MA in Public History

Convenor: Hannah Greig

The MA in Public History offers students cutting edge interdisciplinary academic training together with exciting opportunities for hands-on experience in the cultural sphere through a placement in the heritage sector. The programme is designed to give students an understanding of the critical issues in public history and to analyse the variety of changing ways that the public engage with the past through not only traditional media, but also new digital and rich media products.

Programme of study

The programme consists of three taught modules (20 credits each), a public history placement (20 credits), a 20,000-word dissertation (90 credits), and a Research Training module (10 credits). These make up the 180 credits that is normal 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)

Autumn Term summary:

All students take one core module taught by weekly seminar. Public History I: Meaning and Values in Public History introduces students to a broad range of conceptual and methodological frameworks for understanding the relationship between the past and its manifestations in contemporary society. Students also take an option module chosen from a list approved by the MA Convenor. Additionally, all students participate in the research training module which prepares them for independent work on their dissertation later in the year.

Spring Term (January-March)

Spring Term summary:

All students take one core module taught by weekly seminar. Public History II: Methodologies and Practices in Public History introduces students to the deployment of the past in the public realm, and particularly the means by which it is put into practical use in a wide variety of contemporary social contexts. Students undertake a Public History Placement, which gives them hands-on experience of working in the field and allows them to reflect on the theory and practice of public history. Students also continue to participate in the research training module.

Summer Term and Summer Vacation (April-September)

Summer Term summary:

Research Dissertation

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, which may arise from their placement or one of their taught modules, under the supervision of a member of staff that is submitted at the end of the academic year.

Part-time students

Part time students on the MA in Public History will take in Year One the Core (Public History I, Autumn Term; and Public History II, Spring Term), and in Year Two, the Public History Placement and an Option. The Research Dissertation will be spread over two years, with preliminary work undertaken in Year One, and significant work undertaken in Year Two.


The placement is a distinctive element of the MA, and will be with an organisation involved in promoting history to a public audience. This could be a museum, historic house, archive, period reconstruction, or TV, film or web production company.

Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past

The MA in Public History is offered through History in conjunction with the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP). The IPUP website has many useful resources for students, including:

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:  


History of Art



Research skills training

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

Research Dissertation

The 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 from 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.

Discover postgraduate study at York. Arts and Humanities Virtual Open Day, 30 January, 3-5pm-GMT. Ask us questions and chat with other students. Register now.