MA in Modern History

Course Convenor: Gerard McCann

Studying Modern History at York is a lively and stimulating experience. The programme combines an advanced level introduction to the historiographical debates, methodologies and techniques of modern history together with a choice of thematic taught modules, culminating in  a research dissertation. Students are introduced to a wide range of sources and approaches drawn from the entire span of the modern period and from across different localities, and thereby gain an unusual breadth of vision which transcends more conventional boundaries.

The MA is run by the Department of History and students are encouraged to participate in the lively scholarly community of the department's active graduate school through attendance at relevant MA seminars and masterclasses, research training sessions and the weekly departmental research seminar. Students also have full access to the Centre for Modern Studies which provides an active programme of academic seminars, small conferences and reading groups involving both academic staff and graduate students.   

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.

Programme of study

The programme consists of four taught modules (20 credits each), a 20,000 word dissertation (90 credits), and a Research Training module (10 credits), which make up the 180 credits required for an MA in the UK higher education system. For students registered for full-time study, the programme is as follows:

Autumn Term (October-December)

All students take the core module Approaches to Modern History. Taught by weekly seminars, this module introduces students to the key concepts, debates, methods and practices which inform the work of historians of "modern times". Additionally, all students take an Option Module chosen from a list approved by the Course Convenor. All students follow a research training module across both the Autumn and Spring terms.

Spring Term (January-March)

Students choose two optional modules which should include at least one related to their pathway. With the approval of the convenor they may also choose a module from other MA programmes in and outside of the department, e.g. the MA in Public  History, including its very popular placement module, or the MA in Culture and Thought after 1945.

  • Option Module 2
  • Option Module 3
  • Research Training
  • Independent research and writing of dissertation proposal

Summer Term and Summer Vacation (April-September)

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.

Students receive advice about research topics and instruction in bibliographical research, plus additional specialist advice and guidance from a supervisor. Because of the range of expertise of staff members and the wealth of source material available in York and electronically, it is possible to provide supervision on a wide range of topics, both chronologically and geographically. Past dissertations have covered such diverse topics as The West Indies Federation, British abolitionism after emancipation,  and violence in the American South in the interwar years.

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.

Core course

Optional modules

The option modules offered for this MA vary from year to year, although most staff will be available to supervise dissertations. Modules offered in recent years include:

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.

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.

Programme specifications

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