About the course
The modern period marked an age of discovery and globalisation; a time of rapid change, brutal wars, and a belief in the possibility of societal and scientific progress. Our BA Modern History allows you to specialise in this exciting period, studying the history of Britain, Europe and the wider world from the 18th century to the present day.
You investigate the intersection of the ideas, cultures and economics of different people over the last 200 years of western history. This introduces you to the relationship between today’s ‘modern’ world, which assumes the significance of political liberty, global interdependence and sexuality, and events and ideas which originated in the 18th and 19th centuries.
You also choose from a broad range of topics including:
- The spread of communist-inspired revolutions in China, Russia, and Latin America
- The origins and consequences of the Cold War
- Slavery and its demise in the Atlantic world
- Imperialism in India 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. You can also explore more international topics; our corridors are truly cosmopolitan, with an international research team and a high proportion of international students.
At Essex we’re about social conscience, wondering why, and understanding the bigger picture. We teach you to find your own critical voice, and to view history through the eyes of ordinary people, giving them the voice they often lacked at the time.
Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education by offering you an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend your third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.
Studying abroad allows you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised.
We have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.
When you arrive at Essex, you can decide whether you would like to combine your course with a placement year. You will be responsible for finding your placement, but with support and guidance provided by both your department and our Employability and Careers Centre.
Our expert staff
Our staff are among world leaders in their field, and our enthusiasm for our subject is infectious. We welcome you into our scholarly community, and value your views.
Our teaching and research 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.
- 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 nineteenth and twentieth-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
In addition to the opportunity to learn about the past and come to a better understanding of the present, a course in history also provides you with important skills that will be of value after leaving university. You learn to absorb, analyse and assess a wide variety of information and viewpoints, to express your arguments in oral and written form, and to think and work both independently and in co-operation with others.
You therefore graduate prepared for a wide range of careers. Our graduates are currently employed in teaching, librarianship, museum and archive services, the Civil Service, local government, law enforcement, charity administration, banking, law, industrial and retail management, media research, electronic publishing, marketing, IT, health service administration, counselling, social work, and many other fields.
Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of organisations including:
- City of London Corporation
- Sage Publications Ltd
- IPC Media
We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.
Some organisations which our students have recently gained work experience with include the Essex Police Museum, the Rothschild Archive, the Marks Hall Trust, and local schools.
Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore 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 just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.
Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.
Gain a deep insight into the origins of today’s world. This module presents a chronological overview of the key events in western history from the last 200 years. Look at how ideas, cultures, and economies of different peoples intersected, and changed, through the conflicts brought on by capitalism, imperialism, war, and revolution. You develop a solid foundation to study modern history.
View 'The Making of the Modern World 1776-1989' on our Module Directory
Gain the necessary tools with which to study history at university level. You will be introduced to history as an academic discipline and will develop the skills employed by professional historians, as well as gaining key transferable skills. This module has no single geographical focus, but uses examples from a range of different historical themes, time periods and countries.
View 'Becoming a Historian' on our Module Directory
Gain a firm grasp of US history by studying key historical events as well as important social movements. Topics covered range from the early settlements in Plimoth and Jamestown, through the American Revolution and expansion, Industrial Revolution, slavery and Civil War, up to the 1950s and 60s civil rights, women's and youth movements. Engage with novel and exciting debate about the history of the United States.
View 'Introduction to US History (optional)' on our Module Directory
This is the early modern period, a span of around 250 years often regarded by historians as a time of change and a watershed between the medieval and modern worlds. Gain an understanding of this important time by looking at Europe in economic, social, cultural and political contexts. Study the patterns of continuity and change which shaped this period, and reflect on the extent to which the Europe we live in today has been conditioned by these 250 years.
View 'Society, Culture and Politics in Europe 1500-1750 (optional)' on our Module Directory
Does the media make people violent? Objectify women? Tell you what to do? Study the modern media as a social terrain, order of communication and domain of ideas, using examples from cinema, photography, newspapers and TV. Examine popular debates and consider practical methodologies for undertaking media research in the future.
View 'Media, Culture and Society (optional)' on our Module Directory
This module will illuminate everything you study in history. It encourages you to think about the many and diverse ways in which historians approach the writing of history. You’ll be introduced to important historical concepts that have shaped recent historical writing, such as microhistory, class, gender and race, or to an important historical theme, such as consumption, literary history and global history.
