Modern History MA

Year of entry

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Start date
September 2024
Delivery type
On campus
12 months full time
24 months part time
Entry requirements
A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in history or a related subject.
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 working

Spanning the early modern period to the present day and covering Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas, our MA Modern History offers unparalleled range of study, not only chronologically and geographically but thematically too. We are one of the largest History departments in the country and the staff who teach on the course have a diverse range of expertise.

With a wide range of optional modules, you can tailor the course to suit your interests, but we also encourage you to develop how you think as a historian: you’ll have the chance to encounter new ways of ‘doing’ modern history, from the study of state archives to popular culture and everyday life. Crucially, we don’t prioritise any one approach so you’ll get to work with historians who ask different kinds of questions, use different kinds of sources and who understand the past in different ways.

Core modules (‘Practicing Modern History’ and ‘Communicating History’) help you understand these different approaches and give you the critical skills to contribute to current historiographical debates. A 15,000-word research dissertation, closely supervised by a leading historian in their field, allows you to apply the knowledge and skills you have gained.

The School of History at Leeds has more than thirty members of staff currently working in the field of Modern History. We have long-standing strengths in British, European, American and colonial history but we also have experts working on East and South-East Asia, India, Africa, Latin America, Australia and the Middle East. Thematically, we also can offer a tremendous range of Modern History. We have specialists in medical history and the history of psychiatry, histories of race and gender, military history, the histories of childhood and the family, histories of protest and resistance, political, transnational and international history.

The MA Modern History enables you to immerse yourself in this diverse scholarly community; besides taught modules, you are encouraged to participate in the School’s research culture by attending research seminars, conferences and workshops. The Leeds Humanitites Research Institute (LHRI) fosters interdisciplinary study and connects students with staff and students outside the School.

The University’s libraries provide some of the best archival and library collections in the country and its Special Collections have a wide range of archival holdings, with particularly extensive collections in political and social history, the history of religion and theology, histories of science, medicine, education, travel and art. Outside Leeds, students have easy access to the British Library at Boston Spa.

Specialist Resources

You’ll study in a supportive environment with a wide range of resources. The world-class Brotherton Library has one of the best history collections in the UK, ranging from monographs and journals to conference papers, theses and over 100 digital databases of primary sources and other materials for fundamental research. The Brotherton also has its own special collections including the Leeds Russian Archive and the Feminist Archive North.

The Alf Mattinson Collection is full of printed works and papers related to the history of the Labour Party, whilst the Romany collection and Liddle Collection offer insights into Romany culture and the First World War respectively.

Course details

The course has two core modules (worth 30 credits each); a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice (worth 60 credits) and you can take a further two optional modules (worth 30 credits each).

The course can be taken on a full-time (12 months) or a part-time (24 months) basis. Full-time students will take one 30-credit core module and one 30-credit optional module in each semester. The dissertation will be submitted after 12 months of study. Part-time students take one 30-credit module each semester of both Year 1 and Year 2, with the dissertation submitted after 24 months.

The core modules give you the skills you need to study Modern History and communicate your work. The first of these, ‘Practicing Modern History’ helps build your confidence working with different historical approaches and incorporating these different approaches into your own historical practice. The second, ‘Communicating History’, gives you the skills you need to share your own research and understand how historians contribute to our understanding of the contemporary world. The optional modules allow you to specialize. Whether you wish to focus on an existing interest or do something entirely new, our range of staff expertise enables you to study particular times, places and topics in depth. The dissertation enables you to put the knowledge and skills you have gained 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

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

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

Compulsory modules

Practicing Modern History (30 credits)
Working across a broad chronological and thematic spectrum, students will develop a critical and practical understanding of approaches to modern history. Expertise is available within the School to support interests from early modern to contemporary history. Students will engage with a variety of approaches and methods, and develop their skills in order to participate in debates within and between competing approaches. Students will learn how to apply these approaches and methods in their own work to a variety of historical materials and forms of evidence.

Communicating History (30 credits)
Today’s historians are as likely to be involved in debates on the toppling of statues as they are working in an archive. This module helps students understand how history is communicated, consumed and contested in the contemporary world. From twitter storms to media controversies, from podcasts to museums, the module helps students think critically about the history that surrounds us. We think about how the political present shapes the terms of academic debate – not only in Britain but around the world – and the impact that historians can have in contributing to public understanding of the past. Students also learn how to communicate their own research to different audiences and through different kinds of media. We explore the ethical implications of public history and the ways in which historians can learn from, as well as inform, the people and communities with which they work. 

