The MA in History consists of four modules: a compulsory core module, two elective modules and a dissertation. Postgraduate diploma students take Modules 1, 2 and 3. Postgraduate certificate students take Module 1 and one elective module.
Module 1: Key Concepts and Methods in Historical Research
Every student takes this compulsory core module in advanced historical studies, which is designed to help make the transition from undergraduate to graduate-level work. You will be introduced to a variety of perspectives on theory and method in history, and you will acquire the advanced study skills needed to develop the capacity to engage in independent research. You will also receive training in the use of electronic research resources. This module is taken in Semester 1 and is assessed by two written assignments. There is no exam.
Modules 2 and 3: Elective modules
Research is fundamental to our MA in History programme. It informs all of our teaching and enjoys an international reputation, attracting both high quality staff and students. The topics of these modules thus reflect the specific research expertise of the staff in the department.
Applicants are encouraged to visit the staff webpages of the module leaders for full information regarding their research interests. Further information regarding each module is also available from the MA Subject Co-ordinator for History.
Master's students choose two elective modules, enabling the close study of topics in two different areas of historical analysis. The modules on offer are as follows:
- Studying Civil War: Russia, Spain, Greece examines three case studies in civil conflict in the 20th century. In analysing a variety of themes from international relations to the dynamics of clan violence, the module introduces students to the practice of comparative history, historical sociology and the analytical study of civil conflict. (This module runs in the afternoon.) Module leader: Dr Erik Landis
- American Colossus: US Domestic and Foreign Politics, 1945-2012 explores the rise of the United States from the end of the Second World War, through the Cold War, and up to the present day. By looking at domestic politics, international relations, and economic and military affairs, students will have a keener appreciation of the evolution of the American state in the 20th century as an actor at home and abroad. Module leader: Dr Thomas Robb
- Political Violence in Ireland, 1848-1998 examines the history of political violence in Ireland from the 1848 rebellion up to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The role of violence in Irish politics will be explored as well as a range of responses, including state violence and the introduction of emergency legislation. Module leader: Prof. Virginia Crossman
- Religion, Doubt and Secularism in Modern Britain and the US examines the complex history of belief and unbelief, faith and reason, during a time often associated with growing secularisation. It encourages students to think critically about the nature of morality in the Victorian period, in particular the spiritual eclecticism of those who sought to reject Christian dogma. Module leader: Prof. David Nash
- Behaving Badly: Crime, Deviance and Civilization examines comparative themes in the history of law, crime and 'bad behaviour' from 1500 to the present. Students will be given the opportunity to study the fundamental issues that have pre-occupied historians of crime and the regulation of forms of behaviour society considers unacceptable. Module leader: Dr Cassie Watson
- The Reformation and the Parish Church considers the impact of the Reformation on the lives of ordinary people. The churches in which they worshipped were remodelled, whilst the traditional Catholic rituals and practices that governed their lives were reformed. In particular the module will examine the impact that the Reformation had upon art, architecture, music and sculpture. Module leader: Prof. Andrew Spicer
- Terrorism and the Sacralization of Violence locates contemporary terrorism in its historical context by considering its evolution since the late 19th century, when revolutionary anarchists first pioneered the use of violence against civil society and symbolic political targets. It evaluates a variety of conflicting interpretive models, including the politicisation of religion; the ‘sacralisation’ of politics by secular ideological movements; and the lone-wolf sense of a personal mission to combat evil. Module leader: Prof. Roger Griffin
- Britain and Europe, 1950-1990 looks at how the subject of ‘Europe’ has come to dominate post-war British politics, splitting political parties, bringing down governments and Prime Ministers, and dividing opinion more bitterly and deeply than any other subject. This course will attempt to assess why exactly the subject was so divisive, and examine the different views taken about ‘ever closer union’ since 1950. Module leader: Dr Glen O’Hara
- The Social History of Mental Illness, 1700-2000 analyses the reasons behind the growth of mental institutions across the world from the late eighteenth century onwards. The module will equip students with an appreciation of the social, religious and ideological forces that have influenced medical ideas of mental illness, coupled and with an understanding of the varied approaches to the history of ‘madness’. Module leader: Prof. Waltraud Ernst
- Worlds of Risk: Technology, Health and the Environment ‘Risk’ encourages students to reflect on the novelty of the present age, and to explore questions about when and how understanding and managing risks became such a key feature of modern societies. It provides a critical and historical perspective on a series of contemporary risks, among them climate change and technological catastrophes, and the dangers that have accompanied the rise of new technologies, particularly synthetic chemicals, drugs, artificial foodstuffs, and the nuclear industry. Module leader: Dr Tom Crook with Dr Viviane Quirke
- Engineering Society: Eugenics and Biopolitics, 1860-1945 examines comparative themes in the history of eugenics, racism, biopolitics, anthropology and modernity from 1800 to 1945. Students will be given the opportunity to study the fundamental issues that have pre-occupied historians of biology, science and modernity since the 1800s and combine these with specific case studies from a wide range of European countries: Dr Marius Turda
