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Department of History,
Faculty of Arts and Humanities
The flexibility of our MA in Historical Research means you can carry out specialist research under expert supervision in a friendly and supportive environment. The course is carefully designed to develop your understanding of your chosen area of history at the same time as honing your research skills.
You can work with historians who are engaged in cutting-edge research across time and space: from 1000 BCE right up to the twenty-first century and encompassing the history of Britain, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Southern and Eastern Asia and America..
Your chosen approaches module will develop your understanding of key historiographical and methodological approaches and your skills in using relevant sources. The dissertation provides you the opportunity to work on a significant independent research project acting as excellent preparation for PhD study. This is supported by the Research Presentation module which develops your skills in presenting research to a non-specialist audience.
Our range of option modules allow you to focus on the particular skills and knowledge that are most important to you. You can choose from a wide range of modules focussing on particular historical themes, supporting specific history research training and public history modules.
All of this helps you build a broad range of transferable skills that will be desirable to future employers both inside and outside of academia.
You will take two core modules and one approaches module.
You can find out more about staff working in your area of interest on our research strengths page. The exact availability of staff to supervise MA dissertations varies from year to year.
- Research Presentation for Historians
This core module is designed to equip you with the skills and experience that you need to present and communicate a defined historical research project to an academic audience. The subject of the presentation will be your dissertation topic, so this module also contributes towards the successful completion of your dissertation.15 credits
In this module, you will identify the specific research questions driving your dissertation and learn how to discuss the sources and approaches you are using to answer them. You will develop your ability to present your research data and findings in an accessible form to an audience, and you will enhance your ability to use presentational aids such as slideshows, data projection, and visual aids.
The module also aims to improve your skill and confidence in speaking to an audience and responding to questions; this gives you the opportunity to develop the presentational skills demanded by employers as well as by a career in academic research. You will also learn how to make reasoned and critical judgements of others' presentations.
You'll give your final presentation at a 'postgraduate conference' style assessment day to an audience of academic staff and fellow postgraduates. Presentations are assessed equally on content and communication with audience review making up a third of your mark and the academic panel's review making up the other two thirds.
- Dissertation in Historical Research
In this module, you will undertake an intensive individual research project, based on an identifiable collection of primary sources and present your findings in a dissertation of 18,000 words. The dissertation represents an original and sustained piece of independent research and should be based on a substantial primary source base and demonstrate a thorough and advanced knowledge of the secondary literature. In certain cases, primary evidence may also consist of modern historiography. Through the dissertation, you will demonstrate your practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create, interpret and evaluate historical knowledge. You will work under the supervision of an expert member of staff who will provide guidance and regular tutorial support.75 credits
Approaches modules - one from:
- Approaching the Middle Ages
This module provides students with a grounding in key themes and debates in current medieval research. Classes will focus on historiographical developments and new methodological approaches to familiar problems, covering topics such as the problems of studying pre-industrial societies, the interpretation of material culture, methods for studying the medieval economy, and the examination of power structures and political culture. Students will also be introduced to technical and methodological problems associated with the effective use and interpretation of pre-modern sources, such as court records, tax records and accounts, chronicles and pamphlets, paintings, drawings and artefacts.30 credits
- Early Modernities
This core module involves a critical analysis of the many ways in which assumptions about the characteristics of 'pre-modern' and 'modern' cultures and societies have shaped historians' approaches to the early modern period. A series of seminars will introduce students to themes and topics in early modern history, focusing on issues of 'individuality' and 'self-hood' in the early modern period. The sources for writing early modern history will be a complementary focus of the module, which will also introduce students to the technical and methodological problems associated with the effective use and interpretation of a range of pre-modern sources.30 credits
- Modernity and Power: Individuals and the State in the Modern World
This core module introduces students to the challenges of studying modern history at an advanced level. It explores the distinctiveness of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a period, the study of which raises particular questions about perspective and interpretation, about the relationship between academic history and public understandings of the recent past, and about the selection and treatment of sources across a wide range of media. Classes will focus on some of the key themes and developments in recent historiography, including an engagement with the use of interdisciplinary approaches, particularly in the study of contemporary history.30 credits
- Approaches to the American Past.
This core module explores key themes in American history from the colonial through to the modern eras, introducing students to important debates in historical scholarship and giving them an awareness not only of the principal historiographical schools but also of the critical interrelationship between historical trends and events and scholarly interpretations of the past. Classes will be organised chronologically and thematically and will be taught through the examination of key historiographical approaches. Case studies covering topics such as Native American history, consumption, gender, class, slavery, immigration and ethnicity, the New Deal, revisionism and the Cold War, and the New Left will help students apply and critique the conceptual literature they are exploring.30 credits
- The World in Connection: Themes in Global History
This core module introduces students to some of the most important and innovative themes, debates and controversies relating to global history and its linked fields of imperial, international, transnational, transregional and world history. Through discursive seminars students will acquire an informed understanding of global forces, structures and processes that have shaped and reshaped our world, including empires, trade, technology, religion, decolonisation, migration, war, diplomacy, humanitarianism, disease and the environment. Students will thus be enabled to explore connections, comparisons and exchanges across broad geographical and chronological terrain, while also considering relationships between the global, regional and local.30 credits
You will choose 60 credits of option modules. Full-time students will normally take 30 credits of options in semester one and 45 credits in semester two, usually including one 30 credit option. Part-time students will normally take all of their option modules in year one: 15 credits in semester one and 45 credits in semester two, usually including one 30 credit option.
