MA Social Research (Economic and Social History)

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Are you looking to undertake research training that will prepare you for research in the field of economic and social history? 

Our MA in Social Research is particularly useful if you want to convert to the study of economic and social history, or if you have already studied in this area and wish to improve your skills. It is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council as providing the requisite research training for a PhD so you can apply for funding for the MA to be the first (training) year of a four-year PhD.

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

This programme provides research training that will prepare you to undertake research in the field of economic and social history.

You will study five core modules (full descriptions available below): 

  • Introduction to Social Research
  • Research Design
  • Social Research Methods I
  • Social Research Methods II
  • Historical Methods

Many of the core modules are delivered at a wider level, so you will study with students from the School of Social Sciences as well as those from the Department of History.

You will then choose one of the following options:

  • Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies 
  • Economics of War
  • Globalisation since 1945

You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

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. Be a part of an exciting department – you will join a lively postgraduate community within the Department of History with many opportunities to enhance your learning from external lectures and visiting scholars, to research seminars and conferences.
  3. 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.
  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 five core modules: 

Introduction to Social Research

This module provides a general introduction to studying research and methods, and to preparing for a dissertation. It emphasises key skills such as searching literature, finding existing datasets, referencing, taking notes, reading and presenting a table of numbers, presenting an argument, and criticising an argument. It continues with consideration of generic issues for research, such as the main principles of ethics for applied empirical research, negotiating access to research sites, the role of theory, the philosophical bases for understanding the social world, and synthesising existing research through focus on the findings rather than the conclusions.  

Research Design

This introduces you to the concepts and varieties of social science research designs. A key aim is to explain that design is independent of, and so does not entail, methods of data collection and analysis. Our intention is to link the introductory module to the modules on data collection and analysis through consideration of research questions and warranting practices.

Social Research Methods I

This module introduces you to the principles and practice of data collection, collation and analysis. Teaching and learning exercises demonstrate the value of research skills in relation to both textual and numeric data. The module develops understanding of different stages of the research process. The importance of ethical practice in research development, collection, collation, analysis and dissemination is stressed throughout.

Social Research Methods II

The module builds on Social Research Methods I.

Two large-scale studies (research materials, datasets) are employed to build research skills. Secondary research skills (using textual and numeric data) are explicitly explored as a base from which to conduct informed and appropriate data handling/analysis. An introduction to multivariate analysis will be provided, up to the level of multiple regression and analysis of variance. Techniques for analysing textual data will also be covered.

Historical Methods

This introduces you to the major intellectual debates in the development of the subject: e.g., history ‘from below’; the Annales school; Marxist approaches; gender; the new cultural history, etc.  You will be introduced to some of the major schools of, or tendencies in, historical research; in turn 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.   

You will then choose one of the following optional modules: 

Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies

This module introduces the rich and diverse sources through which historians and other scholars of modern Britain have tried to understand the past. Moving beyond a focus on social and political elites, we will explore the sources through which historians have explored the contours of everyday life. In so doing our aim is to think through the ways in which we might understand the pluralistic and inchoate messiness of ordinary life and historical change. A seaside postcard can be just as useful (and important) to a historian as a work of art. Using sources like these, however, presents different problems and possibilities. Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies will introduce you to these issues, and give you a broad grounding in the interpretation of diverse primary sources in studying the past.

Economics of War

As events in the last two centuries have shown, the outcome of conventional wars is very much dependent on the economic strength of the belligerents; and, in case of asymmetrical warfare, on whether the economical ‘superior power’ is willing to make the economic sacrifices necessary to winning a war. The module will introduce you to the economic problems of warfare since the Napoleonic era. Issues investigated will include: war finance; (industrial) production of war materials; organisation of wartime economies, including raw material provision, interruption of enemies’ economic systems; the ‘military-industrial complex’ and its influence; the impact political decisions have on the effectiveness and efficiency of armed forces; the impact of spiralling procurement costs.

Globalisation since 1945

The module examines various aspects of global history in the second half of the 20th 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 begin by examining the key institutions of a 'new world order' built after the Second World War; in particular, those connected to the United Nations and Bretton Woods. It will then explore the key actors in the processes of globalisation: inter-governmental organisations; nation states (especially, the USA, the USSR and the non-aligned); multinational corporations and non-governmental organistations. 

Related staff

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 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

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

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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

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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 through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

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.

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.