1. home
  2. courses
  3. ba modern history and international relations details

BA Modern History and International Relations

Why we're great

  • We have consistently high levels of student satisfaction and our research is renowned.
  • You can choose from a unique and diverse range of topics, periods and countries.
  • We offer financial assistance for voluntary work at local museums, archives and heritage sites.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: VL12
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: VL1F
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: History
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

Delicious Save this on Delicious

About the course

You obtain a thorough grounding in the fields of modern history and international relations, and will explore how these disciplines influence one another.

You take introductory modules in international relations and politics alongside your history modules in your first year, and continue to combine modules in modern history and international relations in your second and third years. There is a range of options to choose from in both departments and you choose to write your final-year dissertation in either politics or history.

In your history modules you investigate the intersection of the ideas, cultures and economics of different people over the last 200 years of western history. You’re introduced 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.

This course should also interest you if you want to understand how the international system works, how decisions are made and how lines are drawn. You’ll gain a foundation in politics, while the study of international relations develops your research and critical analysis skills, while teaching you methods of analysis and giving you awareness of the world system.

You have the opportunity to indulge your interests in modern history and international relations by selecting modules from a wide range of specialisms, including:

  • Conflict and security studies
  • Politics of the Middle East
  • The spread of communist-inspired revolutions in China, Russia, and Latin America
  • The origins and consequences of the Cold War
  • 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.

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

Study abroad

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.

Placement year

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. 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.

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.

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics and international relations. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

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 nineteenth and twentieth-century economic and social history
  • 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
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis

Your future

As a history graduate you’ll acquire skills which employers in all fields value. You will be able to analyse information and communicate your ideas clearly. You will have the ability to understand foreign cultures and new ideas and grasp new systems quickly. All of these skills are highly transferable to the world of work.

Many of our graduates go into subject-related fields such as teaching, museum curation and archiving, while others have gone on to do very different things, including journalism, law, politics and civil service.

Some of our recent graduates have found employment as:

  • A librarian
  • An editorial assistant
  • A careers officer
  • A business development manager
  • A digital services consultant

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

Previous Next

Example structure

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.

Year 1

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

What is “Politics”? How have people conceived of political analysis, the state, laws, wars and political parties, across cultures and over time? Gain an understanding of essential concepts in the study of politics and explore the economic, social and intellectual trends that have made democracy possible.

View 'Introduction to Politics' on our Module Directory

How do we forge, manage, and maintain better relationships between nations? How do relationships between countries affect the decision-making of governments? You study specific historical events including the two world wars and the cold war, as well as contemporary issues including security issues, nuclear technology, and drone warfare.

View 'Introduction to International Relations' on our Module Directory

An often misused concept, “democracy” takes radically different forms in different democratic countries. You gain a real understanding of what is meant by “democracy” and investigate under what conditions and in what countries liberal democracy is most likely to occur.

View 'Democracy: Forms and Futures' on our Module Directory

How do you put an end to armed conflict? What are the benefits and consequences of intervention? Explore issues in international relations which help address complicated questions concerning cooperation and conflict between countries.

View 'Co-Operation and Conflict' 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

Study the factors that divided Europe throughout the 20th century. You will then look at the attempts to overcome these divisions and the obstacles that need to be removed to achieve change. The main focus of this module is on the history of Western Europe. It enables you to understand the political and economic factors that shaped European integration.

Year 2

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

How should we approach relationships between different countries? Explore different theoretical lenses through which the world can be viewed, including realist, liberalist, and post-positivist theories of the behaviour of international political actions.

View 'International Relations: Theories and Approaches' 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

Understand the evolving field of conflict resolution through exploring the causes and effects of armed conflict across the world, and scrutinising the theory and practice of how this can be managed peacefully.

View 'Conflict Analysis' on our Module Directory

The American political cycle yields what some commentators call "the never ending campaign." You study topics in American politics including the personalisation of politics, weak parties, the role of money and the need to constantly raise funds.

View 'The U.S. Presidential Election (optional)' on our Module Directory

Explore the historical grounding of human rights by examining its origins from the 15th to the 20th century. You’ll study the practice and theory of torture, the definition of man and beast, slavery and the rights of the free man, the persecution and judicial treatment of deviance and witchcraft, the interference of Church and State in the freedom of expression, the international attempts at the definition and enforcement of rights, and much more.

View 'Human Rights in Historical Perspective (optional)' on our Module Directory

Discover how South Africa took the 'apartheid turn' and how the country had long been on a road of increasing racial discrimination. You will study the historical experience of South Africa from the late-19th to the mid-20th century. Gain a thorough understanding of the historical forces and struggles which gave rise to the segregationist state. This module aims to overturn common assumptions about South Africa.

View 'South Africa: The Road to Apartheid (optional)' on our Module Directory

How are decisions made in the EU? What impact do states and government have on European policy, and vice versa? Gain an understanding of the relationship between the EU and its members through studying the origins of European Integration and the institutional systems of the EU.

View 'The European Union: Institutions and Policies (optional)' on our Module Directory

Final year

Instead of a dissertation, you are able to attend placements (a minimum of 150 hours in total) which will inform a research project agreed with the department.

View 'Placement-Linked Project (optional)' on our Module Directory

What explains the lack of government performance in dictatorships? Why do nondemocratic rulers govern with democratic institutions such as legislators and political parties? One of the biggest challenges to democracy in the contemporary world is authoritarianism. You explore the factors that drive politics and the conditions under which democratic transitions are more likely to occur.

View 'Authoritarianism (optional)' on our Module Directory

Explore the relationship of power, preferences, economic relations, domestic politics and international organisations in relation to conflict and peace. You investigate the underlying theoretical arguments about war and peace, consider the implications entailed by these different theories, and evaluate these using empirical data.

View 'The Analysis of Conflict and Peace (optional)' on our Module Directory

Gain an in-depth understanding of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War and the profound impact this conflict had on American politics and political culture. You’ll examine the history of the war and will focus on the different ways in which the war has been understood. The module encompasses not just international and military, but also cultural, history. Combining these approaches will help you understand the enormous effect that the war has had on American public life.

View 'The United States and the Vietnam War (optional)' on our Module Directory

In this module you study the history of English criminal justice, and to a lesser extent that of France and Germany as well. Gain an insight into the evolution of prosecuting, the function of criminal courts, the differences social status and gender made, and the changing practices in policing, prosecuting, trying, pardoning and punishing. Throughout the module you will be concerned with questions of historical causation, and with the political and ideological contexts of criminal justice.

View 'Crime and Punishment: England in Comparative Perspective 1650-1900 (optional)' on our Module Directory

Year abroad

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
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • Opportunities to gain work experience on placements and internships
  • 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
  • If you undertake a placement, you will prepare an assessed report on this experience
  • Your first-year marks do not count towards your final degree class

Previous Next


UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

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 high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

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.

Previous Next

Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have 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

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates 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.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

Previous Next

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its course finder is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep prospective students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.