This 60 credit selection can include up to 30 credits from the guided list of non-history modules (see guided modules tab).
Example 15 credit option modules:
- Approaches and Methods in Media History
This module explores approaches and methods in media history. Students will examine how historians narrate media history, and what role the media has played in shaping political culture and mass communications from the Second World War onward. Class discussions will be predominantly based around the case study of modern Britain after 1945, but students will be encouraged to think more widely about the Anglophone world and examine extra-British examples where appropriate. Themes to be studied include: media theory and historiography, including debating the media's role in political disengagement; the media and mainstream politics, including parties and elections; the media, extra-parliamentary politics and social movements; foreign policy and political violence; and race, racism and migration in the media.15 credits
- Autobiography, Identity and the Self in Muslim South Asia
This module uses autobiographical writing to chart wider cultural transitions experienced by Muslims in South Asia in the modern era. Of particular interest is the way in which South Asian Muslims adapted the long tradition of recording life stories in Islam under the influence of colonialism and reformism. To what degree do life writings reflect changing notions of self and identity among Muslims? Students will be introduced to autobiography, Islam and the self as theoretical concepts before turning to different lives told - by princes, scholars, saints, reformers, educationalists, politicians, feminists, writers, actors and/or immigrants.15 credits
- Before Facebook: Social Networks in History
In a world of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, social networks seem a distinctly modern phenomenon, but are they only a product of our digital age? This module explores historians' efforts to reconstruct social networks in diverse contexts, from the ancient to the modern world. Drawing upon techniques first developed by social scientists, and increasingly digital methods too, they have found networks of trade and business; religious groups and political exiles; family, friends and much more. This innovative work is revealing how far lives and communities cut across boundaries of time and space - with important consequences for historical debates and issues.15 credits
- Black Power: Race, Gender, and Liberation in the United States and Beyond
During its time in the 1960s and 1970s and in its immediate aftermath, the Black Power movement was often caricatured and castigated as a violent, misogynistic, incoherent and self-destructive betrayal of the Civil Rights movement. But in recent years, scholarship which Peniel Joseph has termed 'Black Power Studies' has situated the movement within the longer history of the Black freedom struggle. These works suggest that Black Power was not a break from the recent past, but part of the long history of Black armed self-defence and transnational activism, and an important contribution to Black American identity making, political thought, and political power. The movement called for racial solidarity, cultural pride, and self-determination, and connected its work at the local and national level to the global struggle against racial oppression and exploitation. In this module, we will explore the historiography of the Black Power movement, as well as key primary sources. We will seek to understand the development of the movement's political power at the local level; the emergence of the Black Panther Party in the United States and the United Kingdom, and the Black Power movement in the Caribbean; the relationship between Black nationalism and internationalism; the Black Arts Movement and Black identity in the 1960s and 1970s; Black women's role in the development of the movement's political power and contribution to Black feminist thought in the 1970s and beyond; and the legacies of these events in the era of the Movement for Black Lives.15 credits
- Burying the White Gods: Indigenous peoples in the early modern colonial world
Since the flowering of postcolonialism, scholars have fought to reconstruct the complexity and significance of Indigenous peoples and to remove them from an imperial framework that casts them as passive victims of historical events. In the early American world, this greater sensitivity to Indigenous agendas and actions has led increasingly to meetings between Native peoples and Europeans being explained in terms of encounter, negotiation and accommodation, rather than simple conquest.15 credits
This module will consider the diverse historiographical, methodological and political issues which impact on Indigenous histories in colonial contexts, from postcolonialism to the New Philology and the New Indian History, the rise of activist histories, and the politicisation of the Indigenous past. We will centre Native perspectives and voices, and consider the challenges and opportunities of the complex alphabetic, material and oral records available for the study of Indigenous histories. Taking the invasion of Mexico as a case study - but also drawing on other imperial contexts - this module recognises Indigenous histories as the product of diverse, vibrant, often still-living cultures, and seeks to illuminate the places and perspectives of Native peoples in colonial history and historiography.
