MRes Medieval History

Designed to develop your understanding of medieval history, this is a research degree with some provision for taught modules.

It provides an exciting opportunity to research a medieval topic of your own choice and helps you to develop your research and related skills, as well as allowing you to study broader historical subjects with other postgraduates.

Times Higher Education ranked the Department of History first in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.

Mark Errington

“The conferences, presentations and the field trips that I’ve attended have helped me to view my own research differently, suggesting new avenues of research and reinforcement of what I’ve been doing.”

MRes programmes offer a unique opportunity to deepen and develop your knowledge of the subject by combining taught elements with research training and an individual research project. They can lead to doctoral research, and will also provide the chance for you to undertake scholarly research as an enrichment of undergraduate study or for career development purposes.

The MRes Medieval History includes three taught modules:

  • Approaches to Medieval Studies
  • Research Skills for Medieval Studies
  • One optional module, chosen from a range of modules on medieval themes

You will then complete a 20,000-word thesis on an agreed topic which relates to medieval history and which can be appropriately supervised by a member of academic staff. 

Why study this course

  • Specialist academic staff: The Medieval History MRes forms part of the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) which facilitates academic research into the Middle Ages, from c.300 to c.1500 AD. CeSMA cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries and unites historians, archaeologists, literary scholars, linguists and students who study medieval societies and cultures, meaning that as well as the support you’ll get from the History Department, you’ll be able to gain insight from a whole host of academics from across the university and have the opportunity to discuss research into medieval history in the regular conferences held by the Centre.
  • Research expertise: Times Higher Education ranked the Department of History first in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise. There is a global approach to history. Students can study anything from the Vikings to Islam in Afghanistan. This is unparalleled in the UK.
  • Preparation for further research: Students can use this programme as a launch pad for further 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.

Modules

Core modules

You will study two core modules:

Approaches to Medieval Studies

Medieval Studies is a field to which many different disciplines contribute; the aim of this module is to expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines (such as archaeology, history, language & literature, art history, etc), in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research.

You will use 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) and each session will be led by two tutors, each from a different discipline, allowing you to directly compare different disciplines' approaches and methods. Seminars will also deal with a selection of contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis. 
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays

Research Skills in Medieval Studies

This module aims to equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to postgraduate thesis research with confidence. In the first term, you will meet for a fortnightly seminar that will consider themes that may include: (1) building a bibliography; (2) academic writing; (3) footnotes and citation; (4) writing and delivering academic papers; (5) reviewing. In addition, you will meet with your thesis supervisors once in the Autumn and four times in the Spring for one-to-one tutorial meetings to discuss your chosen research topic and to develop a bibliography of primary and secondary materials as appropriate.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and oral presentation

Optional modules

You will choose one 20-credit module from a range which typically includes:

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

History Advanced Options

A range of topics are available and vary from year-to-year. Recent options available to medieval studies students have included:

  • The Black Death in Medieval Europe: Disaster, Change and Recovery - this introduces you to the historiography of different aspects of the Black Death and the short, medium and long term effects of the arrival of the disease on a myriad of aspects of society. This is done by drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, which will be examined critically in depth.
  • After the Mongols: Political Authority in Islamic Lands, 1200-1600 - How do ruling elites cope when they are conquered by people whose world views are so different from their own? This module examines the bases of political authority in Islamic lands between the 13th and 16th centuries to try to answer this question. The Mongol elimination of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century posed fundamental challenges to Islamic notions of rule. For the first time in its history sedentary Islamic society was faced with the reality of non-Muslim rule and the pre-eminence of Turko-Mongol political culture with its emphasis on a pastoralist ethos. Over the course of the next three centuries Muslim scholars and rulers struggled to develop new ideas of political authority which could address the shifting political realities of their day. Such ideas ranged from resistance to accommodation and, over the centuries, they resulted in new ways of doing things. A consideration of these changes allows us to understand the ideological foundations of the early modern empires which dominated West and South Asia into the modern era.

Assessment: 4,000-word essay

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.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

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. 
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and transcription assessment


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 2019/20 are as follows:

  • UK/EU: £6,030 full-time; £3,015 part-time
  • International: £17,040 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 UK/EU or international 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 the 2019-20 academic year 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 2019-20 academic year 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.

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 by holding an English language qualification to the right level; for this course, we ask for IELTS 6.5 with 7.0 in reading and 6.5 in all other bands.

How to apply

Application deadlines

International students requiring visas

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2020. Applications will reopen for 2020 entry in early October 2019.

UK/EU students

We would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by the end of July. However, we would encourage you to apply at the earliest opportunity, to allow adequate time to prepare for starting your studies once receiving a decision on your application.

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.

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

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 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, 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 fundraising. 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.

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.