Medieval Studies MA

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
Duration
12 months full time
24 months part time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons)
Full entry requirements
English language requirements
IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in all components
UK fees
£11,500 (Total)
International fees
£24,500 (Total)

Course overview

Students reading

Our MA Medieval Studies course provides you with the opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of medieval culture and society through interdisciplinary approaches to the period. The course also offers the chance to work with leading scholars in the field of Medieval Studies across the university. You will have the chance to develop critical interpretation and reading skills in Latin and other medieval languages such as Old Norse, Arabic, Persian, medieval English and Turkish. Thus a Leeds Medieval Studies degree can be the starting point for cutting-edge research focusing on Europe, the Mediterranean world, or Asia.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or have some experience of learning Latin, our intensive language course will develop your skills to an advanced level, enabling you to study a wide range of medieval source texts, both in printed and in manuscript form. You’ll also develop skills in palaeography (the study of historical handwriting), primary text analysis and translation.

You’ll benefit from teaching by academic staff who are leading researchers in a range of subject areas, from languages and cultures to literature and religion. The Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS) brings together staff from across the University of Leeds who are medieval specialists within a broad range of disciplines. As such, we’re able to offer a huge range of expertise in subject areas such as history, religion, literature and history of art. This gives you the opportunity to tailor your course to your specific interests within the field of Medieval Studies and to your future career ambitions. Your degree will be completed by a dissertation which will give you the opportunity to put these skills into practice. This will be completed under the supervision of one of our expert medievalists and based on your own research.

As a student in the Institute for Medieval Studies, you'll have the opportunity to attend the International Medieval Congress. We are proud that the University of Leeds hosts the Congress each year, which welcomes over 2,700 medievalists from all over the world onto campus with a programme of 700 sessions, allowing interdisciplinary insight and discussion of the medieval period, from art and architecture to theology, literature and medicine. This is a fantastic opportunity to expand your knowledge of the subject area, to network with people from all over the world who have a passion for Medieval Studies, and to learn from active researchers. There is also the possibility of paid employment at the IMC, helping to run one of the biggest conferences in the humanities.

Specialist Facilities

As a student in the IMS, you'll have access to excellent resources, both in the University and beyond. The University of Leeds’s large group of world-leading medievalists have built up an impressive set of study resources in this field, including books, journals and databases. The Brotherton Library also contains extensive facsimiles and access to digitised primary material as well as a wide range of online resources. Its Special Collections Research Centre also contains a wide range of manuscript, archive and early printed material, including the Melsteth Icelandic Collection, the archives of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society, the library of Ripon Cathedral, and the manuscripts and incunabula of the Brotherton Collection.

There are additional excellent resources for medievalists in the Leeds region: Leeds is home to the Royal Armouries and its extensive medieval collections, while the West Yorkshire Archive Service has offices and holdings dotted around the region, and the British Library has a Document Supply Centre in nearby Boston Spa.

Course details

The course has two core modules (worth 15 credits each), a compulsory language element (60 credits) and a 10,000-word dissertation (30 credits). The core modules and language teaching throughout the degree will allow you to develop important research skills, equipping you to work with a range of different primary sources. You'll gain a working knowledge of medieval Latin and could even choose to learn another medieval language. You'll also develop your understanding of research methods and explore palaeography.

Then you'll build on this foundation with your choice of interdisciplinary optional modules, to explore areas that interest you, and even choose from some modules offered by other Schools on historical, literary or art historical topics. You'll also demonstrate the skills you’ve acquired in your dissertation, where you'll undertake independent research on a topic of your choice and submit your work by the end of the programme.

If you choose to study this course part-time, you'll study over a longer period and take fewer modules in each year, typically studying the compulsory skills modules in the first year and choosing option modules in the second year.

The core modules give you the skills you need to transition to postgraduate study, as well as developing and broadening your awareness of Medieval Studies. The optional modules will allow you to focus on the areas of Medieval Studies that interest you most. The dissertation will then allow to put your new and improved skills into practice in an extended piece of historical writing.

The list shown below represents typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our terms and conditions.

Most courses consist of compulsory and optional modules. There may be some optional modules omitted below. This is because they are currently being refreshed to make sure students have the best possible experience. Before you enter each year, full details of all modules for that year will be provided.

For more information and a list of typical modules available on this course, please read Medieval Studies (Full-Time) in the course catalogue.

For more information and a list of typical modules available on this course, please read Medieval Studies (Part-Time) in the course catalogue.