- Church, Life, and Law in the Central Middle Ages
In the central Middle Ages, the papacy re-emerged as a power in Europe at the same time as a monk-bishop in Italy produced a new collection of texts relating to church law. Despite a series of charismatic but divisive popes, the papacy's zenith would not have been reached had it not been for that collection, Gratian's Decretum, which provoked a new, vibrant, and creative era in the Latin Church and which lingered for centuries: used wherever Latin Christianity travelled, it was revised, reorganised, and expanded over the years and only replaced in 1917. This module introduces you to the key sources and concepts that underpinned medieval canon law, both the Decretum and its predecessors and successors, and their use - and abuse - by lawyers, popes, kings, clerics, and scholars during the period. Covering topics from marriage to politics, and using contemporary cases, treatises and manuscripts, this module asks how church law established itself, developed, and was employed at a time of change and 'Reform', and looks to the influence that that law exerted over Christian Europe.15 credits
- Debating Cultural Imperialism in the Nineteenth-Century British Empire
The Nineteenth-century British Empire was ruled through a complex colonial bureaucracy, violent conquest, and exploitative economic relationships. But, arguably the most controversial element of British colonialism was its cultural projects. Missionaries, humanitarians, educationalists and doctors all had their own aspirations for indigenous people and came bearing 'western' and ostensibly very different ways of understanding the mind and the body. This course will introduce you to debates around cultural imperialism in the nineteenth-century British Empire. The seminars will explore the texts and issues around specific areas of 'cultural' intervention: English-language education; religion; medicine; and what is discussed today as 'women's rights'.15 credits
- Human Rights in Modern History
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948. Signed by all the members of the United Nations, it proclaimed the entitlements of all individuals irrespective of their race, nationality, age or gender. In this module, we trace the intellectual origins of human rights within modern history. In a series of thematic seminars, we ask three key questions: did the 1948 Declaration mark an historical watershed, or was it instead the product of a long process of evolution? What is the relationship between national citizenship and international rights? Were human rights used to justify imperial expansion and intervention overseas, both in the past and the present day? How can we write the history of an idea?15 credits
To answer these questions, we will engage with a vibrant, burgeoning literature on human rights in modern history. This will allow us to examine the role of British liberalism, American Independence and the French Revolution in the development of individual and universal rights discourses; Allied diplomats as the architects of the United Nations; the role as human rights activists; and the extent to which imperial power was extended, or curtailed, by United Nations and European Union Human Rights Declarations.
- Imagining the Republic: Irish Republicanism, 1798-1998
Irish republican politics are associated with violence. There is a long lineage of organisations that have waged armed campaigns against the British state in Ireland, from the United Irishmen of the 1790s to the Provisional Irish Republican Army of the modern 'Troubles'. While the violent, anti-state activism is Irish republicanism's most obvious feature, this has obscured the nature of republican ideas in Ireland. What was distinctly 'Irish' or 'republican' about Irish republicanism? How was the 'Republic' imagined? Which political languages did Irish republicans deploy to articulate their worldview? This module offers an intellectual history of Irish republicanism to examine various republican thinkers and organisations in context, and question the extent to which we can speak of a singular and unbroken 'tradition' of Irish republicanism across the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.15 credits
- International Order in the Twentieth Century
How should international relations be organised? This was a central question in the international history of the twentieth century. This module explores the ideas of international organisation that emerged, and how they were realised in practice in bodies like the League of Nations and the United Nations, as well as subaltern internationalist projects like the Afro-Asian and Non-Aligned movements. Why did governments and non-governmental actors create and participate in international organisations? What was the significance and impact of those organisations? And why should historians study these past internationalist projects today? Much of the most exciting recent work by international and global historians has grappled with these questions.15 credits
- Language and Society in Early Modern England
This course invites students to think about what words meant in early modern England - not merely to social and intellectual elites (though they are certainly part of the mix) but also ordinary men and women. In so doing it encourages reflection about the implications of these meanings - and their changes and continuities over time - for social attitudes, relationships, and practices. These aims reflect the impact of the infamous 'linguistic turn' on early modern studies and how some of the most interesting recent work on language and meaning has been done at the intersection between literary, intellectual, and social history.15 credits
- Microhistory and the History of Everyday Life
The choice of scale is of fundamental importance in determining the kind of history that is produced. It influences the choice of source materials, the way these are handled, and the sorts of conclusions that can be reached. In this module we critically examine the theory, method and practice of two related historiographical approaches: microhistory and the history of everyday life, both of which emphasized the intensive study of the small scale and were influenced by anthropology. Students will develop an appreciation of the theoretical issues and practical experience in applying this to their own research.15 credits
- Migration in the Ancient World
This module explores the role migration played in the classical and ancient world. Study is divided into five areas: the social scientific basis for historical reconstruction through migration; economic migration; migration and the formation of communal identity; forced migration as imperial policy; the forced migrants' voice in antiquity. This module draws primarily on ancient texts (e.g., Mesopotamian annals and myths, the Hebrew Bible, ancient Greek histories). Students will develop skills and knowledge relevant to the study of migration broadly conceived (both in the humanities and social sciences), but is especially relevant to those interested in forced migration.15 credits
