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MA History (Early Modern History 1500 - 1800)

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fees for 2023 entry:
UK: £10,170 full-time
International: £21,150 full-time
More detail.

Are you interested in exploring the history of sixteenth-, seventeenth- or eighteenth-century Britain, Europe and the wider world?

Early modern history has become increasingly interdisciplinary, with researchers drawing on the insights of anthropology, sociology, cultural and literary studies, art history, and musicology, as well as history, when writing about the past.

This particular specialist pathway of our MA History, organised by the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), is taught by leading scholars whose expertise covers the Catholic and Protestant Reformations, New World discoveries, and the political, cultural and religious worlds of sixteenth-, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and Europe.

Topics such as violence, clothing, gender, exploration, art, drama, music, buildings and material culture have come to be seen as crucial to understanding the transformations that were taking place across the period c.1500-c.1800. These new approaches are integral to the teaching and research training provided on this pathway in Early Modern History.

It combines political, religious, social, cultural, material and intellectual approaches to introduce the early modern period in all its richness and complexity, and to equip students with the knowledge and skills to take a fresh look at early modern history. You will be able to develop both your empirical and conceptual knowledge of the recent past.

The pathway also has an annual field trip, designed to explore key themes and issues outside of the classroom, in the context of key buildings, documents and historical artefacts. 

The enormous breadth of staff expertise gives you a rich variety of options, and a wide range of possibilities for your dissertation topic. The pathway also offers comprehensive research training opportunities, providing the ideal grounding to undertake a PhD in this area. 

 

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

The School of History and Cultures hosts workshops and seminars throughout the year in which students are invited to come and listen to the leading experts in respective fields discussing their work. They actively encourage student engagement, which creates a lovely sense of participation and contribution.

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Why study this course?

  • Research expertise – Birmingham’s Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS) makes it the ideal place to study early modern history. There is a thriving and active community of postgraduates, a lively research seminar programme, and excellent connections to early modern expertise in other schools and departments including English, the Shakespeare Institute and History of Art. Times Higher Education also ranked the Department of History first in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Location – The West Midlands and Birmingham are rich in associations with the history of the early modern period. The regional cathedrals (Lichfield, Gloucester and Worcester) and parish churches still reflect many of the religious changes of the period; the country houses and castles (such as Kenilworth and Warwick) offer fascinating insights into its material culture; and nearby Warwick and Stratford-upon-Avon contain wonderful examples of early modern domestic and religious architecture.
  • Excellent reputation – the University of Birmingham has been ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study History in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
  • Flexibility – A wide range of options allow you to specialise in an area of your choice, and comprehensive training opportunities will help to prepare you to embark upon a significant research project. In recent years, scholars have moved beyond a narrow concern with elite religion and high politics to explore the cultural, material and social histories of the early modern period, in order to assess the full impact of momentous changes such as the Renaissance and the Reformation. 
  • Range of resources – Birmingham has excellent resources for this pathway. 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, especially sixteenth and seventeenth century sermon material. The University also provides students with access to cutting-edge electronic resources, including Early English Books Online, all four parts of State Papers Online, and the Cecil Papers. The microfilm resources include a large collection of early Reformation ‘flugschriften’. Students also 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. Birmingham is also centrally located in the UK, within easy reach of archives in London, Oxford, and elsewhere.

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.

Modules

Core modules

You will study three core modules:

Historical Approaches

This module provides students with an advanced introduction to some of the ways in which historians have approached a range of prominent themes within the modern historical discipline, such as religion, gender, race, class, community, and conflict.  The module introduces these themes through a mixture of case studies and background reading and information, with an emphasis on historiographical development and a range of different theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary influences, such as sociology, anthropology, the material turn, etc.  Each week students are guided in reading influential texts that relate to one of these key themes, and students then meet in small seminar groups to discuss a mixture of historiographical case studies and additional theoretical background.
Assessment: 4,000 word review of approaches to one of the themes covered by the module in your own chosen historical field

Research Preparation

This module is designed to deliver three complementary strands, with the ultimate aim of supporting students on the MA History to design, plan and research an ambitious dissertation topic.  The first strand is a series of lectures on key research skills in the historical discipline, ensuring that students are confident when it comes to aspects of research design such as defining a topic, reviewing secondary literature, identifying and accessing appropriate primary sources, etc.  The second strand is a series of seminars designed to support specialist sub-disciplinary skills relating to (for example) chronological period or a particular geographical area or methodological approach.  The third strand is a series of one-to-one supervisions with an academic advisor, to offer the student guidance and feedback as they devise their own unique research project, and lay the groundwork for their masters dissertation.  The module also helps students to develop important skills in presenting and articulating their research to a larger non-specialist audience.
Assessment: 3,000-word literature review (75%), 10 minute oral presentation (25%)