Compulsory modules

Research Methods and Bibliography (15 credits)
This module offers students training in core skills and use of resources applicable to a wide range of subjects in medieval studies. Individual classes will address specific problems encountered by students at this level and practical guidance in solving these, for instance: research methodologies, referencing, selection and use of style-sheets, proof-reading and correction, compilation of bibliographies, presentation of dissertations. They will also demonstrate systematic methods for accessing data: for instance, use of library resources, electronic data, instruments de travail and other bibliographical guides. Students undertake a review article, a survey of research or a critical bibliography on a chosen subject submitted in correct scholarly form.

Palaeography: Reading Medieval Manuscripts (15 credits)
The module focuses on palaeographical training, familiarising students with a range of scripts used in different kinds of documents from Carolingian to late medieval times. The central weeks of the module will follow a chronological sequence. The examples to be used include formal European and English book-hands, a variety of cursive documentary hands, and cursive book-hands. The languages in which the scripts are written include Latin, French and English. There will also be consideration of contextual issues, including the techniques and materials of medieval writing, literacy and the politics of script, and the idea of forgery.

Introduction to Medieval Latin (30 credits)
The module is designed for beginners or near-beginners. Students will spend considerable time memorising Latin morphology and learning its syntax, as well acquiring as a working vocabulary of ca 700 words common to Medieval Latin texts. The skills gained in this module will form a sound basis for acquiring a full competency in Latin grammar and syntax through subsequent self-study or formal study. (Some sentence structures, certain tenses of the subjunctive and practice with oratio obliqua will not be covered.) The students will acquire the capability of translating easier Medieval Latin narrative and documents with the aid of dictionary and grammar.

Intermediate Medieval Latin (30 credits)
The module is designed for students who have considerable acquaintance with Latin grammar and syntax (whether Classical or Medieval). While basic morphology is not reviewed, approximately one third of the module focuses on drill with complex Latin sentences (especially subordinate clauses using subjunctive and oratio oblique) The working vocabulary (1500 words) favours Medieval vocabulary or Classical vocabulary with medieval meanings. The other two thirds of the module is devoted to preparation of formal translations of a wide variety of Medieval Latin texts, through which students gain experience with changes in syntax and orthography common to Medieval authors and a variety of technical Latin vocabularies (whether biblical, documentary, liturgical, legal, philosophical, theological, or scientific).

Medieval Studies Dissertation (30 credits)
Students will complete a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of the student’s choosing under the supervision of an expert in Medieval Studies.

Note: Intermediate Medieval Latin can be replaced by a different medieval language after consultation with the Programme Director, so that every student will have taken 60 credits’ worth of medieval languages as part of their MA in Medieval Studies.

Optional modules

You will choose a further two modules worth 30 credits each

There is some variation in optional modules available each year. Below is a typical sample of optional modules.

Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age (30 credits)
This module provides a holistic understanding of the medieval manuscript book in its material, cultural and historical contexts as well as situating the study of medieval manuscripts in the digital age. Each manuscript is important not only for understanding the processes of production, dissemination and reception of a given text but also for uncovering the cultural and historical circumstances in which it was copied, put together or manipulated. Many medieval manuscripts have reached modern times after different stages of physical reformatting in the form of additions, deletions and re-organisation of content, and sometimes in very fragmentary states. Examination of the physical make-up of the written artefact can provide significant information regarding the intended purpose and even the target audience of textual works contained in manuscripts as well as allow us to understand the origins and later histories of manuscripts. And considering that many medieval manuscripts include more than one text, engaging with the entirety of the manuscript in order to comprehend its multilayered nature is essential. Furthermore, advancements in the field of computing technologies especially since the turn of this century have been reshaping the field of manuscript studies. From high-resolution digital images to online databases and digital scholarly editions, digital approaches to manuscript studies are now an essential part of research. Working with medieval manuscripts in the digital context brings about many possibilities as well as challenges, which this module will address. The module will have at its centre the manuscript book in Latin scripts in the West, but there will be opportunities to engage with manuscript cultures of non-Western societies and non-Latin scripts, offering a comparative overview. Students will gain experience in working with medieval manuscripts both by using the manuscript resources housed at the Special Collections of the University of Leeds Libraries and by engaging with digital repositories.

