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MA History

Why we're great

  • Take the opportunity to explore the history that excites you – choose from a wide range of regions and periods
  • Work alongside scholars at the cutting-edge of historical communication
  • More than two-thirds of our research is rated ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’

Course options2017-18

MA History Full-time

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £6,125
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information


Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £3,065
Fee (International): £7,725
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719

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About the course

Whether you’re interested in the making of the modern world or witchcraft through the ages, at Essex we give you the freedom to explore the history that excites you. Our geographic spread, topic diversity and social reach give you an unrivalled opportunity to pursue your historical passions and discover new ones.

Our MA History is rigorous, flexible and wide-ranging, so that you can to choose the modules and thesis topic which best suit your interests.

Alongside four optional modules which enable you to explore the latest in historical research in our specialist areas, you also study a practical module in research techniques, and write a 20,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice.

Historical research at Essex concentrates on the period from 1500 to the present, and covers a wide geographical area that includes British and European history, as well as Latin America, the USA, China, Russia and Africa.

Our Department of History has developed a strong research and teaching profile, with the majority of our research rated as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014). We provide you with opportunities to explore local history, and have strong links with the Essex Record Office, one of the best county record offices in the UK.

Alternatively you can focus your study on a more specific area by following one of the following pathways:

Public History Pathway

Further your understanding of, and expertise in, a variety of public history contexts, ranging from museums and documentary films to conflict resolution and computer games.

This pathway makes the most of our status as an institution at the cutting edge of communicating history to the general public, and will involve classes led by scholars who are currently involved in documentary, heritage, oral history and school curriculum projects.

You will be given the opportunity to create, participate in, and/or critique a current piece of public history as part of your coursework assessment on the Public History Workshop module, and your dissertation will demonstrate an engagement with the methods and/or theories of public history, analyse an example of public history, or be an example of public history.

Cultural and Social History Pathway

Explore the varied ways in which understandings of the relationship between evidence and interpretation, language and the material world, economies and identities, have been challenged and changed by the ‘cultural turn’.

This pathway offers you modules which deal with a range of areas, themes and periods, placing you at the cutting-edge of historical thought on issues such as gender, race, class, consumption, modernity, mentalities and identities.

Local and Regional History Pathway

Local (or micro) history, as well as community and family studies, has played an increasingly important part in the development of historical analysis.

We reflect on these developments, drawing on the rich national and comparative literature in these fields, with a primary focus on the period from 1800 to the 20th century.

You also design and conduct a substantial independent study on a chosen historical topic or in the field of local, community or family history.

Our expert staff

Our staff are among world leaders in their field, and our enthusiasm for our subject is infectious. Our flexible course is combined with a supportive structure which helps you to pursue the modules best-suited to your interests.

We take the time to get to know you as an individual, welcome you into our scholarly community, and value your views.

Specialist facilities

  • We have several Special Collections in history, including the Essex Society for Archaeology and History Library, the Harsnett Collection, the Hervey Benham Oral History Sound Archive, the Bensusan Collection, and the Colchester Medical Society Library
  • Access the UK Data Archive, a national service provider digital resources for historians, which is particularly strong in 19th and 20th-century economic and social history
  • Attend an exciting programme of events
  • Access a variety of textbooks and journals in our Albert Sloman Library which houses materials on Latin America, Russia and the US that are of national significance

Your future

We have excellent links with the research community, both in the UK and worldwide, so many of our students have gone on to teach in higher education institutions. Others have found employment in archives, research, managing research funds, other forms of educational provision, the Civil Service, the National Health Service, and management.

Within our Department of History, we offer supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by Dissertation. Themes of particular research interest include:

  • Class, race and gender formation
  • Nationalism
  • Wars and revolutions
  • International relations and oil diplomacy
  • The history of medicine
  • The history of crime
  • Popular culture and consumption
  • Slave societies
  • The history of ideas and print culture
  • The history of the Roma and Sinti in Europe
  • Historical censuses and surveys

Our University is one of only 11 AHRC-accredited Doctoral Training Centres in the UK. This means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Postgraduate study is the chance to take your education to the next level. The combination of compulsory and optional modules means our courses help you develop extensive knowledge in your chosen discipline, whilst providing plenty of freedom to pursue your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are, in many instances, just a selection of those available. Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current postgraduate students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Your dissertation is the centrepiece of your Masters work. It gives you the opportunity to develop and to demonstrate your skills as an academic researcher and scholarly author, as you investigate and interpret a topic of your choosing.

