MA Medieval Studies

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

We charge an annual tuition fee.
Fees for 2020/21:
UK / EU: £9,250 full-time
International: £18,450 full-time
More detail.

The MA in Medieval Studies encourages students to explore the complexities and diversity of the medieval period. Designed to develop your understanding of medieval history, or introduce you to it if you have not studied it before, this programme gives you the opportunity to specialise in one of four specialist pathways.

The programme offers uniquely wide ranging expertise across the whole medieval period, from c. 300 to c. 1500. It covers all of the countries of western Europe, Scandinavia, the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia and China, and have a broad range with thematic interests including religious cultures, socio-economic history, the Crusades, Islamic history, gender, manuscript studies, drama, regional literatures and history (West Midlands, Scotland, Spain, Iceland, Byzantium, Afghanistan, northern Eurasia), material culture, comparative history and the ‘global Middle Ages’.

We offer four pathways through the programme, allowing you to specialise in:

  • Medieval History
  • Medieval Archaeology
  • Medieval Literature
  • Byzantine Studies

Students on the four pathways can follow their interests from the villages and parishes of the medieval West Midlands to the shores of the Atlantic and the deserts of Central Asia, drawing on texts and artefacts preserved in the libraries and museums of Birmingham and beyond.

In all teaching you are encouraged to apply class material to your own specific research interests and your dissertation.

 

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.

Rose

Why Study this Course?

  • Excellent research reputation - Times Higher Education ranked the Department of History first in the country for its performance in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Global approach - You will have the opportunity to study anything from the Vikings to Islam in Afghanistan. This is unparalleled in the UK. 
  • Employability - You will be able to use this programme as a launch pad for further careers within or outside of academia, obtaining a firm grounding in historical methods, and a broad knowledge of relevant topics through coursework and engaging with the academic community at Birmingham and beyond. 
  • Community – You will be able to attend regular seminar delivered by academics from other institutions, organised by the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages and the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies. 
  • Research networks - Postgraduate students across several schools run their own research network, the EMREM Forum (Early Medieval - Medieval - Renaissance - Reformation - Early Modern). The EMREM Forum organises regular seminars, training sessions, writing workshops and an annual postgraduate conference that has inspired similar ventures at other universities. 
  • 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.

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

All students take two interdisciplinary core modules:

Approaches to Medieval Studies

This module will expose you to approaches to the medieval past from a range of disciplines, in order to enable you to discuss and compare various approaches, and critically assess their utility for your own research. In the first half of the semester, you will directly compare different disciplines' approaches and methods, using 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). In the second half of term, seminars will focus on contemporary critical and cultural theories and associated modes of analysis.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays

Research Skills for Medieval Studies

This module will equip you with the skills necessary to proceed to postgraduate dissertation research with confidence. Themes studied will include: building a bibliography; academic writing; footnotes and citation; and writing and delivering academic papers. You will also meet with your dissertation supervisor for a number of 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

In addition, you will choose one pathway-specific core module:  

Medieval Archaeology pathway - 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

Medieval History pathway - Historical Methods

This module focuses primarily on the development of history writing since the Second World War. You will be introduced to some of the major schools of or tendencies in historical research in turn, in all of which medievalists have played a significant role: 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).
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Byzantine Studies pathway - Methodologies of Byzantine Studies

This module provides an introduction to predominant research methodologies in Byzantine studies. You will be given introductory training in a variety of subject areas, such as historical writing, charters and documents, art history, numismatics, epigraphy and sigillography.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay  

Medieval Literature pathway - 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. Above all else, you’ll have the chance to turn the pages of some very special old books for yourself, beginning with an introductory session in the Cadbury Research Library here at Birmingham and ending with a trip to one of the UK’s major research libraries (e.g. Bodleian Library, Oxford).
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and transcription assessment

Optional modules

You will also choose three optional modules. You may choose to study one of the core modules from the other pathways as one of your options, and you can choose from a range of other modules which typically includes:

  • Archaeological Theory, Method and Interpretation
  • Archaeology of Greece
  • Aspects of Byzantine History
  • Byzantine Archaeology and Material Culture
  • Byzantine Art and Architecture
  • Egyptian Language 1 and 2
  • Empire and Identity
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where They Came From
  • Fantasy and Fandom: Writing Back to the Medieval in Modern Fantasy
  • Field Survey
  • Funerary Archaeology
  • Gender and Society in Byzantium
  • GIS and Spatial Analysis
  • Greek/Latin (Beginner/Advanced)
  • History Advanced Option
  • History Special Subject (double module)
  • Individuals in History
  • Landscape Archaeology
  • Magic, Monsters and Marvels in the Medieval World
  • Mapping the Middle Ages: Cultural Encounters in the Medieval East and West
  • Material Culture
  • Numismatics for Research and in Museums
  • Reading French, German, Italian, Russian or Spanish for Researchers
  • The Economies of the Late Roman, Byzantine and Frankish East
  • Understanding Medieval Literature

For full module descriptions, see our Medieval Studies MA modules page

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.


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 2020/21 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £18,450 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


For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the gov.uk website.

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 to apply is Wednesday 1 July 2020. The deadline for UK/EU students is Thursday 10 September 2020.

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

Our Standard 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.

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: for this course, we ask for IELTS 6.5 with 7.0 in reading and 6.5 in all other bands. 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.

Learn more about international entry requirements.

International Requirements


Birmingham has an outstanding reputation for research and teaching in medieval studies, which it has maintained for well over fifty years.

Our library is one of the leading research libraries in the country, with exceptionally good medieval holdings. 

To support your studies, we have regular research seminars where visiting and Birmingham speakers present their research. The university’s Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA) acts as a focus for interdisciplinary research projects and events which feed into our teaching. In addition to this we have a large number of postgraduate students in medieval studies so you’ll have a supportive and sociable environment for your studies.

Course delivery

We have two teaching terms per year, the autumn term and spring term. Term dates can be found on our website. 

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each term, 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, 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.