MA Contemporary History

This programme approaches contemporary history through issues and problems with vital on-going importance, including environmental politics, information technology, post-colonial migration, internationalism and empire.

It does so across the 20th century and up to the present day, without geographical limits. It therefore offers a wide range of modules on history at a variety of scales: from the self to the city, from nation to imperium.

The MA in Contemporary History allows you to benefit from the expertise of a very large number of modern and contemporary historians at Birmingham. You will be able to specialise on many areas of British, American, African, South Asian, Middle East and European History. The programme also provides ideal preparation for PhD research.

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

 
Charlie Marriott

Charlie Marriott

“I chose the University of Birmingham because the course appealed to me in so many different ways – the difference in teaching, the diversity of staff, the options and modules available – it was just more appealing than any other university I looked at.”

The MA Contemporary History is designed to provide you with a solid grounding in the major outlines of recent world history, along with a wide choice of specialised modules to suit your own interest.

By combining breadth with depth, it provides a framework within which you will be able to develop both your empirical and conceptual knowledge of the recent past.

You will study two core modules which use some of the best recent historical writing to cover the period since 1914:

  • Mass Society and Modernity 1914-1945 (Autumn term)
  • Globalisation since 1945 (Spring term)

You will also take two ‘skills and methods’ modules:

  • Historical Methods (Autumn term)
  • Dissertation Preparation (Spring term)

You will also choose optional modules to the value of 40 credits (two single modules or one double module). These can be taken from the Department of History or from other programmes offered in the College of Arts and Law, with the approval of the Programme Director. An indicative list of options within History can be found below.

Assessment

Modules are typically assessed by written assignment. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

Why study this course

  • Flexibility – you have access to a wide range of optional modules, with exceptional geographical depth, giving you the flexibility to pursue your specific interests.
  • Research strengths – the Department of History was ranked first in the country in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise. The Department is also home to a dedicated research centre for study in this area, the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History.
  • Foundation for further research – the programme will equip you with the research skills to read and assess relevant primary sources, the ability to carry out independent research and to write up your research. By the end of the programme you will have acquired the skills and the knowledge to progress to a PhD if you wish.
  • Access to academic support services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 
  • Be a part of an exciting department – you will join a lively postgraduate community with opportunities to enhance your learning through events and research seminars.

What our students say

Modules

You will study four core modules:

Mass Society and Modernity, 1914–45

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: 4,000-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: 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: Written assignment

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. You will have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, but you will also attend available generic sessions on skills run on the Research Skills module and available across the University.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

You will also choose optional modules to the value of 40 credits (two single modules or one double module). These can be taken from the Department of History or from other programmes offered in the College of Arts and Law, with the approval of the Programme Director. Previous options available in History have included:

Single modules

  • A 'Holiday from Reality': A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era
  • Conflict in the Modern Middle East
  • France and the Second World War
  • 'Heaven Knows I'm miserable now': Britain in the 1980s
  • Occupation and the War on Terror
  • Religion and Religious Change
  • Russia in Revolution 1900-1939
  • The Age of Energy: Global Histories of Hopes, Needs and Carbon
  • The Costs of War
  • The Good War? A Cultural and Military History
  • The Mirror of Modernity: Global Histories of Photography

Double modules

  • After Hitler: Politics and Society in West Germany during the Adenauer Era, 1945-1965
  • British Women and Internationalism Since 1850
  • Modernity, Masculinity and Revolution in C20 Egypt
  • Nazis at War
  • Of Rice and Men: NGOs and Humanitarianism since 1945
  • People of the Aftermath: British Culture in the 1920s and 1930s
  • The American Civil War
  • The Revolting Right: Conservative Activism in Post-War Britain
  • The Russian Revolution 1917
  • The Weary Titan: Britain and Imperial Strategy, 1897-1919
  • Where There Is Discord: Making Thatcher's Britain 

 It is also possible to choose from core modules offered on other MA programmes in the Department of History


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 2018/19 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,000 full-time; £4,500 part-time
  • International: £16,290 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 2018-19 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 2018-19 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

You will need an Honours degree in History or a cognate subject, such as Politics, International Relations, Cultural Studies, normally of an upper second-class standard. Within the upper second-class bracket we will consider all applicants, but we would encourage prospective applicants to work towards an average BA module mark (UK system) of at least 65, and an undergraduate dissertation mark of 68 or better. We will consider exceptions to the upper second-class requirement for candidates coming from non-traditional backgrounds or through non-typical academic pathways.

Personal statement: Applicants should make clear in detail in their personal statement how their track record at BA level, their experience, and their historical interests match with the MA course offering and mix of scholarship at the University of Birmingham Department of History. Which modules we offer are of interest to you, and why? Which historical topics, methodological problems and historiographical debates hold your interest, and why? What possible dissertation topics do you imagine researching and why are you drawn to them?

References: Applicants should make sure that their references are submitted promptly, and that they address the applicant's track record in detail, citing specific examples of past work, marks and reasons why they are suited to the demands of an MA course. 

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

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

Before you make your application

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

The Contemporary History MA is taught by members of the Birmingham Centre for Modern and Contemporary History (BCMCH), which provides an intellectual forum for academic staff and postgraduates working within the field, and provides a base for research both for its members and in collaboration with other institutions.

BCMCH draws together the expertise of the School of History and Cultures, the Modern Languages Department, American and Canadian Studies and the Centre for Russian and East European Studies (CREES) meaningthat you’ll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the University. It also supports a research seminar series of invited speakers throughout the academic year as well as an annual lecture series and various informal reading groups. 

Learning and teaching takes on this course place via seminars, tutorials, reading texts on theory and methods and your own research on primary sources.

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 for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

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.

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 publishing, to fundraising. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: Royal Air Force; Ministry of Defence; University of Birmingham; Big Lottery Fund; 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.