MA Early Modern History

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

The MA Early Modern 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. 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.

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

 

History and Cultures scholarships available

The College of Arts and Law is offering a range of scholarships for our postgraduate taught and research programmes. A number of scholarships for Masters students in History and Cultures are also available. Open to students pursuing any of our Masters programmes in History, Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, and African Studies, the awards cover tuition fees and applications are now open.

Find out more and apply now

Dr Jonathan Willis

Dr Jonathan Willis

“The MA in Early Modern History is aimed at anybody with an interest in the history of Britain, Europe, or the wider world between about 1500 and 1800. This might include people coming straight out of an undergraduate degree, people who want to fit postgraduate study around work, or people who have retired and are looking to follow up an interest in the history of this period.”

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.

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.1700. These new approaches are integral to the teaching and research training provided on this course. There is also 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. 

Course content

You will study two core modules in early modern history:

  • Introduction to Early Modern History 
  • Writing Early Modern History: Sources and Approaches 

You will also study two core modules focused on developing your research skills:

  • Historical Methods
  • Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation

You will also choose two optional modules, or a double special-subject module, from a range available across the Department of History and beyond.

Further module information is available below.

Assessment

Modules are typically assessed by written assignment, with the exception of Research Preparation which also requires a presentation. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation on an agreed topic. The range of supervisory expertise within CREMS means that we can support dissertations in almost any area, so long as there are sufficient historical sources to support your chosen topic. Birmingham provides access to excellent library resources in early modern history, including an impressive range of digitised primary source material, from state papers and archives to printed books and much more.

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 2018 QS World 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 programme. 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.

Modules

Core modules

You will study two core modules in early modern history:

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 sixteenth- and seventeenth-century society, culture, politics and religion.  This will include important concepts surrounding religious and popular belief, the early-modern state, gender and sexuality, material culture, and the non-European world. As such, it will provide you with a broad knowledge base to draw upon as you begin thinking about the area of early modern history you would like to focus on for your dissertation.
Assessment: 4,000-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, state papers, printed books, diaries and letters to maps, music, visual and material culture and digital humanities.  These sessions will familiarise you with important practical and methodological issues, 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: 4,000-word essay

You will also study two other core modules: 

Historical Methods 

This module, which runs throughout the autumn semester, is your chance to meet students from across the range of masters programmes offered within the department, from ancient and medieval through to modern and contemporary history.  Together, you will consider the key approaches, theories and concepts that have shaped historical practice since the Second World War. These include developments such as the Annales School, historians’ response to Marxism and to anthropological theory, cultural history, the linguistic turn, gender and critical social theory.  The focus is on the application of ideas to historical practice. You will investigate how early modernists have adapted these theories and methods to their particular field of study. 
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Research Preparation 

This module, which consists of a number of different elements, runs throughout the academic year, and provides important training and support as you develop your research skills, and devise your own unique dissertation topic. You will receive intensive training in palaeography (reading old handwriting), and you will be allocated to a supervisor, who will help prepare you to give an oral presentation on your dissertation topic, as well as producing an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an outline dissertation plan. 
Assessment: Written assignments and a presentation

Optional modules

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which typically includes (subject to staff availability):

  • Beyond the Book
  • Capital Lives: Experiencing the City in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Britain 
  • Greek (beginner/advanced)
  • Latin (beginner/advanced)
  • Reading Languages for Researchers (French/German/Italian/Spanish)

It is also possible to undertake a relevant module from another department (such as Classics, Art History, or English).

Alternatively, you may wish to choose a double special subject module. Topics available in recent years have included:

  • Protestants, Papists and Puritans
  • The English Civil War 

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 and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2019/20 are as follows:

  • UK / EU: £9,250 full-time; £4,625 part-time
  • International: £16,995 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

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.

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

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

Please apply by Friday 30 August 2019. 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.

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

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

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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 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 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.