In this module students are introduced to the different forms of law hand and secretary hand current in the early modern period, noting transitional styles and the emergence of italic script. A range of transcription conventions are also explained. For each session, students will be required to prepare transcriptions of a representative selection of manuscript materials.15 credits
- Policing the Family: Welfare, Eugenics and Love in Early 20th Century Britain
This module explores key themes in the history of the family in Britain at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries from a variety of perspectives. It aims to show how the family became a site for political arguments about 'modernity', societal degeneration and hopes for the future at the fin-de-siècle. It draws on a wide range of recent historiography as well as sociological literature, and examines a range of sources including anthropological, sociological and legal material as well as literary fiction from the period. Seminar themes will include: (1) Political arguments about the family; (2) Love and divorce (3) Love and homosexuality; (4) Infant mortality and birth rates (5) Eugenics.15 credits
- Presenting the Past: Making History Public
The primary focus of this module is the interpretation and creation of 'public history'. The module will enable students to reflect on the issues involved in disseminating history outside academia and develop communication and presentation skills for audiences outside higher education. Students will be required to (1) analyse examples of public history and (2) create an example of public history.The module may be of particular interest to students planning to pursue careers in heritage, museums or education. Seminars will include discussion of: issues in public history; displaying objects and presenting interiors; the role of public history in post-conflict societies; writing for the 'public'; sound and vision; digital history.15 credits
- Research Skills for Historians
This module is designed to equip students with the research skills necessary for independent investigation and further study in History. Students will discuss the changing nature of the historical discipline as it has adapted to interdisciplinary impulses, and the skills needed for a more refined analysis of both textual and visual primary sources. In Masterclasses taught by specialists, students will familiarise themselves with the possibilities associated with different types of primary sources (e.g. legal documents, press, oral history). Additional classes will help them work more effectively with library collections and develop subject-specific as well as generic IT skills (locating information in databases, using web-based resources, advanced bibliographical management).15 credits
- Revolutionary England, 1640-1660: Politics, culture & society
This unit will introduce students to the study of English politics and society between 1640 and 1660. Students will use primary and secondary sources in seminars to analyse both contemporary writings and historiographical debates on the causes and significance of the civil war, defined broadly to include not just formal political debate but also popular movements (including witch hunts, clubman associations and forms of economic and social protest) and other forms of intellectual creativity (astrology and natural science for example). The aim is to understand both the conflict, and the social and cultural values through which it was experienced and resolutions were sought.15 credits
- Sex and Power: The Politics of Women's Liberation in Modern Britain
This module examines the integration of women and the evolving themes and demands of the women's movement in the political sphere in Britain from the heyday of the suffrage movement up to the reign of Britain's first female PM, Margaret Thatcher. We will focus on both women's wide-ranging attempts and their more limited achievements to gain entry into the political establishment, at the local, national and international levels. Topics will include women's suffrage agitation; the aftermath of suffrage; inter-war feminism; feminist internationalism; studies of women politicians; Second Wave Feminism; and gendered readings of British political history.15 credits
- Stories of Activism, 1960 to the Present
This module will enable students to explore modern political and social activism by studying specific campaigns in Sheffield and beyond. Students will get the opportunity to draw upon the material deposited in the ever-growing Stories of Activism archive (including oral history interviews, campaign materials and organisational records), as well as other sources, including the local press, to learn about this often untold side of Sheffield's history. Potential areas of study include trade unionism, employment and labour rights; women's issues, environmentalism, community-building; and peace, refugees and human rights. Students will learn how to analyse local activism using perspectives from the broader literature on democratic culture and social movements.15 credits
- The Dawn of Modernity in the Late Middle Ages
This module seeks to reassess the picture of the late Middle Ages as an age of crisis and decay to be replaced by the Renaissance and modernity. It aims to show how groups of innovative people invented a new world characterised by international capitalism, man-centred subjectivity and claims of communal participation, and why their new world(s) became the dominant framework of European history for the centuries to follow. The first modern European colonies in the near Atlantic Ocean were both a laboratory for, and a crucial step to, the successful establishment of a new world within and without Europe.15 credits
- The Japanese Empire in East Asia, 1895-1945
Between 1895 and 1945 Japan joined the ranks of imperial powers in East Asia, acquiring Taiwan, Korea, and ever greater portions of China. This module examines how the Japanese empire was built, run, and resisted. We will ask whether approaches to colonialism honed by historians of Western imperialism work in the Japanese context, and will consider too how Japan's rapid modernisation, political development, and diplomatic and ideological engagement with rival great powers shaped its colonial policy. No prior knowledge of East Asian history is required to take the course.15 credits
- The United States in Vietnam, 1945-1975
The Vietnam War remains one of the most divisive episodes in modern history. It was a war fought without censorship. It was a war that pushed the American Imperial project to its very limits. It was a war in which thousands of students took to the streets to burn their draft cards in acts of defiance. It was a war that exposed the socio-economic division at home with the vast majority of those drafted to fight and die overseas coming from working class and African American backgrounds. And it was a war that the U.S. ultimately lost.15 credits
America's longest war, the Vietnam conflict, continues to evoke conflicting interpretations, meanings and memories. It is the aim of this module to chart the contentious history of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1975.
