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MA Public History

Analyse the changing ways in which we engage with the past

2018/19 entry


1 year full-time,
2 years part-time

Start date

September 2018 (term dates)

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Public history brings history to life. Our interdisciplinary degree enables you to gain hands-on experience in the heritage sector alongside cutting edge academic training.

You'll study the variety of perspectives on the relationship between the past and the public and evaluate their impact on the modern day heritage sector. You'll analyse how public engagement with the past has evolved with new types of media. Finally, you'll explore the role of museums and other heritage institutions in our society and their impact on our identity throughout history.

This MA is offered through History in conjunction with the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP).


Leading research

History at York has been ranked 2nd in the UK for the quality, significance and impact of our research in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

Top 100 in the QS World Rankings

QS ranks our Department of History as one of the best in the world

Skills training

Our skills modules are unique to our courses, and will give you practical knowledge of professional research methods.

Course content

The course consists of:

  • two core modules (20 credits)
  • one option module (20 credits each)
  • a research training module (10 credits)
  • 20,000 word dissertation (90 credits)
  • a placement in the heritage sector (20 credits)

You can opt to study two skills training modules (10 credits each) instead of the placement.

In the Autumn Term, you'll complete the core module and one option module.

The research training module runs over the Autumn and Spring Term.

In the Spring Term, you'll complete your placement and two skills training modules.


Core modules

Public History I: Meanings and Values in Public History (20 credits) combines the theory of public history with real-life case studies. You'll be introduced to the conceptual models used to relate the past to the present, alongside examples of how the past is represented, constructed, debated and contested in the public sphere. You'll be encouraged to think critically and apply your knowledge to evaluate media strategies and public policy.

Public History II: Methodologies & Practices in Public History (20 credits) explores some of the ways in which historical narratives and information about the past have been presented in the media, in the heritage sector and in galleries. You'll analyse the role of the historian in society today, and how history is able to influence public policy.

Research Training (10 credits) will prepare you for your dissertation. It provides you with essential training in graduate-level research skills: selecting research topics, large-scale project management, locating secondary and primary materials, storing and ordering findings and presentation techniques.


The Public History placement (20 credits) is a unique opportunity to get hands-on experience working in the field and will help put what you've learned into practice. It takes place during the Spring Term. You can choose to work with a museum, archive, production company, historic house, or anything involving communicating the past to the public. This practical experience will help you to think critically and evaluate and contribute to public history projects.

Option modules:

You'll choose one taught option module (20 credits):

Please note that these option modules are provisional and may be subject to change.

Skills modules

You can choose to study two modules which will provide you with invaluable skills training across a range of fields. This will be instead of a placement. Examples of skills modules include:

  • Technics of Print, 1500-1800
  • Oral History Methods
  • Things in History: Researching Material Culture
  • Mapping the Past
  • Lies, Darn Lies, and Statistics - for Historians
  • Early Modern Paleography

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.


During the Summer Term and the summer vacation, you will write a research dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a topic of your choice. You'll start planning for your dissertation in the Autumn Term, supported by the Research Training module.

You will be under the supervision of a member of staff in the Department of History, who will provide you with specialist advice and guidance. Our range of expertise and wealth of source material means we can provide supervision on a wide range of topics, both chronologically and geographically.

Past titles include:

  • "The Age of the Internet Memes Might End, But the British Empire? Never." - Internet Memes as a New Medium for Memories of Empire
  • Merchant Taylors' Company of York: Interpreting the Survival and Contemporary Functions of a Trade-Based Medieval Guild
  • Historic Cemeteries: Saved and Managed by their Friends
  • "The Tudors of our imaginations": Masculinity and Femininity in Television Representations of Henry VIII and his Wives
  • "Oh, that's a real Viking!" Navigating popular conceptions of the past in order to achieve educational goals at the Jorvik Viking Centre

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2018/19

Study modeUK/EUInternational
Full-time (1 year)£7,580£16,780
Part-time (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee
year 1 fee

Additional costs

There is no obligation to purchase books or other texts - all core texts and resources will be available in our library or online.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Funding information

Discover your funding options to help with tuition fees and living costs.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at York you could be eligible for a 10% Masters fee discount.

Home/EU students

International students

Living costs

You can use our living costs guide to help plan your budget. It covers accommodation costs and estimated social costs.

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace. Find out more about our approach to teaching and learning.

Teaching format

Most of your modules will consist of weekly two-hour seminars. The Research Training module will be taught through three-hour workshops. You will normally work in small groups of fewer than 20 students.

Teaching location

You will be based in the Department of History in Vanbrugh College on Campus West. Most of your teaching will take place in or close to Vanbrugh College.

Course location

Our beautiful green campus offers a student-friendly setting in which to live and study, within easy reach of the action in the city centre. It's easy to get around campus - everything is within walking or pedalling distance, or you can always use the fast and frequent bus service.

Assessment and feedback

You will be primarily assessed by essays and your dissertation. You will have the chance to submit assignments for formative assessment, enabling you to get and use feedback before the final summative assessment. 

Careers and skills

While completing your MA, you will gain essential skills in research, presentation and analysis. These skills are invaluable for progressing to a PhD and for a diverse range of careers, including within the heritage sector.

Career opportunities

Our graduates have gone in work in roles such as:

  • Public programmes assistant
  • Archivist
  • Visitor experience host
  • Curator
  • Tour manager
  • Museum interpretation developer
  • Project manager
  • Outreach historian

Transferable skills

  • Analytical thinking
  • Formation of original arguments
  • Effective time management
  • Communication skills
  • Efficient organisation, use and management of electronic research resources
  • Ability to carry out independent research in primary sources
  • Professional presentation skills

Entry requirements

Qualification Grade

We typically ask for a 2:1 degree in History or a related discipline.

If you are an international student please check the minimum requirements for your country or region..

If you are unsure about your eligibility, or want to enquire informally about whether this course would be suitable for you, please contact us.

English language

  • IELTS: 7.0, with no less than 5.5 in each component
  • PTE: 67, with no less than 51 in each component
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with no less than 162 in each component
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 17 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all component


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Apply for this course

Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Geoff Cubitt

Learn more

Department of History

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