View 'Making Histories: Concepts, Themes and Sources' on our Module Directory
Discover how historians communicate their work and what skills they use. This module focuses on the labour market. Explore how your abilities can be presented as convincingly as possible, and learn how your skills fit different careers. You’ll also look at the range of opportunities available and the choices our former history students have made. There will be visits from former students and other experts who talk about the professions they decided to go into.
View 'History Works: Beyond Your BA' on our Module Directory
You will look at the roles of women and men in early modern England between 1550 and 1750. In this period men were to rule and women were to be obedient to them. But the reality was often very different to this. The practical realities of economic life and the disruptions of Civil War and Reformation meant relations between women and men varied and adapted in a period of great cultural, political, economic, social, and religious change.
View 'Gender in Early Modern England (optional)' on our Module Directory
Brazil is a land of contrasts. It’s a country with extreme social inequality as well as having an amazing capacity to integrate different cultures. Today it is asserting itself as a key player in international politics. You’ll receive an introduction to the political and social history of the Brazilian Republic from the overthrow of the Empire (1889) to the democratic transition following the military dictatorship (1964-85). The main focus of this module will be on the social movements in this period.
View 'The Making of Modern Brazil (optional)' on our Module Directory
In this module you’ll explore the shifting meanings of the natural and supernatural worlds during a period that encompassed three major shifts in intellectual outlook during the early modern period in Europe: the Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. You’ll look at the way in which early modern people understood the boundaries between human and animal, body and soul, life and death, science and religion, and reality and imagination.
View 'Supernatural and Natural Worlds in Early Modern Europe (optional)' on our Module Directory
History is actively constructed and not simply rediscovered in the records of the past. Historical research involves a process of selection and interpretation, and there is an active exchange between theory and empirical data. The Independent Research Project gives you a unique opportunity to explore the making of history. You undertake a piece of detailed, critical and/or possibly original historical research. Meetings and workshops provide practical guidance on formulating a topic, researching, writing and presentation.
View 'Independent Research Project' on our Module Directory
The Russian Revolution was one of the most important events in the 20th Century. It brought an end to Tsarist rule and gave birth to the first socialist state. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the Russian Revolution as a larger process that started long before 1917 and did not end in 1917 or even in 1921. You’ll receive an overview of different interpretations, and of former and current scholarly debates.
View 'The Russian Revolution 1905-1932 (Special Subject) (optional)' on our Module Directory
Gain a detained insight into the history of sexuality in the United States from the colonial period to the present, with an emphasis on women. You will understand how the social construction of sexuality changed throughout time. Although women's historical experiences are positioned as central to this module, you also investigate concepts of masculinity and manhood. In addition to gender, race, class, free/un-free status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and the body, are crucial sites of analysis.
View 'Women, Gender and Sexuality in US History (optional)' on our Module Directory
In this module you’ll focus on witchcraft beliefs and witch-hunts (the legal prosecutions of individuals for the crime of witchcraft) in Europe and New England between the 15th and 18th centuries. You examine beliefs about witches, witchcraft, and the powers of the Devil at both elite and popular levels, set in the wider context of the religious/magical world-view of the period.
View 'Witch-Trials in Early Modern Europe and New England (optional)' on our Module Directory
This module explores the cultural experience of urban life in Germany during the first half of the 20th century. From the late-19th century Germany's cities (and above all Berlin) became synonymous with social and political change, cultural and sexual experiments, becoming also arenas for technological innovation in work and domestic life. Topics covered range from problems of poor housing conditions to the portrayal of city life in arts, literature and films.
View 'Metropolis: Urban Germany 1900-1945 (optional)' on our Module Directory
On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.
- Taught by a weekly lecture followed by a seminar, where groups of about 15 students meet with their tutor to discuss their reading, to work together with primary sources, or to make presentations to the rest of the group
- One-to-one tuition for your final-year project
- Assessment methods include essays, coursework journals, oral presentations, book and film reviews, source analysis, and the dissertation
- Your first-year marks do not count towards your final degree class
If you already have your results and want to apply for 2016 entry through Clearing, complete our Clearing application form
and we’ll get back in touch with you or give us a ring
to discuss your grades.
IELTS entry requirements
English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)
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.
If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.
Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.