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History MA by distance learning

Start date
2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning

Annual tuition fees for 2024 entry:
All students: £5,265 part-time
More detail.

Are you interested in taking your knowledge of history to a higher level? Do you want to add to your repertoire of skills? Or maybe you want to continue your professional development? 

This two-year distance learning programme offers you the opportunity to explore a number of historical themes, drawing on the Department of History’s broad range of expertise. You may pursue one of five pathways through the MA:

  • Contemporary History
  • Global History
  • Medieval Studies
  • Modern British Studies
  • Early Modern History

Your chosen pathway will determine your choice of core modules and the theme of your dissertation, but you also have the opportunity to study two optional modules in other areas which suit your particular interest.

Birmingham’s Department of History is ranked eighth in the UK in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average (Times Higher Education). Research in the department spans the medieval to the modern, including topics such as China’s Middle Period, the material culture of the early modern household, and non-governmental organisations in modern Britain. 

This research expertise is evident within our teaching within our programmes drawing on the diverse regional and chronological expertise available in the Department of History.

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships


I chose Birmingham primarily because of the quality of the course and the extent to which it matched with my specific research areas and historical interests. The college actively encourages student engagement, which creates a lovely sense of participation and contribution.


Why study this course?

  • Research expertise –  The Department of History is ranked 8th in the country in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average, according to Times Higher Education. 
  • Excellent reputation – the University of Birmingham has been ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study History in the 2024 QS World University Rankings.
  • Flexibility – you will have an exciting opportunity to explore your chosen area of study in depth, through your choice of optional modules and dissertation topic. 
  • Career changing – a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role.
  • Ongoing support – you will be assigned a personal tutor who will guide and support you throughout the programme


You will study two core modules which are specific to the pathway you are studying, two modules which are core to all pathways and two optional modules before completing your dissertation.

Core modules: pathway-specific

You will study two core modules which are specific to the pathway you are studying:

Contemporary History pathway

  • Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945 
    The module examines various aspects of the first half of the twentieth century, focussing particularly—but not only—on Europe and America. It examines the rise of mass society and modernity as social and cultural phenomena; the rise of mass politics in Europe, America, and beyond; the phenomenon of mass statelessness; the main strands of authoritarian ideology and liberal democracy; mass mobilisation in war and politics; economic and military conflict; and the growing ascendancy of the United States.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay
  • 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 but often problematic 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 interplay of key actors: inter-governmental organisations; nation states (especially, the USA, the USSR and the non-aligned); multinational corporations and non-governmental organisations.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay

Global History pathway

  • Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections 
    This module is an introductory survey of global history. It will draw on considerable chronological depth and regional breadth in order to present you with a truly global perspective. Content will range from the decline and fall of ancient empires, such as Rome and China, through new medieval empires in Afro-Eurasia, early modern voyages of exploration to the age of revolutions which gave birth to new nations in the midst of global political ruptures.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay
  • The Making of the World: Themes in Global History 

    This module is conceived around some of the major processes that shaped history and the key concepts that historians use to make sense of the past. Using case studies of considerable regional breadth and chronological depth, you will familiarise yourself with the building blocks of past and present societies. These key processes and themes include: the importance of the environment in human history; issues of space, geography and the formation of border regions; time and temporality; religion and notions of value; and historically and culturally diverse constructions of subjectivity and social order including gender, sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. The module ends with an in-depth look at a key text bringing many of these themes together, Amitav Ghosh’s In an Antique Land.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay

Medieval Studies pathway

  • 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 and literature, art history, etc.), in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research. Seminars will also deal with a selection of contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay
  • Understanding Medieval Documents
    This module will introduce you to the study of medieval documents in their original, unedited forms. The first five weeks of the module will cover some of the basic formulae found in administrative documents, and the second half of the module will focus on the basics of palaeography (common abbreviations; different hands). By the end of the module you should be able to identify and translate some of the basic formulae found in charters and administrative documents.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay

Modern British Studies pathway

  • 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.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay
  • 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.
    Assessment: 3,000-word essay

Early Modern History pathway

  • Introduction to Early Modern History
    In the first semester, this module offers a broad introduction to early modern history, and in particular to some of the main historical and historiographical debates which are key to understanding Early Modern Britain and Europe. It covers a broad chronological expanse from the 16th-18th centuries, and introduces students to different aspects of social, cultural, religious, political and intellectual history, offering them insight into key areas of study.
    Assessment: 3,000-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, through state papers, printed books, and notebooks to maps, and visual and material sources. These sessions will familiarise you with important practical and methodological issues, and will introduce you to the study of palaeography 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: 3,000-word essay

Core modules: all pathways

You will also take two core modules in research and dissertation preparation:

Historical Methods 

This module introduces you to approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War, and in one case, even before then. These could include gender, race, global history, memory, history from below, postcolonial theory and more. The focus is on the application of ideas and interdisciplinary approaches to historical practice. We will investigating how medievalists, early-modernists and modernists have adapted these approaches to particular fields of study.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay

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.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay

Optional modules

Your remaining two modules are optional.

Medieval Studies pathway

Medieval Studies students can take either of the two Global History modules (Global Histories: Comparisons and Connections; The Making of the World: Themes in Global History) or the bespoke Medieval Warfare module:

  • Medieval Warfare
    This module will introduce you to medieval military tactics, technologies and theories of warfare in the period c.400-c.1500. You will explore case studies and primary source material (in translation) from across the medieval world, from Tang China to al-Andalus, and from theories of the Just War to the development of fortifications and siege engines. Seminar topics may include: Barbarians and Romans; Slaves on Horses (the rise of the Caliphate); Gunpowder, Treason and Plots (Tang China); Carolingian warfare from Charles Martel to Charles the Fat; Alfred the Great; the Norman Conquest; the Crusades; From Genghis Khan to the Golden Horde; the Hundred Years’ War.

All other pathways

Students may choose from any of the other core pathway modules, plus A Special Path? War, Peace and the Formation of Modern Germany (DL). Other modules may be available in any given year. 


In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 12,000-word dissertation.

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.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 entry are as follows: £5,265 part-time.

As this is a part-time programme, the above fee is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

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.

How To Apply

Please clearly state in your application (at the top of your ‘Personal Statement’) which pathway you are applying for: Contemporary History, Global History, Medieval Studies, or Modern British Studies.

Application deadlines

The deadline for all students applying to our distance learning courses is 30 August 2024.

Late applicants are encouraged to contact the Admissions Tutor for advice.

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

Our Standard Requirements

You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: 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, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 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

Although much of the course is delivered through our ‘virtual learning environment,’ support is always available.

You will have a personal tutor and dissertation supervisor to guide you and answer any questions, and you have access to a wide range of online resources too.

You also have the opportunity to meet other students and academic staff through online chats and discussion forums.

Course delivery

As a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation. Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, assignment preparation and independent study.

Further information on distance learning

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

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 local support.

In addition to a range of campus-based events and workshops, Careers Network provides extensive online resources, and 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

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.

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.