International 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

Image of the Arnold and Marjorie Ziff Building on the University campus

This innovative course offers specialist investigation of the history of world affairs from the late nineteenth century until today. It focuses on the global implications of interactions between states, societies and other international actors, and on the impacts of transnational phenomena on international affairs over time.

Leading scholars in the field of international history will guide your study of the origins and significance of some of the key challenges we face in our times, including conflict, security, diplomacy, migration, refugeedom, international co-operation, and transnational activism. The course also offers the chance to work with some of our experts in global history and tackle issues such as empire, decolonisation, and global public health challenges.

By studying the most important changes in the global arena over the last one hundred years, you will develop a portfolio of skills to help you pursue your career goals and compete strongly in your chosen professional field. You'll take core modules that cover major themes in international history and the methods and approaches used by international historians. You'll also be able to choose from a wide range of optional modules spanning the history of nations, continents, periods, and themes.

Your degree will be completed by a dissertation which will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills as a historian. This will be a 15,000 word project, completed under the supervision of one of our expert international historians, and based on your own research.

Specialist facilities

For over fifty years, the School of History at Leeds has built an outstanding reputation for teaching and researching international history.

Across this time, the University of Leeds' world-leading international historians have established an impressive range of study resources in this field with extensive monograph, journal and digital resources. In addition, the Brotherton Library’s recently refurbished Special Collections Research Centre holds a wealth of relevant original archive material and documentation for you to use in your research. Some of its major collections in international history include the Papers of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Leeds Russian Archive, a key resource for the study of Anglo-Russian relations in the 20th century; and the Liddle Collection, which contains the personal papers of thousands of people who lived through the world wars of the twentieth century.

Take a look around our three main libraries:

There are additional excellent resources for international historians in the Leeds region, including collections in the Leeds Library, the Royal Armouries, and the West Yorkshire Archive Service. The British Library also offers a reading room with access to its vast holdings just outside the City of Leeds.

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 will choose 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 two 30-credit core modules in semester 1 and two optional modules in semester 2. The dissertation will be submitted after 12 months of study. Part-time students take one 30-credit core module and one 30-credit option module in each year of study, with the dissertation submitted after 24 months.

The core modules develop the skills you need to succeed in postgraduate study, as well as deepening and broadening your understanding of the field of international history. The optional modules will allow you to focus on the areas of international history that interest you most. The dissertation will allow to put your skills into practice in an extended piece of historical writing.

Course structure

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

Compulsory modules

Methods and Approaches in International History (30 credits) - This module focuses on the major changes that have taken place in the discipline of international history in the hundred years or so since its inception. From original foundations in the history of diplomacy and elite-level interactions, a ‘new international history’ emerged, taking account of cultural, transnational and global ‘turns’. Attention has increasingly refocused on wider patterns of international interaction, more diverse histories and voices, and histories from below. At the same time, history and memory are often contested, potentially with national and international ramifications. This module will engage thematically with the shifting disciplinary landscape, to understand and apply different methodological approaches. It will also consider the uses and implications of changing conceptions of international history, and encourage students to reflect on how these can be deployed to engage non-academic audiences. It will incorporate relevant skills training to equip students for the study of international history at postgraduate level.

Global Challenges and Diplomacy (30 credits) - While the process, methods and outcomes of diplomacy have long been debated, ‘diplomacy’ itself remains a significant component of interaction on the international stage. Moreover, across the period from the early twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries, it has become a more diverse and multifaceted practice than academic distinctions between ‘old’ and ‘new’ perspectives have implied. This chronological module will use broadening conceptions of diplomacy to examine changes in the international system, from the World Wars and the Cold War of the twentieth century, through the post-Cold War years and the course of the twenty-first century. It will further reflect on the broadening of international agendas towards more multilateral frameworks, institutions, international organisations, and other fora. And it will consider, for example, the diversification of diplomacy through sporting, cultural or other means, and its application to problems such as migration and refugees, environmentalism and green diplomacy, and ‘Third Worldism’ and South-South solidarities. Are diplomats and diplomacy still necessary amid instant communication and digital information?

15,000 word Dissertation (60 credits) - Students will complete a 15,000-word dissertation based on historical methods relevant to the study of international history using appropriate primary sources for the subject and discipline. The dissertation will address a topic of the student’s choosing, subject to School approval and the availability of sufficient resources and relevant experience/expertise for supervision. It is expected that students will aim to produce work which offers an original contribution to existing knowledge.

Optional modules (students 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.

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency (30 credits) - The module explores various interpretations as to why insurgencies begin and how they are sustained. It also examines the strategic and operational dilemmas that various regimes faced when trying to quell revolts in the 20th century. Key themes such as decolonisation, redemptive violence, 'minimal force', intelligence, collaboration, pseudo warfare, the role of the media and 'divide and conquer' provide the basis for this module.

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.

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?

Britain in the World: A 'Force for Good'? (30 credits) - By history and habit, Britain has long been considered a world power. But British foreign policy at least since the end of the Second World War is also associated with arguments of decline: of forced adaptation to diminished status on the world stage; of reluctant withdrawal from empire; of a limited role between the superpowers during the Cold War, and of an uneasy relationship with European Community partners from the 1970s. At the same time however, and increasingly since the end of the Cold War, new narratives have been sought to advance Britain’s standing in the world. New Labour’s declaration for an ethical foreign policy was noteworthy; more recent reiterations of ‘Global Britain leading by example as a force for good in the world’ sit in a similar vein. Using a variety of case studies, predominantly from outside the familiar ‘special relationship’ and European spheres, this module will pose searching questions about British aspirations and interests on the world stage; about capabilities and constraints; and about identity and values in portrayals and perceptions of foreign policy.

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.

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.

Learning and teaching

This course will connect you with the latest research and thinking in international 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 and organisations giving papers which you can attend.

Listen to the School of History podcast – a series of interviews with our academic staff about their latest ground-breaking 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.


Students will be assessed through a variety of methods, which may include essays, dissertations, book and literature reviews, or 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 and a literature review.

The assignment tasks 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.


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. You could study a part-time online course starting in January, or a full-time course in summer. Find out more about online pre-sessionals.

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.


We usually aim to process your application within 2-4 weeks. However, during the busy April-June period this can take up to six weeks.

We recommend that you apply as early as possible so you can leave enough time to make any arrangements before starting the programme, such as moving to Leeds or visa applications. Application deadlines for scholarships are likely to close much sooner.

Occasionally we may invite applicants to interview before deciding whether to offer them a place.

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.

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

Contact us

Student Education Service Office



UK: £11,500 (Total)

International: £24,500 (Total)

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 about additional costs.

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 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

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

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 at the Careers Service website.