MA in Contemporary History and International Politics

Contact: Hugo Service

The world needs better politics: better ways of resolving conflicts and distributing resources more efficiently and equitably. How do we improve policy and forge an effective international system when our traditions of political participation are local and national? The politics of the future is encumbered by the problems of the past.

This interdisciplinary MA seeks to address these problems by bringing together politics and contemporary history, with a particular focus on transnational ideas and institutions. Since the history of international politics has been shaped by longstanding, path-dependent effects, an understanding of contemporary history must underpin national and international public policy decisionmaking. This MA investigates the immediacy of present day politics and the collective memory of politics in the past, its successes and failures.

Programme of study

The programme consists of 180 credits: four taught modules (20 credits each), a 20,000-word dissertation (90 credits), and a Research Training module (10 credits).

In the Autumn Term (from mid-October to mid-December) you will take an interdisciplinary core module, Ideas and Institutions, and a single-discipline option from either department. All students follow a Research Training module across the Autumn and Spring Terms.

In the Spring Term (January to mid-March) you take two single-discipline options, and undertake preliminary scoping work for your dissertation. All students follow a Research Training module across the Autumn and Spring Terms.

During the Summer Term and over the Vacation, all students will write a research dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a subject of their own choosing and under the supervision of a member of staff, and submitted at the end of the academic year.

Part-time students

Students registered for part-time study over two years take in Year One the MA Core module in the Autumn Term (20 credits), an Option in the Spring Term (20 credits), plus the 10-credit Research Training Module: a total of 50 credits in the first year. In Year Two, they take two more Option modules (40 credits in total), normally scheduled in second Autumn and Spring Terms respectively, and an Independent Study Module (90 credits): a total of 130 credits.

Although this gives Year Two disproportionate formal credit-weighting, the work flow spreads slightly more evenly because planning and preliminary research of the dissertation is undertaken in the Year One, and significant research and writing is undertaken the Year Two; the Research Training Module taken in Year One also provides support in dissertation planning.

Research expertise at York

Staff in the History department are engaged in world-leading research in international and transnational history, with particular clusters of excellence in the history of the British Empire, American History, and History and Policy.

In Politics, staff members have produced world-class research in international political economy, international political theory, the politics of development, comparative European politics, international security, Indian politics, African politics, and global governance.

There are, moreover, numerous centres and institutes on campus that offer seminars, workshops and conferences, including the Centre for Global Health Histories, the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit, the Centre for Applied Human Rights, and the Centre for the Evolution of Global Business and Institutions. The activities of these centres will inspire you and create new opportunities for advanced research after the MA programme.

Core course

Independent Study Module

The Independent Study module, which culminates in the presentation of a 20,000-word dissertation, is typically based on extensive research using primary sources. Planning for this large-scale project begins in the Autumn Term and continues during the Spring Term, supported by the Research Training Module. Substantive research is normally undertaken in the Summer Term, and findings are written up in the Summer Vacation, July to September. A supervisor supports the research and writing of the dissertation.

How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system. If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.

Optional modules

The option modules offered for this MA vary from year to year. Modules offered in recent years include:

In History:


In Politics:

Research skills training

The Research Training module provides essential generic training in graduate-level research skills: large-scale project management; insights from the psychology of work; locating secondary and primary materials; storing and ordering findings; and presentation techniques.

Programme specifications

For a concise description of the programme structure, aims and learning outcomes for this MA, view the programme specifications.