Lifecycles: Birth, Death and Illness in the Middle Ages (30 credits)
Traditional approaches to history tend to see politics and major events affecting the masses as somehow separate from the life and death of individual people. Yet it is often the case that the sudden death, aging, illness, or insanity of key individuals profoundly influences policy making and government. This is the case even in modern times when a cult of leadership persists despite the stabilizing effect of administrative procedure. In the Middle Ages when popes, lords and monarchs ruled absolutely (at least in theory), much depended on their ability to make decisions and act on them. Taking the premise that the individual's state of health and well-being matters as much as their age and social status, this module explores birth, childhood and rites of passage, old age, illness, death and injury as integral to political culture and government. The impact of plague on politics has long been understood, but it is important also to assess the role of other 'natural' aspects of the human lifecycle on medieval behaviour. Chronicles, hagiographical texts, archival documents and the surviving visual and material evidence inter-relate the 'social' and the 'political' much more closely than is often recognized. Rather than simply mining these texts for descriptions of battles, healthcare data or evidence of attitudes towards death, students on this module will explore how medieval authors constructed and presented health and disease, primarily of the leading figures on whom they focused, examining what these concepts meant politically, in order to understand more fully the relationship between lifecycle, life events and the ways in which they are recorded for posterity.

Coinage, Power and Identity in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (30 credits)
One source for the Middle Ages that appears to need no translation is its money: do we not all know what a coin is and does, after all? Perhaps not. The Roman Empire was a highly monetised society that took its taxes in coin; most of the early medieval West did not and could not, while even the Byzantine Empire that continued Rome in the East did not keep money the same for long. So what purposes did coinage really serve in these centuries? Were they even economic? And what do the coins of this era have to tell historians now? This module takes economic, iconographic and art-historical approaches to the coinage of late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages to address these questions, using the coinage itself and whatever other sources can be brought to bear. The module will include classes in Special Collections in the Brotherton Library in which ancient and medieval coins will be handled and studied.

Gender, Power and the Supernatural: Saints and their Cults (30 credits)
This module explores what saints have to tell us about the world in which they lived, tracking the development of their cults from the Late Antique Middle East to medieval western Europe. Saints were challenging figures: often marginal, transgressive, and critical of their societies, they tell us about a great deal more than religion. Through the study of the key texts (Saints' Lives, Miracle collections) associated with their cults, we examine the cultural and societal impact of both male and female saints, their veneration, their legends and miracles, pilgrimage to their shrines and their relics. Notions of sanctity provided a wide variety of models for exhortation and imitation that changed significantly during the period, and the processes for recognising sainthood displayed wider developments in the attempts to centralise religious authority.

Religious Communities and the Individual Experience of Religion, 1200-1500 (30 credits)
The module introduces the students to the complex interactions between communal and individual religious experience in the later Middle Ages (14th –15th c.). It challenges them to explore 'lived religion' – what was it like to be a monk, friar or a nun? How did lay people engage with religion through the parish community and in their private devotions? What was the experience of solitary religious pursuits (of visionaries, hermits and anchorites) in a largely communal age? These questions will be studied in the context of the institutional frameworks for religious experience (such as the monastic and mendicant orders, and the parish community) and by exploring the opportunities and tensions experienced by medieval Christians as participants in overlapping and competing approaches to religious life. These issues are considered through textual, visual and material sources using material from across Latin Christendom to see how trans-European structures were part of a very local experience.

The Medieval Tournament: Combat and Spectacle in Western Europe, 1100-1600 (30 credits)
This module will study the main forms of the tournament and their development from the High Middle Ages to the Early Modern period, as well as associated topics such as the use of arms and armour, and heraldry.

Medieval Bodies (30 credits)
This module will enable you to develop the analytical skills demanded by cultural history and cultural studies. It will help you to understand and deploy critical theory in historical contexts, and to analyse culture through the interdisciplinary use of different kinds of evidence: textual, visual, and material. The focus for our explorations will be the profound interest of medieval cultures in the human body: a topic which provided continual inspiration to critical theorists such as Bakhtin, Foucault, and Heidegger. To understand medieval bodies, we have to get to grips with concepts of the self different from our modern ones (before the invention of psychology); concepts of the body based on a very different medicine from ours; different, more permeable boundaries between the human and the non-human; different perceptions of ethnicity before the modern concept of race; and different ideas of gender. Join us on a journey of discovery!

