books from the eleventh century through to the early sixteenth century. Each week we’ll teach you how to read and transcribe different types of medieval handwriting (a skill known as palaeography) and introduce you to some of the central features of manuscript production (codicology) and early printing.

We’ll focus week-by-week on a specific manuscript or type of manuscript (e.g. chronicles, book of hours, copies of The Canterbury Tales) and also discuss themes related to the study of the material text, including illumination and decoration, dialect, the production of miscellanies/anthologies, and digitisation. Above all else, you’ll have the chance to turn the pages of some very special old books for yourself, beginning with an introductory session in the Cadbury Research Library here at Birmingham and ending with a trip to one of the UK’s major research libraries (e.g. Bodleian Library, Oxford).
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and transcription assessment

You will also study three optional modules across the Autumn and Spring semesters. You may choose to study one of the core modules from the other pathways as one of your options, and you can choose from a range of other modules such as:

  • Across the divide: China and its Neighbours in Texts and Material Culture
  • Aspects of Byzantine History 2: Byzantine Court Ritual
  • Beyond the Frontier: History and Culture in Late Medieval Iberia
  • Byzantine Art and Architecture I and II
  • Byzantine Literature and History I and II
  • Byzantine Society I
  • Byzantine Society II
  • Chaucer and his Sources
  • Conquest, Colonisation and Identity: Eurasian Frontiers in Texts and Material Culture
  • Crusade, Jihad and Cross-Cultural Encounters on the Medieval Iberian Frontier, c.1031–c.1212
  • Empire and Identity 
  • Funerary Archaeology
  • GIS and Spatial Analysis 
  • Graduate Linguistic Skills (Beginner) 1 and 2: Latin or Greek
  • Graduate Linguistic Skills (Advanced) 1 and 2: Latin or Greek
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Late Roman and Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture 1 and 2
  • Mastering Middle English
  • Material Culture 
  • Medieval Manuscripts
  • Old English 1A and 1B
  • Old English 2A and 2B: Words, Wisdom and the Woman's Voice
  • Old English 3A and 3B: Reading Beowulf
  • Old Norse
  • People and Places in the West Midlands, c. 1000-1500
  • Plays, Pageants and Spectacle: Drama before Shakespeare
  • Popular Unrest in Later Medieval Europe
  • Reading French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish for Researchers
  • Reading and Writing Scotland: Scottish Literature 1375-1513
  • The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East 
  • The Fourth Crusade
  • The Parish in Late Medieval England  
  • Vikings in the North Atlantic
  • Women, Men and Eunuchs: Gender in Byzantium 1 and 2

For full module descriptions, see our Medieval Studies MA modules page


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is 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.

Fee status

Eligibility for home/EU or overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in 2017-18 or 2018-19 academic years will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

Paying your fees

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

An honours degree in a subject related to the chosen pathway, such as History, English, Archaeology or Theology, is required, normally upper second class level (2.1) or its equivalent for overseas applicants. Graduates without these qualifications (for example with a lower second class degree, or a degree in a different subject) are very welcome to apply and their application will be considered on its merits. Applicants may be asked to submit written work and/or attend an interview. For some pathways evidence of relevant linguistic ability may be required.

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

International students requiring visas

Monday 3 July 2017 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. Applications received after this date will not be considered. Applications will reopen for 2018 entry on 15 September 2017.

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

Birmingham has an outstanding reputation for research and teaching in medieval studies, which it has maintained for well over fifty years.

We have been rated highly in all three of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercises (RAE) and our library is one of the leading research libraries in the country, with exceptionally good medieval holdings. 

To support your studies, we have regular research seminars where visiting and Birmingham speakers present their research. The university’s Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) acts as a focus for interdisciplinary research projects and events which feed into our teaching. In addition to this we have a large number of postgraduate students in medieval studies so you’ll have a supportive and sociable environment for your studies.

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).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive 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.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: History

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

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.

Accommodation

We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

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.