15,000-word Dissertation (60 credits)
Students will complete a 15,000 word dissertation based on a body of primary sources. Students are able to develop their dissertation based on a topic of their choice, guided by an expert in the field. It is expected that students will aim to produce work which offers an original contribution to existing knowledge. The dissertation will evaluate relevant secondary literature, display the ability to set out a problem, discuss methodology and construct a clearly-expressed argument.

Optional modules

You will choose a further two modules worth 30 credits each.

Creating History: Political Memoirs and the Construction of British Political History (30 credits)
This module explores the use of political memoirs and autobiographies as an historical source. Political memoirs may seem to have many advantages for historians, often being released shortly after the events they describe and offering insights that other sources may not provide. But how far can we trust politicians to give a reliable account of their own role in the events they describe? Are memoirs just about making money, self-justification, and settling scores? How should we respond to different politicians giving completely opposed accounts of the same events? This module will allow students to think critically about political memoirs as a historical source. It will do so by considering what the memoirs tell us about particular events or themes in post-war British political history, setting the construction of events in the memoirs against other primary sources and the historical scholarship on those events, and allowing students to make their own judgements on how far we should use memoirs as a source in the creation of political history.

Stalinist Terror (30 credits)
Between 1936 and 1938, the Stalin regime murdered the majority of its senior Party and state officials and then hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens. What could have provoked such a violent assault on the state and society? Was it part of a campaign, planned in detail by Stalin, to destroy all real and potential opposition to his leadership (Conquest)? Was terror applied to overcome bureaucratic resistance to central policy (Getty, Origins)?How have Getty's ideas changed since then? Was it a response to growing social disorder (Hagenloh)? Did the regime inadvertently reveal, in the course of the Moscow Trials, what appeared to be a conspiracy against it (Harris)? Can the Terror be explained in terms of a generalised fear of conspiracy (Rittersporn)? What have we learned since the archives opened in 1991, and in what directions should historians be taking their research in order to uncover the sources of the Terror?

Revolution and Rebirth: Eastern Europe and the USSR, 1985-99 (30 credits)
This module explores the collapse of communism and its aftermath in Eastern Europe and the former USSR during the 1980s and 1990s. The first part of the module examines the causes of collapse and the ways in which different revolutions played out during 1989-1991. The second part of the module looks at what came next as capitalist democracy was (almost everywhere) built on the ruins of communist dictatorship. This was a period not just of great change, but also one of high aspirations for the future, clashes of ideas and ideals, as well as a range of important continuities that spanned the ideological divide between the communist and post-communist eras.

Black Internationalism (30 credits)
This module explores the boundaries and intersections between models of black nationalism and black internationalism in the twentieth century. It focuses on the connections between liberation movements within nation states across the African Diaspora and developing models of black internationalism. As such it engages with ideas of home and homeland, transnationalism and Diaspora. This module will use a variety of sources including newspapers, political pamphlets and speeches, novels, memoirs and organizational records.

Sexuality and Disease in African History (30 credits)
This module will examine the history of sexuality and disease in Africa from the nineteenth century to the present day. It will consider African philosophies of healing, as well as western preconceptions of African epidemiology and sexuality. It will then focus on the impact of colonialism on disease prevalence and treatment, and on patterns of sexual behaviour. Finally, the module will analyse recently emerging diseases in Africa, focusing particularly on HIV and Ebola.

Histories of Migration from Early Modern to Modern (30 credits)
Migration has been central to human histories since the earliest times. In this module, students will explore the histories of migration from the early modern period to the present day, in a variety of geographical and political contexts. Seminars led by experts in early modern and modern histories of different geographical areas will allow students to engage with common themes and diverse realities of historical migrations, while considering key overarching questions concerning migration, mobility, empire, transnationality, and modernity. Ours is a world shaped by migration: this course will place debates around migration and the idea of migration 'crises' in historical perspective, while using primary sources to explore individual and group experiences of migration, alongside the responses of people, states, and international communities. Seminars will mix specific case studies - from the early modern Atlantic to India around Partition and beyond - with discussion of broader questions. What has it meant historically to be a migrant, or a refugee, exile, or nomad? What has been the nature of forced and voluntary migrations in different historical contexts? What is the relationship between histories of migration and histories of race, conflict, state formation, empire, class, identity, and internationalism? How, and by whom, are migration histories remembered? By exploring a diverse range of migration histories, students on this module will come to understand the central place of migration in history and gain a historical perspective on contemporary debates.