View 'Dissertation' on our Module Directory

This module provides you with a rigorous and practical preparation for undertaking historical research in Britain in the period since the 16th century. You will understand the structures of archival and library provision in the UK, have acquired practical skills of project management, and familiarised yourself with some of the key institutions and sources you will need to use in research. There will also be a visit to the Essex Record Office, UK Data Archive and Albert Sloman Library Special Collections.

View 'Research Methods in History' on our Module Directory

South Africa and the United States are two countries in which racial identity and conflict became peculiarly entwined with class formation and antagonisms. This module explores the complex relationship of race and class in South Africa and the US from the time of slavery through to the rise of racial segregation in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

View 'Race and Class in the United States, South Africa and Britain: Select Topics (optional)' on our Module Directory

In this module you’ll examine medicine from the perspectives of social, cultural and gender history. Topics vary from year to year, but will include most of the following: the nature of medical knowledge; the body in medical and social theory; illness and gender; gender and healing; professional identities; the history of the patient; doctor-patient relations; and the social construction of disease.

View 'Illness and Culture in 18th-And 19th-Century Europe (optional)' on our Module Directory

How is the past transmitted and constructed in numerous public contexts? This module enables you to compare contemporary presentations with those from a previous era. You’ll examine the different genres and spaces through which history is, and has been, conveyed, from the museum, to the documentary, to the war memorial, school textbook, Hollywood epic and even computer game.

View 'The Public History Workshop (optional)' on our Module Directory

You’ll examine the ways in which gender divisions were constructed, experienced, affirmed and challenged, and the ways in which gender relations were played out and regulated in Europe c.1450-c.1750. You’ll look at key phenomena of the early modern period, such as the Reformation and religious change, and the hunting of witches, and analyse how they affected gender and gender relations and the extent to which men and women experienced them differently.

View 'Gender in Early Modern Europe c.1500- c.1800 (optional)' on our Module Directory

This module focuses on the theoretical and methodological implications of the 'cultural turn'. You’ll be introduced to key concepts, and will explore debates about the meanings of terms such as 'subjectivity', 'identities' and 'discourse'. You will also explore the possibilities opened by cultural approaches, as reflected in new and emerging debates and themes such as childhood, public and private, sex, the psyche, and memory.

View 'Approaches to Cultural and Social History (optional)' on our Module Directory

Food is the bread and butter of human civilisation – except, both bread and butter are culturally specific. So let's broaden our minds. The traditions of what is considered edible, how it is produced, prepared and consumed are central to the definition to each society's culture. You’ll investigate the cultural and social history of food, centring on the changes created by the encounters between the Americas and Europe from the late 15th to the 17th century.

View 'A Global History of Food, c.1400 - c.1750 (optional)' on our Module Directory

Until very recently the social history of consumption was virtually ignored by professional historians. It was only during the 1980s that this subject began to attract serious scholarly attention. In this module you’ll explore both the origins and development of the 'consumer society' and also what is meant by that term.

View 'The Making of Consumer Culture: Britain 1780-1960 (optional)' on our Module Directory

You’ll look at the cultural and social history of drugs from the 16th to the 21st century, and will cover opiate use in China and Britain, as well as the global culture of smoking before the advent of the 'Opium War' and ‘war on drugs’. You’ll study consumption by a variety of social groups, from opium-smoking scholars to morphine-consuming housewives and heroin-injecting peddlers, and will assess prohibition in the early 20th century and its consequences.

View 'Narcotic Culture: A History of Drugs (From the Sixteenth to the Twenty First Century) (optional)' on our Module Directory

In this module you focus on the study of communities, both urban and rural, in 19th-century England. You’ll examine aspects of community life through selected sources and will explore central themes in understanding communities. The issues you’ll cover include migration, residential patterns, demographic, household, occupational and class structures, and the institutions of religion, education, and welfare.

View 'The Patterns of Victorian Life: Reconstructing Nineteenth-Century Communities (optional)' on our Module Directory

The organisation and use of material space was shaped by and affected the political, religious, economic, social and cultural changes associated with the Reformation, the English Revolution and the rise of agrarian capitalism. You’ll explore how status, gender, age and religious identity shaped spatial experience. You’ll also be introduced to approaches to the study of space from a range of disciplines including anthropology, sociology and geography.

View 'The Uses of Space in Early Modern History (optional)' on our Module Directory


  • Core modules can be combined with optional modules to enable you to gain either in-depth specialisation or a breadth of understanding across several topics
  • You study five taught modules and prepare a 20,000 word dissertation
  • You can attend all departmental and research group seminars


  • You must submit one 5,000 word essay for each assessed module


  • Receive expert supervision as you develop a 20,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choice

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UK entry requirements

We will consider applications with an overall grade of 2:2 and above.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

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