- Science, Magic and Religion introduces students to history-of-science based theories on the social construction of knowledge and alerts them to the boundary issues involved in the construction of science, magic and religion. The second part of the course focuses on methodological issues, in particular primary source selection and interpretation. Module leader: Prof. Waltraud Ernst
- Ethics and Ideas: From the Hippocratic Oath to Informed Consent examines various comparative themes in the history of medical ethics, from Hippocrates to the present day. In particular, students will be given the opportunity to study the fundamental issues that have pre-occupied historians of medical malpractice and clinical research. Module leader: Prof. Paul Weindling
- The Hospital in History provides a long-term analysis of the origins and transformations of the hospital in its social context. The module covers changing organisational forms, funding, medical specialisation, therapeutic innovations, patients, public perceptions, and the broader politics of hospital development within western and non-European contexts. Module leader: Prof. Waltraud Ernst
- History That Was Not: Counterfactuals and Alternate History examines the uses and abuses of counterfactual constructions in historiography and in popular culture, including novels, games, movies and design. It focuses on the underlying problems of historiographical conception - especially questions of historical causality and so-called ‘laws’ of history - and the interrelations between historiography, philosophy, literature and art. Module leader: Dr Johannes Dilinger
- The History of Emotions in Britain c. 1700-2000 offers students the opportunity to investigate the emerging field of the history of emotions. In particular, the module traces the history of social and cultural norms and how they have shaped – and continue to shape - what individuals, communities and states can feel (and show) in a given situation towards certain people or things. (This module runs in the afternoon.) Module leader: Prof Joanne Begiato
- A History of the British Population, 1580-1911 examines the population history of Britain from the start of church recording of baptisms, marriages and burials, through to the 1911 census. It covers themes such as the fertility transition, causes of death and mortality crises, and the way that population changes map onto social trends like family limitation strategies, the availability or shortage of resources, and the impact of war. (This module runs in the afternoon.) Module leader: Dr Alysa Levene
Students also have the option of taking an Independent Study Module, which normally involves the completion of an extended, research-based essay (6,000 words) on a topic of their choice. The current module leader is Dr Viviane Quirke.
Each module lasts for one semester and is assessed by two or three written assignments. Full-time MA students take one elective module in each semester. Part-time MA students take their first elective in Semester 2 of the first year and their second elective in Semester 1 of the second year.
Module 4: Dissertation
This is the capstone of the MA in History. You will have the opportunity to conduct a major in-depth investigation into a historical topic of your choice, leading to the production of a 15,000-word thesis.
The topic may be related to one of your elective modules or may be chosen from another area of your interest. You will be supported in your research by individual supervision from a specialist tutor and by group workshops on advanced research design that take place in Semester 2 (for part-time students this is taken in Year 2). The dissertation is completed over the summer and is submitted in September.
Please note: as our courses are reviewed regularly, the list of modules you choose from may vary from that shown here.
Further information on the History team at Brookes, including recent publications, can be found by visiting our staff profiles.
We welcome further enquiries – please contact the MA Subject Co-ordinator or the History Programme Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching and learning
The MA course is taught through small-group seminars, discussion groups, workshops and individual tutorials as well as historiographical and bibliographical presentations.
Classes are held in the evenings (except where indicated), and the sessions run from 6.30pm to 9.00pm.
Part-time students attend the University one evening per week and should be able to devote an additional 12-15 hours per week to private study.
Full-time students attend classes on two evenings per week and spend 30 hours per week in private study. Assessment is entirely by written work. There are no examinations.
Shorter courses in History are also available: the postgraduate diploma and the postgraduate certificate. It is possible to transfer between these and the MA course.
Students have access to the world-famous Bodleian Library, a copyright library which houses all books published in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In addition to the Bodleian and its unparalleled collection of books and rare historical manuscripts, there are affiliated libraries such as Rhodes House, home to the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies, and the Vere Harmsworth Library of the Rothermere American Institute, where students will find one of the finest collections of publications on the Political, Economic and Social History of the United States from colonial times to the present.
Oxford is a lively centre for events, exhibitions, seminars and open lectures in various specialist areas of history, which staff and students at Brookes regularly attend.
The city is also an easy bus or train ride to London for convenient access to an even wider resource of historical materials. These include various seminars and lecture series offered by the University of London and the Institute of Historical Research. In addition, The National Archives at Kew, The British Library and other specialised libraries will be of particular interest to students.
Oxford is also within easy reach of other archival collections in Birmingham, Cambridge, Reading and Bristol.