Making History: Archive Collaborations (30 credits)
This module offers an exciting way of doing history by working with partner organisations, like West Yorkshire Archive Service and Special Collections in the Brotherton Library. It provides an excellent opportunity for you to utilise the wealth of original archive material on our doorstep in collaboration with archive professionals whilst you carry out independent research. The module encourages you to develop your awareness of the complex relationship between archivists and archives and how they create and shape history and heritage. The course is a mixture of workshops, project supervision, and dedicated time with archivists, focused on the creation of resources for public use: it could be an exhibition, guide to a collection, or web resources. This work placement module provides a stepping stone to work in museums, archives or heritage, as well as preparation for an academic career, by developing transferrable skills around public engagement, digital engagement, and education.

Turkish for Beginners (30 credits)
Turkish is one of the major languages of the contemporary Middle East. This module assumes no prior knowledge of the language, and it offers students an opportunity to develop basic but useful skills in four areas of language acquisition: listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. They should gain added self-confidence and self-esteem as well as transferable analytical skills through tackling the challenge of a difficult language, which is a useful addition to knowing other European, Middle Eastern and/or other non-European languages. Turkish is a ‘community language’ in the UK, in addition to being important and widely spoken in parts of NW Europe, in North Cyprus and in some other places around the world to which Turkish-speakers have migrated. Belonging to the non-European Turkic family of languages, it is related to (and can therefore serve as an entry to) the languages of Central Asia, all the way from Azerbaijan to the north-western borders of China. At the same time, Turkey itself is constantly growing in political, strategic and economic importance, and some knowledge of its language would be valued not only by many UK government departments (FCO, GCHQ, Business and Trade, etc) but also by the EU and by media and financial organizations, various NGOs or research bodies and a range of commercial employers. The module is designed as a discovery/optional module for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Arabic for Beginners (30 credits)
This module offers you the opportunity to progress from the level of a total beginner to lower intermediate level (half a GCSE) in the four skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening). On completion of this module you will be able to understand simple instructions, respond appropriately in everyday situations, express yourself using limited vocabulary and formulaic expressions and use the target language in a limited number of contexts so that it can be understood by a sympathetic native speaker. You will also develop an understanding of the structure of the language and the culture of the countries where the target language is spoken.

Persian for Beginners (30 credits)
Persian is one of the major languages of the contemporary Middle East. It is spoken throughout Iran and over large areas of Afghanistan; and one of its branches, Tajik, is widely current in Central Asia. Persian studies is typically paired with sub-fields such as Arabic, Islamic Religion and Culture, International Politics of the Middle East, Indo-Islamic culture and civilization, Sufism, linguistics, theology, philosophy, Near Eastern history, Turkish and the history of art. This module assumes no prior knowledge of Persian. It offers students an opportunity to develop their skills in four areas of language acquisition: listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing. The module is designed as an elective for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Advanced Medieval Latin (30 credits)
This module is for students who are already proficient in medieval Latin. Students will spend as much time as is necessary revising grammar and syntax. They will then read passages from the Latin Vulgate Bible, concentrating mainly on historical narratives, although there will be some readings in Biblical poetry. The remainder of the module will be spent in reading selected texts represent the various literary genres of medieval Latin. these selections may include texts from chronicles and diplomatic sources, law and politics, philosophy and theology, hagiography and liturgy, and Latin literature and poetry.

Medieval English (30 credits)
This module will provide you with the linguistic and critical skills you need to study medieval English texts in the original, underpinning research in medieval history, literature, and culture, and in medievalism. No previous experience of language study is required. The module will be adapted to the skills and interests of the students taking it, but will ensure that, by studying both Old and Middle English, you will gain a deep and rounded understanding of the numerous varieties of medieval English and how an understanding of one informs another. The precise syllabus will vary according to student need, but indicative list of texts to be studied would include: The Wanderer, Beowulf, Ælfric’s homily on St. Edmund, Laȝamon’s Brut, Pearl, Troilus and Criseyde, and Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur.

Old Norse (30 credits)
The Viking world stretched from Constantinople to North America, and the Old Icelandic literature which arose from it gives us some of our fullest insights into any medieval society. This module will provide you with the linguistic and critical skills you need to study Old Norse texts in the original, from Viking-Age runic inscriptions to later medieval sagas, underpinning research in medieval history, literature, and culture, and in medievalism. No previous experience of language study is required. Through reading passages of texts in the original and more widely in translation, you will gain a thorough understanding of the range of genres produced in and about the Viking world. Seminar discussions and assessments will give you the opportunity to develop your own research interests in Viking and medieval Scandinavian culture.