Gender and Power in Early Modern Europe (30 credits)
This module explores gender as a fundamental category of historical analysis, and examines the extent to which people's lives, status and identity were shaped by gender in early modern Europe. It will evaluate how ideas of masculinity and femininity were constructed, negotiated and controlled, and will reflect on how concepts of patriarchy - in which men and maleness were privileged - imbued early modern culture. Gender was inextricably tied to issues of power: the regulation of relations between the two sexes was seen as essential for social harmony. The module will consider the implications of gendered expectations for politics, the life-cycle, economic life, religion, sociability and appearance. Nonetheless, gender stereotypes were frequently resisted or circumvented, and students will also evaluate transgressions of prescribed notions of masculinity and femininity. The variation of ideas and experiences across Europe will be a central theme. In travelling from court to convent and from household to tavern, this module will allow students to engage with a rich body of theoretical work, detailed historiographical studies of individuals and particular areas of Europe, and many fascinating published primary sources by men and women who addressed and debated the significance of gender.

The idea of Black Culture (30 credits)
Cultural expression has been central to the history of the black diaspora since its inception. Forms such as music, dance, poetry, literature, theatre, film, painting and sculpture, have served as the venues through which black diasporic consciousness has been generated and black politics made manifest. As such, the question of what black culture means in its totality, of what it constitutes as an idea, has been a source of ongoing debate amongst black intellectuals. These debates centre on the belief that grasping the unique character of black diasporic expression is key to generalising its political potential. In this module, we will engage with the work of intellectuals attentive to the idea of black culture, covering the historical span from emancipation in the nineteenth century through to the present, alongside the geographical spread of North America, the Caribbean, Europe and the African continent. It will involve close readings and discussions of essays, articles and books by key black diasporic intellectuals, in order to unpack their particular stance on black culture as an idea.

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.

Medicine and Warfare in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (30 credits)
This module examines the history of the development of military medicine in Britain and Europe since the middle of the 19th century. It explores the political negotiations over the professionalisation of medicine as a branch of the armed services, the development of medical technologies in times of conflict and the significance of transport and hygiene in shaping medical caregiving. It considers the social and cultural implications of military medicine, including the development of humanitarian principles of wartime caregiving, the implications of military medicine for the gendering of care and cultures of war hospitals. Finally, it examines the long-term social impacts of war disability and pensions for post-war societies.

Learning and teaching

This course will connect you with the latest research and thinking in the broad field of modern history.

Our staff are dedicated teachers as well as experts in this field, and their teaching is informed by their own cutting-edge research. Most of your optional modules will be taught through weekly two-hour seminars, where you’ll discuss major concepts, debates, and sources with a small group of students and your tutor.

Independent study also forms an important part of this degree, giving you the space to develop into a researcher in your own right. You will be supervised by one member of staff for your dissertation and can arrange to see members of staff in their office hours to discuss any issues. The school has a rich culture of research seminars, which bring together our staff and students, as well as historians from other universities giving papers which you can attend.

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.


You will be assessed through a variety of approaches, including essays, dissertations, book and literature reviews, and podcasts. Fairness and inclusivity will be ensured through opportunities for formative assessment and in the provision of training where skills and support are required. You might also be offered a choice of assessment, for example between an essay and a podcast or between a presentation or a literature review.

The assignments you will complete have been designed to help you develop critical skills that are valued by employers. 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.


Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (Hons) in history, or a degree scheme that includes a significant proportion of history, or a related subject such as politics.

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.


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 Admissions Policy 2025

This course is taught by

School of History

Contact us

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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.

Please view our Scholarships and Employment page for the latest information about School scholarships.

Career opportunities

This course will enable you to gain high-level research, analysis and communication skills, which will prove valuable in a wide range of careers.

History MA graduates have found success in a wide range of careers in journalism, policy making, research, and the private sector. Many others have continued with their studies at PhD level.

We offer different forms of support to help you reach your career goals. You’ll have the chance to attend our career groups, meeting students with similar plans, or you could become a paid academic mentor to an undergraduate completing their final-year dissertation. You could also apply for one of the internships we offer each year.

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.

Study abroad and work placements

Our optional placement module "Making History" provides a fantastic opportunity to gain relevant experience in areas relating to History such as archiving and heritage. You will gain 50 hours of work experience working on a project with a partner organisation. You will also develop your critical analysis skills through the completion of a critical essay and a project portfolio.