The course examines the role of the United States in Vietnam from 1945 to 1975, focusing on the foreign policy objectives and domestic political considerations which led to direct military engagement and which sustained the US war. You will consider the modernisation and limited war theories which fuelled US intervention in Southeast Asia, and will seek to understand the character of the Vietnamese revolution. You will assess relevant, often highly contentious, historiographical debates, and will analyse the role of the Vietnam experience in informing US foreign policy in the years following disengagement. You will also examine the protest culture that emerged in the wake of Vietnam, looking at the birth of the anti-war movement, draft resistance and popular cultural responses to the war. By analysing how public opinion and domestic political issues affected US policy in Vietnam, you will gain a greater understanding of the process of American foreign policy-making and how American longest war fundamentally altered society.
- The U.S. Civil War in Global Context
The U.S. Civil War of 1861-65, which culminated in the victory of the 'free labor' and the emancipation of four million enslaved people, has often been read as a purely North American story. Yet as historians have shown, the effects of the conflict reverberated around the world, silencing the Manchester mills that ran on the fruits of uncompensated toil, remaking the rural economies of countries as far flung as Japan and Egypt, and inspiring European nationalists, liberals and socialists in their own revolutionary struggles for unification and liberty. Abraham Lincoln understood as much at the time. His Gettysburg Address moved gracefully between the particular circumstances of the United States and the universal propositions that the Civil War had put to the test. At the outset of the conflict he had offered Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of the struggle to make an Italian nation state, a command in the Union army. Pro- slavery Confederates too sought Old World allies: rumours even abounded after 1861 that they were ready to replace their president with a foreign prince. Probing such connections between developments in the U.S., Europe, and beyond, we will explore where the Civil War sits alongside contemporary struggles for national unification, how it reshaped a global economy that rested heavily on the production of slave-grown cotton, and whether its revolutionary outcome - the annihilation of slavery and extension of voting rights to black men - imprinted society and politics beyond the Union's borders. The module will introduce you to two methods - one transnational, the other comparative - for studying global history.15 credits
- Under Attack: The Home Front during the Cold War
Competition and conflict between two superpowers, the US and the USSR, not only defined the course of international relations across the globe, but also shaped key aspects of domestic life and popular culture. For the USA, USSR, and their near neighbours in Europe, it was a deferred conflict: direct military confrontation gave way to surrogate and covert warfare often far from home. With the long- awaited peace now seemingly secured, the rival political doctrines of the two blocs promised the world could be transformed, be that through the triumph of the 'free world' or of socialism. And yet with the escalation of the arms race and the proliferation of ever more deadly nuclear weapons, terrifying images of global and environmental devastation also shaped visions of the future. Excitement about the possibility of social and political transformation, and the export of these new visions to the rest of the world, co-existed with angst about the humankind's new capacity for self-destruction.Yet there is a danger in attributing all historical developments from the 1940s to the 1980s to the Cold War. This module thinks critically about the following questions: what was the Cold War, and how did it impact on the 'home front'? Are there common patterns which cut across the ideological 'iron curtain' dividing east and west? How did the Cold War impact on societies elsewhere in the world?To some extent the module will focus on the key protagonists in the Cold War, the USSR and the USA, but you will be encouraged to develop your own research interests and to reflect on the issues under examination with regard to other countries.15 credits
- Voices of the Great War: Gender, Experience and Violence in Great Britain and Germany, 1914-1918
This module is focused on the gendered nature of the war experiences from 1914 to 1918. Both men and women were affected by the turmoil and the violence of the Great War, either through their front line service or through their roles as mothers, wives or carers of soldiers, as nurses in military hospitals or as victims of atrocities against civilians. The module will take a comparative approach, analysing German and British examples. Special attention will be paid to the analysis of primary sources (letters, diaries, images) which shed light on these experiences, and to the methodological consideration of their possibilities, advantages and pitfalls.15 credits
- Women and Slavery in the Antebellum American South
The intersections of race, gender, and class rendered black women¿s enslavement distinct, shaping their identities, their roles, and their relationships with other enslaved people and their enslavers, as well as the forms of exploitation they experienced as women, workers, and mothers. This module explores how historians have located, detailed, and conceptualised the lives of enslaved women; the methods and sources they have used; and the influences of black feminist theory on the history of enslaved women.15 credits
- Work Placement
This module aims to give students an insight into the day to day workings of a museum, school or research institute, in order to develop history-specific vocational skills and promote reflection on the issues involved in disseminating history outside academia. The module provides a vocational component to the Department of History postgraduate portfolio, and may be of particular interest to those MA students not planning to pursue a PhD after their studies. Students will choose a placement from those offered at the start of the academic year and then negotiate a role within that placement relevant to their area of study. Following a placement of approximately 100 hours with an employer an essay will then be completed by the student reflecting on the work they undertook. Seminars and tutorials before and after the placement will allow students to compare and contrast their experiences.15 credits
- Worlds of Labour: Working Class Lives in Colonial South Asia
Together with the image of India as an emerging economic 'powerhouse', there is another image that receives a huge amount of international attention - that of over-crowded slums, pavement-dwellers, grinding poverty, filth and squalor. Behind such generalised depictions, though, lie rich and varied lives of working class Individuals. This module intends to examine these lives in some detail, and will situate them within a wide range of contexts (e.g. e.g. within mills, factories, plantations, the White Sahib's bungalow etc). In doing this, it will focus on the long nineteenth century - a period when urbanisation had gathered pace, and factories, mills and plantations became more numerous.15 credits
Example 30 credit option modules:
- Biopolitics: Medicine, Meaning and Power
'Biopolitics' has been one of the most influential concepts in academic scholarship over the last 40 years. In its broadest form 'biopolitics' refers to collective approaches to promote, regulate, understand and end life. This involves interventions around sexuality and fertility, promoting population growth or limitation, and counting, categorising, or otherwise defining human beings and human nature. It is often thought to be a modern invention, but this is contested.30 credits
This course will introduce you to a wide variety of efforts to survey and control human populations, across more than a thousand years. You will learn about how states and other groups have tried to control and manage sexuality and reproduction, as well as infectious diseases and other perceived threats. You will learn about how human beings have been cast outside of 'the normal' including those labelled as 'mad' or 'disabled'. You will become adept at thinking across a wide variety of contexts, and comparing different approaches to defining and classifying humans - including according to raced and sexed identities.
