Social and Cultural 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

Student reading

This wide-ranging course focuses on the history of people, their societies and cultures. You will explore how people have lived and died across a broad span of historical periods and geographies.

The core modules and dissertation workshops will introduce you to key concepts in social and cultural history and improve your research and writing skills. You will also choose from a range of optional modules, allowing you to focus on societies and periods that are of interest to you. There are opportunities to pursue distinct routes through the course, including health histories and histories of identity.

You could study health care in Africa, communities and castes in India, European life courses or the movements of people across the world. You’ll be able to focus on gender, race and religion as well as other issues that have shaped the lives of individuals and communities, from the medieval to the modern.

Taught by expert researchers within the School of History and across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures, this course uses the latest approaches and thinking in social and cultural history to give you an insight into the lives of others.

This course is also available to study part-time over 24 months.

Specialist resources and facilities

We have a wealth of resources for social and cultural historians. The world-class Brotherton Library and its Special Collections contain a huge number of early printed, archive and manuscript materials including the Liddle Collection on the First and Second World Wars, Leeds Library of Vernacular Culture, manuscript and commonplace books, travel journals and one of the best collections of cookery books and household manuals in the country.

Extensive collections of national, regional and local newspapers from over the years are available on microfilm, as well as cartoons and satirical prints from the British Museum and extensive collections of letters and correspondence. The Yorkshire Fashion Archive and M&S Archive on campus allow you to gain a real insight into popular culture over time.

For those choosing the health histories route, there is the opportunity to draw on the policy strengths and links of the Leeds Centre for Global Health Histories, which works with the World Health Organisation and national governments around the world. For those interested in identities, there are opportunities to work with leading scholars associated with interdisciplinary centres such as the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies and the Centre for African Studies.

Course details

For this course, you will take two core modules to develop your knowledge and skills. In ‘Concepts and Debates in Social and Cultural History’ you will explore central approaches and historical discussions in the subject, while ‘Communicating History’ will build your understanding of research methods and ways of communicating and disseminating historical ideas.

You will choose additional optional modules from a wide range on offer. You may choose to select options relating to a specific track, such as health or identity, or create a more bespoke collection reflecting your own interests. You can draw on the diverse expertise of our tutors by choosing modules across Indian, African, North and Latin American, British and wider European histories, as well as time periods from the medieval to the present day.

You will also have the opportunity to work collaboratively with partner organisations, such as the West Yorkshire Archive Service, by studying the ‘Making History: Archive Collaborations’ optional module.

This programme will equip you with a broad skill set for historical research as well as a good base of subject knowledge. You will be able to demonstrate these with your dissertation, which allows you to conduct independent research on a topic of your choice under expert academic supervision. You will submit this by the end of the programme in September.

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

Concepts and Debates in Social and Cultural History (30 credits)
'Concepts and Debates' is a core module for the MA programme in Social and Cultural History. Students will be introduced to key concepts and debates associated with social and cultural history, and will be encouraged to explore how these methods shape historical approaches to primary sources. Theoretical concepts will be discussed by examining the work both of key thinkers and influential works, thereby providing concrete examples of the application of abstract ideas. Students will develop skills in identifying and analysing diverse source materials and significant historiographic debates in the field in order to develop a clearer understanding of the definition of social and cultural history as a field. Topics include gender, race, belonging, communication and memory, with opportunities to specialize in areas such as the social history of health and medicine and the formation and significance of social and cultural identities.

Communicating History (30 credits)
‘Communicating History’ is a core module for the MA programme in Social and Cultural History. 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.  

Dissertation (60 credits)
Students will write a dissertation of 15,000 words based on a body of primary sources and historical methods relevant to the study of social and cultural history. The dissertation will evaluate relevant secondary literature, display the ability to set out a problem, discuss methodology and construct a clearly-expressed argument. The dissertation can be written on a topic of the student's choice, subject to the availability of appropriate supervision. It is expected that students will aim to produce work which offers an original contribution to existing knowledge.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Social Histories of South Africa (30 credits)
The module is an introduction to social history in southern Africa. Its chronological range is from the mineral revolution in the later nineteenth century to the present day. Its core is a series of sessions each dedicated to some branch of social history. The module imparts the complexity and diversity of human experience in southern Africa in the course of 150 years and it should have a broad appeal – to social and cultural historians, to those with interests in the histories of colonialism and race, and to those interested in African history and twentieth century history.

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.

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 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.

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.

Learning and teaching

We use a range of teaching and learning methods. The majority of your modules will be taught through weekly seminars, where you will discuss issues and themes in your chosen modules with a small group of students and your tutors. There will be opportunities for project-based learning in archival and heritage settings, and one-to-one supervision to support your dissertation research. Independent study is also crucial to this degree, giving you the space to shape your own studies and develop your skills.

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.


We use different types of assessment to help you develop a wide range of skills. Depending on what modules you choose, you may be asked to give a presentation, create a short podcast or series of blog posts, develop a case study or write an analytic essay. In addition to the dissertation, you will write a supporting research proposal.


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 cultural studies, literature, or sociology.

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 Taught Admissions Policy 2024

This course is taught by

School of History

Contact us

Student Education Service Office



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 will enable you to both build historical knowledge and gain high-level research, analysis and communication skills that will prove valuable in a wide range of careers. Graduates have found success in a wide range of careers in education, research, administration 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. Additional opportunities are available through our archival and heritage partners.

Careers support

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