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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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: Professor
- 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: Professor
- 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
- 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
Tom Crook with Dr
- 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
- 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: Professor
- 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
- 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
- Monsters and Magical Beings: Medieval Lore to Pop Culture
Module leader: Dr
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
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
We welcome further enquiries – please contact the MA Subject
Co-ordinator or the History Programme Administrator at
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.
On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published
on the website. For more information, please visit our
Changes to programmes