Learning and teaching

The course will connect you with the latest thinking in the field of Medieval Studies. IMS tutors are experts in their fields, and their cutting-edge research will inform the teaching you will receive. To help you make the most of their expertise, all IMS modules are taught in small groups. Postgraduate study in the IMS involves a range of teaching methods, such as seminars, workshops, computer exercises, practical sessions, student-led discussions and tutorials. You’ll also learn through independent study, allowing you to develop critical problem-solving and research skills, and to apply these skills in a piece of original research as part of your dissertation.

Throughout your degree, you'll receive support from your academic personal tutor who you'll work closely with for the duration of your studies. Your tutor will keep in regular contact with you and can provide support in all matters relating to your academic study. You'll also be able to access support from a dedicated Student Support Officer, who can help you with any personal or wellbeing issues. You’ll also have one-to-one support from your academic supervisor during your dissertation and can arrange to see members of staff in their office hours to discuss any issues. The Institute for Medieval Studies has a rich culture of research seminars, which bring together our staff and students, as well as scholars from other universities giving papers which you can attend.

You can also benefit from support to develop your academic skills, within the curriculum and through online resources, workshops, one-to-one appointments and drop-in sessions.

There may also be opportunities to take part in organised field trips to important medieval sites in northern England with fellow students and staff from the Institute.

Listen to the School of History podcast – a series of interviews with our academic staff about their latest groundbreaking publications, their research interests and how they bring them into the classroom, and what inspired them to become historians in the first place.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.

Assessment

Depending on the modules you choose, you’ll be assessed by a range of methods to develop skills that are useful across the field of Medieval Studies. These will include transcriptions, bibliographies, essays, reports, translations and occasionally exams, as well as the dissertation. Fairness and inclusivity will be ensured through offering a choice of assessment methods, opportunities for formative assessment, and through the provision of training where skills and support are required.

The assignment tasks you will complete have been designed to help you develop your research and critical skills. In the course, you will need to be able to research independently in order to evaluate claims and arguments to come to a reasoned conclusion. You will also need to produce convincing evidence to support your conclusions. Tasks like presenting to an audience or working with others to produce a joint presentation will similarly help you to boost your employability skills.

Your lecturers will use a marking scheme to ensure fairness in assessing your work, which will also be considered by a second colleague and by an external examiner.

Applying

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (Hons) or higher, or equivalent. Previous specialised study in an aspect of the pre-modern world, especially medieval studies, would be an advantage.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in all components. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Arts and Humanities (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Arts and Humanities (10 weeks).

We also offer online pre-sessionals alongside our on-campus pre-sessionals. Find out more about our six week online pre-sessional.

You can also study pre-sessionals for longer periods – read about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.

How to apply

Documents and information you need:

You’ll need to upload the following documents when completing the online application form:

  • Your degree certificate and transcript, or a partial transcript if you’re still studying. Please provide official translations into English if applicable.

  • A personal statement of around 500 words in response to the questions asked in the supporting statement section of the application form.

  • If English is not your first language, you’ll need to submit proof of your English language results (eg IELTS).

We do not generally request references, unless further information is required to support the assessment of your application.

Where further information to support the assessment of your application is needed, we may ask for a recent sample of written work.

Deadlines

Please see our How to Apply page for information about application deadlines.

The ‘Apply’ link at the top of this page takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.

If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

The Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures receives very large numbers of high-quality applications and regrets that it cannot make offers to all of its applicants. Some particularly popular schools may have to reject many that hold the necessary academic qualifications.

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

University of Leeds Taught Admissions Policy 2024

This course is taught by

Institute for Medieval Studies
School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies
School of History
School of English

Contact us

Student Education Service Office

Email: HistoryPGTadmissions@leeds.ac.uk
Telephone:

Fees

UK: £11,500 (Total)

International: £24,500 (Total)

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Read more about paying fees and charges.

Part-time fees
Fees for part-time courses are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more on our living costs and budgeting page.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Career opportunities

This course is excellent preparation for further study in related fields and will equip you for PhD study in all areas of Medieval Studies. It will also equip you with advanced research, communication and analytical skills that are valuable to employers in a wide range of careers. Graduates from the IMS have gone to careers in academia, museums and galleries, libraries and archives, conferences and events management, the civil service and publishing. Many others have continued with their studies at PhD level.

We offer a range of paid opportunities for you to gain experience that can really help with your career plans. You’ll be able to become an academic mentor for final-year students as they complete their dissertations to gain experience of teaching, one-to-one communication and people management.

The IMS also runs paid one-year internships during the academic year on projects such as the International Medieval Bibliography, IMS website or the International Medieval Congress, allowing you to gain additional practical experience.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more about Careers support.