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MRes Early Modern History

Start date
Full-time: 1 year
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught

Annual tuition fee 2023 entry:
UK: £6,660 full-time; £3,330 part-time
International: £20,820 full-time
More detail.

We are improving our opportunities to study History at postgraduate level and this programme is being withdrawn. A new programme will be available for 2023 entry and further details will be made available shortly. Please register your interest to receive updates.

Explore the past with your own independent research project in Early Modern History within the prestigious Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), while undertaking essential training to support your project.

You can complete your research project in any aspect of Early Modern History, as agreed by your supervisor, while the taught component will allow you to develop your research skills.

What is an MRes?

An MRes is a programme that will help you develop the skills for both doctoral study and a future career. You will complete a major individual research project, supervised by a specialist in the field of study, and a taught component that develops research and analytical skills. If you are interested in applying, we strongly encourage you to contact the admissions tutor or a member of staff with interests in your field to discuss your application in general and your proposed research topic in particular.

The diversity of staff specialisms creates an exciting and stimulating research environment, which means that whatever you are interested in there is always someone you can talk to and discuss ideas with. The research culture is exceptional at Birmingham, with regular seminars being held which allow me to broaden my horizons and look beyond my topic of study


Why study this course?

  • Friendly and supportive academic staff who produce world-class research: The Early Modern History MRes is run out of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), one of the most dynamic concentrations of early modern historians in the country. We have almost a dozen members of full time academic staff with expertise in the period c.1500-1800 in History alone, with geographical coverage including Tudor and Stuart England, Georgian Britain, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, the Americas, and the wider world. The History department was ranked 8th in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average (Times Higher Education)
  • Fantastic resources to support your study: The West Midlands and Birmingham are rich in associations with the history of the early modern period, from cathedrals and parish churches to country houses and castles, all of which offer fascinating insights into its material culture. The library is particularly strong in early modern history, religious history and local history materials, and the university’s Special Collections contain a wide range of early printed books. We also provide students with access to a wide range of electronic resources, including Early English Books Online, State Papers Online, and the Cecil Papers. In addition, students have use of the Shakespeare Institute’s excellent research library in Stratford–upon-Avon, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust library and Record Office, and the on-campus resources of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.
  • An emphasis on your research supported by training in key skills: The programme enables you to apply the intellectual insights of the taught modules to a sustained body of work, to learn period-specific techniques (such as palaeography) alongside transferable research skills, and develop the advanced interpretative skills necessary for doctoral work. Students can use this programme as a launch pad for doctoral research, obtaining a firm grounding in historical research methods, and a broad knowledge of relevant topics through course work and engaging with the academic community at Birmingham and beyond.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.


After consultation with your academic supervisor, you can pursue a 20,000 word research thesis in any aspect of British or European history, including European discovery of the wider world, political, military or diplomatic history, or the history of early modern religion, culture, society or ideas.

You will study three taught modules:

Historical Methods

This module, which runs throughout the autumn semester, is your chance to meet students from across the range of masters programmes offered within the department, from ancient and medieval through to modern and contemporary history.  Together, you will consider the key approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War. These include developments such as the Annales School, historians’ response to Marxism and to anthropological theory, cultural history, the linguistic turn, gender and critical social theory.  The focus is on the application of ideas to historical practice. You will investigate how early modernists have adapted these theories and methods to their particular field of study.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Writing Early Modern History: Sources and Approaches

In the second semester, this module introduces in more detail the hands-on study of early modern history by interrogating a range of important sources, from ecclesiastical documents and court records, state papers, printed books, diaries and letters to maps, music, visual and material culture and digital humanities. These sessions will familiarise you with important practical and methodological issues, as well as giving a sense of how these kinds of material have been used by historians to enhance our understanding of the past.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Research Preparation

This module, which consists of a number of different elements, runs in the spring term, and provides important training and support as you develop your research skills, and devise your own unique thesis topic. In the first five weeks of the spring term you will receive intensive training in palaeography (reading old handwriting), and you will hold additional meetings with your supervisor to help you prepare to give an oral presentation on your thesis topic, as well as submit an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an outline thesis plan.
Assessment: Palaeography transcription, annotated bibliography and thesis plan (2,500 words), fifteen-minute presentation


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 entry are as follows:

  • UK: £6,660 full-time; £3,330 part-time
  • International: £20,820 full-time

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

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.

How To Apply

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (including EU) to apply is 1 July 2022. The deadline for UK students is 31 August 2022.

Six easy steps to apply for a postgraduate research course in the College of Arts and Law

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas, which includes detailed advice on research proposals and how to write them.

Making your application

Our Standard Requirements

Our requirements for postgraduate research are dependent on the type of programme you are applying for:

  • For MRes and MA by Research programmes, entry to our programmes usually requires a good (normally a 2:1 or above) Honours degree, or an equivalent qualification if you were educated outside the UK, usually in a relevant area.
  • Applicants for a PhD will also need to hold a Masters qualification at Merit level or above (or its international equivalent), usually in a relevant area.

Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements.

If you are applying for distance learning research programmes, you will also be required to demonstrate that you have the time, commitment, facilities and experience to study by distance learning.

If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact the admissions tutor.

International students

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 21 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

Research in the Department of History has unique chronological and geographical depth, covering a wide range of British, European and world history from the early medieval period to the present, so we are able to provide expert supervision across a variety of topics.

Please contact a staff member working in your area of interest in the first instance. A summary of our key research areas, and staff working within those, can be found below.


As an MRes Early Modern History student, you will join the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), one of the most dynamic concentrations of early modern historians in the country.

You will conduct your thesis research independently, guided by a supervisory team (usually a lead supervisor and co-supervisor) selected for their expertise and experience relevant to your research project, with supervisory meetings taking place on a regular basis

Past and current MRes topics for the 20,000 word thesis have included:

  • Hunting for hidden meaning: an analysis of the history, interpretation and presentation of seventeenth-century plasterwork at St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
  • Colonial failure in the New World: A French and German comparison
  • Dutch and English competition for the Muscovy Trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • Harnessing Nature: Gardens and Science in John Evelyn’s England
  • Susan Countess of Denbigh and Women at the Caroline Court
  • "Lioness”: Ladies-in-Waiting and their careers at the Tudor Court, 1509-1547
  • The “Black Book” and the politics of Elizabeth Warwick
  • Commercial theatre management in the age of Shakespeare
  • Religious Persecution in Henrician England

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.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: History

Our History postgraduates 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 5 years, 81% of History postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). Some of our History postgraduates go on to use their studies directly, for example in heritage or in museums. Others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations including finance, marketing, teaching and publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include Royal Air Force, Ministry of Defence, University of Birmingham, Royal Air Force Museum and University of Oxford.

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