Introduction to Early Modern History 

This module offers a broad introduction to some of the most significant themes in early modern history, focussing on key historiographical debates while at the same time training students in practical and methodological approaches to a broad range of primary sources, ranging from legal sources and printed texts to visual and material sources. It will introduce students to a wide variety of topics important to the understanding of Early Modern History such as Church, Household, Revolution and the Self. Through such thematic topics, it will provide a broad knowledge base to draw upon both for students specialising in Early Modern History and for students on the general MA history as they begin to think about areas of interest on which to focus for the dissertation.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Optional modules

If you choose to study the Early Modern History pathway you must choose at least 20 credits from the Early Modern History or Special Subject lists below. 

These lists are indicative; not all modules will run each year depending on staff availability.

Early Modern History
  • Capital Lives: Experiencing the City in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth- Century Britain
  • Of Great Powers and Failed States. Conceptions of the State in the Modern World
  • Women Behaving Badly in Tudor and Stuart England
  • Before and After the Mongols: Political Authority in Islamic Lands, 1000-1600
  • Warfare at Sea from the Armada to D-Day
  • Before Globalization?: Afro-Eurasian World History 500-1800
  • Piracy, Plunder, Peoples and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period
  • Experts, Scholars, and Spies: the Information Revolution in Early Modern Europe

English Drama and Creative Studies optional modules:

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where They Came From
  • The Figure of the Witch: Witch Writings c. 1400-1700

Ancient Language modules:

  • Latin 1
  • Latin 2
  • Latin 3
  • Latin Texts

Special Subjects

If you choose a Special Subject as an option, you must take two co-requisite modules to the total of 40 credits. Topics available in recent years have included

  • Beauty, Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Body in Britain, c1680-1820 (Masters): A
  • Beauty, Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Body in Britain, c1680-1820 (Masters): B
  • Piracy, Plunder and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period (Masters) A
  • Piracy, Plunder and Exploitation: English Exploration in the Tudor Period (Masters) B
  • Historical relations: Families in global perspective, 1500-2020 (Masters): A
  • Historical relations: Families in global perspective, 1500-2020 (Masters): B
  • A History of the Tudors in 100 Objects (Masters): A
  •  History of the Tudors in 100 Objects (Masters): B
  • Gunpowder, Treason and Plot: England under Elizabeth I and James I (Masters): A
  • Gunpowder, Treason and Plot: England under Elizabeth I and James I (Masters): B

Dissertation

In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation. Your dissertation must be on a topic within the pathway area of specialism.


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

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

  • UK: £10,170 full-time; £5,085 part-time
  • International: £21,150 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 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.


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

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

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

You will make your application to our MA History programme. If you would like to specialise in Early Modern History, you will indicate this at the module choice process upon entry onto the programme. 

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is Wednesday 31 August 2023.

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, normally in any humanities or social science discipline, such as History, Politics, Cultural Studies, or Literature, and normally of an upper second-class standard. All applications are treated on their merits, and we are happy to consider applicants who may have travelled by non-standard routes. Applications should highlight your interest in the programme and any relevant experience you have, academic or otherwise. Applicants are encouraged to contact the programme convenor to discuss their application before submitting it.

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


The Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS) provides a focus for research in this area at Birmingham.

Its leading members have a high international research profile, making this one of Britain’s largest clusters of expertise in this area. The Centre also has a regular seminar series, which will support and inform your learning. This includes an annual lecture (past speakers have included Diarmaid MacCulloch, Peter Lake, Mark Greengrass, Andrew Pettegree, Ulinka Rublack and Susan Brigden) and an ongoing programme of conferences.

CREMS also has particularly close links with the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon which provides a focus for a full range of seminars, conferences and research activities related to the study of the literary history of Elizabethan and Jacobean England.

During your course, you will receive thorough training in research methods relating to the history of this period, including instruction in palaeography to enable you to read original manuscripts, training in various languages as required, and a regular seminar that explores interdisciplinary approaches to the theory and practice of research.

Course delivery

We have two teaching semesters per year, the autumn semester and spring semester. Semester dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each semester, followed by your dissertation. Depending on the modules you take, you can typically expect six to nine hours of classroom time per week, two or three per module. If you are 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, homework and assignment preparation.

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 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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