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    Historical Research

    School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

    Designed to support your preparation for future PhD study, this course offers a flexible approach to MA study that you can tailor to suit your own research interests.
    History postgraduate

    Course description

    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.


    The taught component of the MA is designed to develop your understanding of key historiographical and methodological approaches. You will take a core module, which examines the essential workings of your chosen area of expertise and develops your skills in using relevant sources.

    Optional modules allow you to undertake the technical training best suited to your research needs and study major historical themes in closer detail.

    The dissertation provides you the opportunity to further develop your skills and apply your historical knowledge to an independent research project.

    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    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.

    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.

    15 credits
    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

    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.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    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.

    Staff research areas


    You'll be assessed through a combination of written papers, classroom activities, oral presentations and a dissertation.

    Your career

    An MA in history will further develop the range of transferable skills at your disposal. You will have the freedom to tailor your research and focus on the skills that are most important to you. We offer modules that are specifically designed to provide you with skills in public history - modules such as Presenting the Past and the work placement, give you real hand-on experience.

    These kinds of skills are why our graduates are successful in both further study and a wide range of careers - from lecturing and working in the museum and tourist industry to business management, marketing, law and working in the media.

    We offer tailored support for students planning to progress to PhD study following their MA degree.


    School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities

    In the School of History, Philosophy and Digital Humanities, we interrogate some of the most significant and pressing aspects of human life, offering new perspectives and tackling globally significant issues.

    As a postgraduate history student at Sheffield 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 and encompasses traditional historians and expert archaeologists. 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'll join a thriving and supportive postgraduate community which organises a wide variety of social and research events to help you feel fully immersed in our community and allow you to share your ideas, challenge your thinking and broaden your understanding.

    Our students get to make the most of the University's facilities across campus. Explore some of the teaching, library and social spaces you'll be able to visit as an arts and humanities student.

    Entry requirements

    First-class undergraduate honours degree in history or another humanities or social sciences subject.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    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.


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    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.