MA Modern British Studies

This programme provides an intellectually rigorous introduction to Modern British Studies through two core modules and your choice of optional modules.

You will benefit from the expertise of a large number of British historians at Birmingham, who will both teach on the programme and provide expert supervision for your dissertation.

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

Dr David Gange

Dr David Gange

“Students studying Modern British Studies at Birmingham are part of a lively research culture and a really lively reaching culture. There are lots of people here doing really innovative work on modern British history who they’ll be working with day in day out in much more than just their weekly seminars, with all our reading groups, with all our seminar series, it’s a really lively place to be studying these things at the moment.”

You will study four core modules [see full descriptions below]:

  • New Directions in Modern British History
  • Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies
  • Historical Methods: Research Skills
  • Research Methods & Skills: Dissertation Preparation

All core modules are assessed by 4,000-word essay.

You will also choose two 20-credit optional modules - one in autumn and one in spring - or a 40-credit special-subject module which runs across both terms. The 20-credit modules are assessed by 4,000-word essay, while special subject modules are assessed by one three-hour exam and one take home essay exam paper. An indicative list of options can be found below.

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

Why study this course

  1. 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 2015.
  2. 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. 
  3. The city – one of the real strengths of studying Modern British Studies at Birmingham is the city itself. The Department has many links within the city for you to work with, you will have access to a range of fantastic libraries and collections and even the physical built environment of the city represents the history of modern Britain.
  4. Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work. You will be supported throughout your time at Birmingham – if that be aiding your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away and making sure you develop as an academic writer. 


You will study four core modules:

New Directions in Modern British History

This module will expose you to some of the key debates and moments in Modern British Studies and its associated historiography. There are difficulties in identifying organising narratives for understanding modern Britain. How do we write history that remains intellectually inclusive, avoids privileging historic and contemporary historiographical concerns and creates conversations that cut across regional, temporal and disciplinary boundaries? This module will introduce you to historical works that have stimulated new visions the past and its role in public life.  If British society and culture has changed, so has the way that historians have approached and conceptualised it. While the module focuses on a series of key interventions, we will situate these in the context of broader debates about Modern Britain.

Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies

This module goes beyond thinking about Britain in terms of the great and the good and introduces you to rich and diverse sources through which historians have tried to understand the contours of everyday life in the past. The module will enable you to capture the pluralistic and inchoate messiness of ordinary life and historical change. A seaside postcard can be just as useful to a historian as a work of art. It is a module that will give you grounding in the interpretation of different sources and the problems and possibilities these present in studying the past.

Historical Methods

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. 

Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation

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 also choose two optional modules from a range which may include:

  • 'A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’: Nuclear Weapons and the Cold War
  • Britain at the Movies
  • Britain’s Wars of Colonisation and Decolonisation
  • Hidden from History: Homosexuality through History from the Ancient World to the Present Day
  • On the Road to Nowhere? Traffic, Transport and Mobility in 20th Century Britain
  • Reason and Romance: the cultural history of 19th Century Britain
  • Sex and Sexualities in the Modern British World, 1880-1970
  • Speaking to the People: Political Communication in 20th Century Britain

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

  • Britain and the Home Front in the Second World War
  • Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-Slavery in Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries
  • British Army on the Western Front
  • Dossers: A History of homelessness in modern Britain
  • Facing the Fuhrer and Duce: British Foreign and Defence Policies towards the European Dictators 1935-40
  • Mass Media and the Making of Modern Britain
  • Of Rice and Men: NGOs and Humanitarianism since ‎‎1945‎
  • Social Activism in Ages of Affluence and Apathy
  • The Sharpe End: the British Army and the Defeat of Napoleon
  • Where There is Discord: Making Thatcher’s Britain

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £6,570 full-time; £3,285 part-time
  • Overseas: £14,850 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two 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 be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. 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 in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard.

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

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant 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).

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.