You will learn to use ideas of 'biopolitics' to understand human societies and human identities. You will be able, by the end of the course, to think carefully and critically about the place of human bodies in various political systems - how bodies and life itself are controlled, restricted, promoted, marginalised and how humans' capacities are understood.
- Food and Drink
Food and drink are not just fundamental to human survival; they are interwoven into every aspect of life, from economic exchange, politics and governance, to culture, identities and habits. Moreover - since the ways in which food and drink are produced, distributed and consumed have varied with time, place, culture and climate - they offer important insights into historical societies and cultures around the globe and across time. This module engages with the big themes in food and drink history and explores them through case studies taken from different geographical, chronological and cultural contexts. We will study issues such as famine and food management; trade and the global diffusion of foodstuffs; diet, health and medicine; national, regional and social identities; industrialisation, technologies and commercialisation; recipes, preparation and cuisine; consumption practices and manners; and literary representations and material cultures. Through this, the module will introduce you to the possibilities of historical research into diverse foodstuffs - from caffeinated drinks and alcohols to pulses and grains - for understanding the historical societies that they sustained.30 credits
- Race and Racism in Historical Perspective
What is race and how has it operated historically? Through a series of case studies, this module will seek to historicize ideologies, ideas and the experiences of race and racism across the early modern and modern historical periods. The module takes as its starting point the understanding that race is not a biological fact but always and everywhere the product of struggles for power in specific political, cultural and geographical settings. How have racial categories been made and re-made, imposed and resisted? How has this affected material outcomes and distributions of wealth and power? What are the ongoing legacies of these histories?30 credits
We will examine a number of case studies, including slavery, abolition campaigns and immigration in various spacial and temporal contexts. We will explore key concepts in historiography including settler colonialism, whiteness and white supremacy, racial liberalism, and anti-racism. Throughout, we will be attentive to the intersections of race with other categories of social difference such as gender, class, and sexuality, and appreciate the importance of historical context in understanding conceptions of race and racism.
- The Global Cold War
This module explores the Cold War as a global phenomenon. While Europe played a central role in the origins and denouement of the ideological contest between the United States and the Soviet Union, for the past twenty years or so historians have explored in greater depth the impact of the Cold War in the global South. This latter group of scholars have examined the Cold War as a Superpower competition over the political and economic future of the so-called “Third World” and explored the agency of actors in the global South. Studies have expanded beyond an initial focus on ideology, diplomacy and security to a wider set of issues including economic development, culture, and human rights, and beyond international histories to include transnational and domestic ones. We now have a Cold War historiography which stresses pluralism and diversity of conception, method, and interpretation.30 credits
Through a series of case studies ranging from Europe to Asia, Africa and Latin America and including the home front in the United States and the Soviet Union, we will examine these new historiographical developments. While remaining attentive to the local dynamics that drove political, economic, and social developments in Europe and the global South, we will explore the extent to which the Cold War structured the international system and constrained choices available to countries around the world. What was the Global Cold War? How did it play out and interact with local dynamics in specific locales? Is it possible to study the Cold War as a series of conflicts and transformations around the world without losing conceptual clarity? What are the methodological implications of studying the Cold War in a global perspective?
- Women and Power
This module explores the roles women have played within and through structures and discourses of power: as wielders of office, as victims of persecution, and as agents of cultural change.30 credits
The module uses case studies from particular historical contexts - potentially ranging from the medieval to the modern - to engage with the methodological challenge of identifying female agency in the historical record.
It draws on a range of theoretical approaches and on written and material forms of evidence to enable you to reach your own insights.
Your 60 credit research skills and option module selection can include up to 30 credits from this guided module list. The owning department has final approval for acceptance onto their modules and, if space becomes limited, priority may be given to students registered in that department.
Students can select languages for all modules where relevant to their programme of study. These modules are worth 10 credits and must be taken alongside the appropriate Enhanced Languages module (5 credits).
Language modules are all classed as research skills modules.
