Postgraduate study


The Centre for Modern and Contemporary History and the University of Birmingham are able to provide a unique learning experience for prospective postgraduate students interested in contemporary history.

The Centre co-ordinates the MA in Contemporary History as its key postgraduate course, yet also supports a broader community of postgraduates studying on a variety of courses alongside doctoral research. Postgraduates at the Centre are fully involved with the staff's seminar series and also run events and seminars of their own.

Taught study

 The centre coordinates the MA Contemporary History as its main taught based study, for other postgraduate programmes offered by the School of History and Cultures.

Contemporary History MA

This programme allows you to benefit from the expertise of the very large number of modern and contemporary historians at Birmingham. It will provide an understanding of contemporary history as a global phenomenon, with core modules covering world history in the twentieth century. For your optional modules and dissertation research you’ll be able to specialise on many areas of British, American, African, South Asian, Middle East and European History. The course can also be used as a route into MA by Research and PhD research.

Student testimony: Fraser Sutherland, MA contemporary History, part-time, 2014-2016

I’m now (January 2015) six months into the MA in Contemporary History at Birmingham, as a mature student spreading the course over two years. Having recently completed a BA with Open University, when searching for a suitable Master’s course I was keen to find a campus-based course where I could take advantage of the academic expertise ‘on tap’, and equally importantly, have the opportunity to exchange ideas with other students. I’ve been delighted with what I’ve found so far at the University of Birmingham.

The core module learning I’ve undertaken so far has been in the form of seminars, where students are encouraged to critically evaluate key texts covering a wide range of topics. I’ve found this format extremely beneficial, both in sharpening my own critical faculties, and in the opportunity  it offers to discuss and debate issues with both academic staff and fellow students in a supportive, friendly environment. I’ve found these seminars both informative and hugely enjoyable, and the development of both the group and the individuals within it that results is clear.  Regular meetings also take place with my supervisor, which aim both to ensure that the course is meeting the needs of students, as well as an opportunity to reflect on individual progress.

I’m reaching the point where I will shortly be selecting my special subjects / optional modules and dissertation topic. The range of subject modules on offer is extensive, all supported by an academic staff with a wide variety of specialist fields, so I know when I decide on the focus of my study as I look towards my dissertation, I can be confident of expert support from my supervisor. I’m very happy with my decision to further my studies at Birmingham.

More information: Contemporary History MA

Research-based study

The Centre prides itself on the quality and range of research undertaken by its members and students equally, offering the perfect environment for researching history from a global perspective from the end of World War One onwards. The centre will enable you to develop your research ideas and project through working with staff and fellow students.

With over 30 members of academic staff at the University of Birmingham associated with the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History makes it the perfect place for conducting your postgraduate research, whether at MA or Doctoral level. They include scholars from the  School of History and Cultures, the Centre for European Languages and Cultures (CELC), American and Canadian Studies (ACS) and the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES),Department of Political Science and International Studies , (POLSIS) and the Centre for the History of Medicine.

If you are interested in a particular area of research do not hesitate contact one of the staff for further information about supervision through our Members Page.

Research-based programmes involved with the Centre include:

MRes Twentieth-Century British History

This course is designed for students to use the latest archival material with new theoretical insights to explore, examine and reassess Twentieth Century British history in relation to other countries and regions across the world. Ideal for those interested in questions about Britain’s recent past, this course is designed to develop skills in critical analysis and academic research, enabling you to understand and apply research methodologies to the study of twentieth century British history.

Student testimony: Sam Humphries

“I chose the Masters Research programme as it gave me the chance to pursue my own research project within a lively, resourceful and respected academic department. It combined the necessary taught elements and group discussion to hone and develop my academic research skills alongside working independently to make my project happen.

The course however offered lots more than I hoped for. It taught me crucial methodological understandings about how historians work and how to deploy and engage with them in my own research. These modules, alongside the fellow students and staff in the Centre, changed my work and approach to the subject for the better in ways I could not have conceived beforehand, changing my project fundamentally. The environment with passionate individuals each able to help you with your work has been immensely rewarding.

The course also helps develop the ability to work autonomously and critically assess your own standards and approaches to the subject. It is tough yet immensely rewarding as it offers up opportunities that would never have materialised otherwise. The Masters Research programme helped me pursue my interest in history further alongside helping me to think creatively and to apply these ideas to my work and life.”

More information:  MRes Twentieth-Century British History

MRes Modern European History

The development and expansion of the European Union, the collapse of communism, the unification of Germany and disintegration of various states in Eastern Europe have significantly changed our perspective on the history of modern Europe and in particular on the role of the nation-state in that history. This programme, which draws on the notable strengths in social, cultural, economic and intellectual history at the University of Birmingham, is designed to offer you – as a research student working within a wide range of topics – practical training in research skills and methods as well as a broad overview of the history of the modern nation-state in Europe within a comparative and global framework.

More information: MRes Modern European History

Modern History PhD and MA by Research.

Areas of expertise include religion, war studies, race and immigration, the history of the West Midlands, the history of sexuality and emotion, and environmental history. We are also expanding our global coverage and welcome enquiries concerning possible research topics. Current topics range from questions such as how the media in depicting humanitarian disasters shaped NGO activity to an oral history of Kenyan South-Asian migrants in Britain.

Whatever your interest, whether it is cultural or social history, military or political history, economic or religious history, there is someone available to supervise your research.

Research degrees are best planned by individual discussion, so if you have a particular subject area in mind, please contact the staff member you deem to be most suitable for advice on formulating research proposals.

More information:

Major funding opportunity for Home/EU students on our PhD programmes

We are part of the Midlands3Cities consortium, offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships. This includes full research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are now open.

Learn more