Example Archaeology modules:
- Digital Cultural Heritage: Theory and Practice
This module examines the theoretical and methodological advances in Digital Cultural Heritage and their15 credits
broader implications in fields concerned with the interpretation and presentation of the past. We will draw on
theoretical readings as well as analyse the potential benefits and drawbacks of certain digital and online
approaches. Topics include: principles and theories underlying Digital Cultural Heritage, understanding
processes of creating digital surrogates, establishing principles for user experience, and exploring digital
narratives for public dissemination. A major component of this module will be a semester-long project that will
require the development of a proposal for a digital cultural heritage project.
- Digital Mapping for the Humanities
This module will introduce students to digital mapping as sources, as methods and as outputs for humanities research. Digital mapping offers a wide variety of analytical and interpretive methods that are put to use in many humanities disciplines. Maps and mapping allow us to recognise social constructions of place, visualise patterns, gaps, and changes across time and space. By combining spatial and temporal dimensions into visual representation, digital mapping can provide innovative approaches, methods, techniques, interpretive practices, and solutions to different stages of research, from data collection to science communication. The module will be delivered through both discursive and 'hands-on' classes and will draw on case studies from across the arts and humanities. Students will critically engage and analyse multidisciplinary examples in which digital mapping is a core aspect of research. They will also make use of multiple methods and tools on digital mapping platforms to create, visualise, analyse, disseminate, and communicate spatial and temporal data and knowledge.15 credits
- Heritage, Place and Community
The aim of this module is to introduce the theory and practice of heritage, conservation and public archaeology. The module will encourage debate on issues that affect how we define and apply the term 'heritage'. It also offers an opportunity to focus on the historic 'value' of a site or landscape, with an evaluation of how it is currently managed, and strategies for its future conservation and presentation.15 credits
- Heritage, History and Identity
This module highlights the diversity of cultural heritage, ranging from cultural and 'natural' landscapes, through monuments to music, dress, cuisine, 'traditional' crafts, and language and dialect. It explores the role of these various forms of heritage in shaping local, regional and national identity; the extent to which they reflect or misrepresent local, regional and national history; the legal and ethical issues surrounding conservation and preservation of heritage; and how study of 'traditional' lifeways may contribute to understanding of history.15 credits
- Later Neolithic & Bronze Age Britain & Ireland
The module introduces the prehistory of Britain during the Neolithic and Bronze Age - roughly 4000-750 BC. This period witnessed dramatic and lasting changes in the constitution of society, the formation of the landscape, and the meanings of material culture. These changes included the adoption of agriculture, the construction of major ceremonial monuments such as Stonehenge, the flourishing and decline of novel burial rites, the development of metallurgy, and the widespread enclosure of the countryside into field systems. Through lectures and small-group activities and discussion, we will consider the major themes, sites and artefacts that have dominated archaeological narratives of the period. Along the way we will review many of the less well-known regions and assemblages, and debate new ways of interpreting social change. The module includes a day-long fieldtrip to visit key later prehistoric landscapes in our region.15 credits
Example English modules:
- American Nightmares: Socio-political Discourses in American Gothic Literature
Have you ever wondered why there are so many haunted 'Indian' burial grounds in Stephen King's stories or why none of Poe's heroines ever survive? Have you been struck by how often American socio-political discourse sound like Gothic fictions? The Gothic is a pervasive mode in America, one which expresses and negotiates a variety of social anxieties such as racial identity, patriarchy and the rise of feminism, and class antagonism. This course will examine a variety of Gothic texts from the 1800s onward to consider how they express and negotiate various socio-political anxieties and shifts. We will also contextualize the narratives by reviewing the relevant socio-political ideologies and debates contemporary to the texts. In doing so, the course will clarify the numerous chasms between the American ideal and the brutal American reality.30 credits
Western man has become a confessing animal, or so Michel Foucault contended. This module interrogates confessional acts in literature and culture, beginning with St Augustine's Confessions (often considered the first autobiography in the Western tradition) and focusing in particular upon eighteenth- and nineteenth-century forms. Students will explore confession across a range of contexts: sacred and secular law, medicine, self-improvement, scandal and sensation. A variety of genres will be considered, from autobiography to fiction, prison writing to medical case studies, periodical print to the confession 'album'. Authors will include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas De Quincey, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Oscar Wilde.30 credits
- Humans, Animals, Monsters and Machines: From Gulliver's Travels to King Kong
This module examines imaginings of the 'human' in relation to machines and animals (and those monsters that are neither one thing nor the other) from the eighteenth century to the twentieth. We will focus mainly on fiction, its cultural contexts and on readings from the period's key thinkers of human being, alongside more recent theories of humans, posthumans and animals. The aim is to encourage critical engagement with this key issue and to facilitate a deeper appreciation of the period's literature, culture and politics, including the relationship of discourses of technology and species to discourses of class, gender and race.30 credits
- Memory and Trauma in Contemporary Literature
The fictional narratives of Greco-Roman antiquity play a foundational role in the Western literary tradition. In this module students will encounter the extant masterworks of Chariton, Xenophon of Ephesus, Achilles Tatius, Longus, Heliodorus, and Apuleius - authors once widely read in the ancient world - as well as two Jewish and Christian examples: Joseph and Aseneth and the Acts of Paul and Thecla. The ancient novels, the earliest examples of the genre, are a ripe literary field to explore the construction of gender, human sexualities, the relation of lovers to family and society, and the intersection of eroticism with ancient religious sensibilities.30 credits
- Mid-Century Modernism
The module will introduce students to current research and scholarship relating to literature of the 'long modern' period (1930 to 1975), introducing them to the history and contemporary state of criticism and theory in relation to mid twentieth-century cultural production. Students will receive a thorough grounding in research methods specific to the period. This is a period of unprecedented violence and transformation, from the momentous impact of totalitarian systems, the rise and impact of the Second World War on global culture, host to the worst events the world has ever experienced with the Holocaust and Bomb, the age of rapid and shifting groups and movements, existentialism through abstract expressionism to confessional, innovative and pop art styles. It is also an era of very deep reflection on the idea of the relations between systems of thought across disciplines. The module will chart that reflection as well as a forum for thinking about art's power in a world under new techno-political compulsions, be they nuclear-apocalyptic, Cold War-propagandized, or transnational, neo-imperial, superpowered or postcolonial.30 credits
- Murderers and Degenerates: Contextualising the fin de siècle Gothic
The module explores three related case histories which help to establish how the literary Gothic shaped particular fin de siècle anxieties. To that end the module examines accounts of Joseph Merrick (aka The Elephant Man), newspaper reports of the Whitechapel murders of 1888, and the trials of Oscar Wilde. It is by exploring how the Gothic infiltrated medical, criminological, and legal discourses that we can see how a narrative which centred on the pathologisation of masculinity was elaborated at the time. These case histories will be read alongside Jekyll and Hyde (1886) and Dracula (1897) as two of the key literary texts which also examine medicine, the law, and crucially the urban and gender contexts which in turn shape the three case histories.30 credits
- Post-1945 British Drama, Film and Television
This module provides the opportunity for parallel study of the British drama, cinema and television of the post-war period. This era saw the emergence of influential styles, prominent figures and landmark texts in all three artistic forms: e.g. the plays of John Osbourne (Look Back in Anger), television drama (Cathy Come Home) and key British films, such as Ealing comedies (The Man in the White Suit), retrospective war films (The Cruel Sea) and social problem films (Sapphire). The module will explore the evolving post-war cultural landscape to contextualise and critically appraise examples from these interrelated literary, performative and representational media.30 credits
- Reimagining the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Reimagining the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is the core module of the MA Literature, Culture and Society 1700-1900. The module will address the diverse thematic approaches which can be applied to the novel, poetry, and other media such as life-writing, published between 1700-1900. The module reflects the range of expertise of the teaching team in these areas and this research-led module will introduce students to current research approaches and methods.30 credits
- Renaissance Transformations
This module approaches Renaissance literature through the theme of transformation. It will look at examples of transformation in Renaissance writing, such as changing sex, changing religion, and changes between the human and the animal. It will also consider the changes that Renaissance writers wrought upon existing literary traditions such as the classical, the biblical and the medieval.30 credits
- Romantic Gothic
Romantic Gothic considers the various manifestations of the Gothic mode, from the middle of the eighteenth century towards the end of the Romantic period in 1830. Looking at how the Gothic became such an enduring and powerful mode of expression in literature, the module will look at Gothic poetry, Gothic novels, Gothic bluebooks, and accounts of supernatural occurrences in the popular magazines and newspapers of the age. By the end of the module, you will have a good knowledge of the rise of the Gothic during the eighteenth century and Romantic periods, and will have examined some of the most popular Gothic works of the age alongside less canonical works.30 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.
An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses. You'll find out what makes us special.
You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours
- 1 year full-time
- 2 years part-time
You’ll be taught through seminars, workshops and individual tutorials. Teaching and assessment methods may vary for non-history modules.
You'll be assessed through a combination of written papers, classroom activities, oral presentations and a dissertation.
Department of History
As a postgraduate history student at Sheffield, you'll continue to develop your skills and understanding of the past in a friendly and supportive environment.
You’ll be taught by historians who are engaged in cutting-edge research in a huge variety of fields which range from 1000 BCE right up to the twenty-first century. This diversity feeds into a vibrant and varied curriculum which allows students to pursue their interests across both space and time, from the ancient Middle East to modern day Europe, and from fifteenth-century human sacrifice to twentieth-century genocide.
You can tailor your chosen MA programme to suit you, exploring the areas of history that interest you most while expanding your historical research skills. You can also choose to develop your vocational history skills through our work placement and other public history modules.
You'll be joining a thriving postgraduate community with regular activities to share your ideas, challenge your thinking and broaden your understanding.
The MA programme has really allowed me to grow as a person and as a historian
Anna Edwards Postgraduate student, MA Historical Research
Anna credits the university and her dedicated tutors for providing a supportive environment, enabling her to thrive in her studies.
First-class undergraduate honours degree in history or another humanities or social sciences subject.
Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Fees and funding
You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.
+44 114 222 2552
Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.