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The MA provides a thorough grounding in the skills required for advanced study in the medieval and early modern periods. It challenges you to engage with the evidence and methods of different disciplines in order to equip you with the wide range of research techniques crucial for studying the period.
We are an interdisciplinary centre for the study of Medieval and Early Modern periods. Our 28 teaching staff are drawn from English, History, Architecture, Classical & Archaeological Studies, History & Philosophy of Art, and the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.
MEMS offers a successful, interdisciplinary MA programme, which attracts students from across the world. A thriving community of enterprising, supportive graduate students study for research degrees and benefit from the Centre’s involvement in the prestigious EU-funded Erasmus Mundus doctoral programme, Text and Event in Early Modern Europe (TEEME). We have close relationships with Canterbury Cathedral and the Archaeological Trust, which allow our students access to a wide range of unique historical, literary and material evidence.
You are more than your grades
For 2022, in response to the challenges caused by Covid-19 we will consider applicants either holding or projected a 2:2. This response is part of our flexible approach to admissions whereby we consider each student and their personal circumstances. If you have any questions, please get in touch.
A first or second class honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time
As well as a compulsory module in disciplinary methods, you study an exciting and varied range of optional modules. In addition, you produce a final dissertation of 12-15,000 words, for which you receive one-to-one supervision.
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
Our cultural heritage is defined by the legacy of manuscript artefacts. Those books and documents carry with them multiple pieces of information — more so than any printed book — that help decipher not just the meaning of their texts but also of their purpose and history. This module introduces you to the long history of that culture and, in particular, will give you the technical tools to make use of these sources. You will learn to read a variety of scripts and to appreciate the cultural contexts in which they were used (Latin palaeography, so called because the scripts — whatever the language — derive from the practices of ancient Rome); you will also study the book as object, understanding the elements of its make-up and what they can tell us about the society in which it was made and used (codicology).
Latin was the premier language of medieval and early modern Europe, and a firm grounding in it becomes essential to you now that you are graduate students. The module is specifically tailored for medievalists and early modernists. It has two interlocking aims: one is to ensure you are well versed enough in the language that you can feel confident in approaching primary sources in your dissertation research for the MA and, indeed, beyond if you continue to doctoral studies. The second is to consider the role of Latin as a living language in the post-classical world — and one whose influence is still felt in our society today. You will be considering its transformations and variety and will be encouraged to ask what these developments tell us about the societies in which it was used. Alongside that, we will consider the role of Latin: how did that change from its classical origins? Why did it survive so long? How far did it decline in power over the long period we study?
This module is designed to equip you with skills essential to textual study. On the one hand, it will consider diplomatic — that is, the construction of official documents — and help you decipher the strategies involved in the drafting, propagating and registering of those documents across the Middle Ages and into the early modern period. On the other, it will explain the strategies involved in editing literary texts, paying attention to how this has developed as a practice, and how it is continuing to change with computerised techniques. Together, these two traditions form the discipline of philology, and by studying them together, you will appreciate the fruitful interplay which has informed their development. You will have the opportunity to put into practice the skills which you learn.
This module will pursue three interrelated aims through the use and study of drawing:
Firstly, it will introduce students to the range of drawing techniques used by artists, the different types of drawings they produce and their function in the process of designing and executing works of art. It will equip students with the tools for analysing and identifying drawings, and provide foundations for effective connoisseurship.
Secondly, it will equip students with a practice-based understanding of the role of drawing in artistic training and of its importance as a tool for creative work. Students will participate in drawing seminars where they will carry out exercises modelled on artistic practice. To give some indicative examples, these may begin with rudimentary conventions for drawing eyes and ears, through copy drawings to mechanical drawing methods like perspective and shadow projection, tracing and the use of the grid. The exercises may then build on these simple beginnings and develop towards portrait drawing informed by anatomical analysis of the skull, drawing from sculptural casts, from the draped and nude figure, sketching the landscape, and finally working towards the compositional drawing and methods for enlarging it. Drawing exercises will clarify for students the processes of artistic visualization and design, and make available to them an important tool of visual and art historical analysis.
Finally, the module will enable students to relate the analysis of historical drawings and the practice of making drawings to the theory of drawing and its significance in western culture generally.
This module will introduce students to the history and theory of curating through a series of detailed case studies from the early modern period to the present day. These will focus on how collections have been formed and maintained, the nature of key institutions in the art world like museums and galleries, and in particular it will examine the phenomenon of the exhibition. Different approaches to curating exhibitions will be examined, and the responsibilities of the curator towards artists, collections, and towards the public will be analysed. Broad themes in the theory of curating and museology will be examined. Wherever possible the case studies chosen will draw on the resources and expertise of partner organisations, such as Canterbury Museums and the Institute for Contemporary Art.
This course will explore the dynamic history of the Early Modern Indian Ocean. Students will study the importance of the physical environment in the formation of the empires and states of the area; from the annual monsoon to the importance of inland deserts as barriers and arenas of exchange. This will be achieved through the study of local texts, objects and images. The course will also consider the relationships between emergent European empires and established powers. Students will learn about the rise and fall of some of the great empires of history, from the Safavids of Iran to the Mughals of India, as well as the fascinating period of female rule in the Indonesian Kingdom of Aceh. The course will use a variety of texts in translation, from a Persian poetic account about a voyage to Siam, to the personal diary of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir.
Religion has often been regarded as the motor for change and upheaval in 17th century England: it has been seen as the prime cause of civil war, the inspiration for the godly rule of Oliver Cromwell and ‘the Saints’, and central to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. Fears of popery, it has been suggested, helped forge English national identify. This module reflects critically on these claims. It explores tensions within English Protestantism, which led to an intense struggle for supremacy within the English Church in the early 17th century, to be followed in the 1640s and 1650s by the fragmentation of Puritanism into numerous competing sects which generated a remarkable proliferation of radical ideas on religion and society. The Restoration of Church and King in 1660 saw the gradual and contested emergence of a dissenting community and the partial triumph of religious tolerance, with profound implications for English society and culture. Another key theme is the changing fortunes of Anglicanism, with its erosion of its position from a national Church to the established Church over the century. The marginal position of English Catholics in 17th century England, albeit with a genuine possibility of significant recovery of rights and influence under James II, is also crucial. The module will address issues of theology, the close relationship between political power and religious change, and the nature of debates on religion at national and local level, and also track elements of continuity and change over a formative century in English religious experience.
This module explores the dynamic relationship between the cult of relics and Gothic art. It will begin by retracing the aesthetics of devotion across Western Christendom, culminating in the creation of towering Gothic cathedrals. Throughout history, the design of cult images could reveal sacred presence, testify to miracle-working powers, and explicate the significance of a holy place using visual narratives. Through pilgrimage, gift-giving, and even theft, people acquired relics and 'invented' new cults. The success of a relic cult would benefit from the design of a magnificent reliquary, the depiction of pictorial programmes (in glass, sculpture, and painting), and the placement of the relic within a spectacular architectural setting. Together we will explore the development of Gothic art in light of changing devotional needs. Using a number of diverse case studies, students will acquire a wealth of historical information and develop a variety of intellectual approaches to function and significance of visual culture. Beginning with Paris and its surrounding cathedrals, we will extend our analysis to Gothic Canterbury, London, Castile, Prague, Siena, and Florence. Above all, this course will encourage students to think critically about the influence of art in the religious imagination.
France is the setting and inspiration for many plays first written and performed for London's professional theatres, 1576-1642. Whether in the history cycles that depicted Anglo-French diplomacy and war, or in the comedies and tragedies that revealed the ebb and flow of life in England’s near-neighbour, France as a site and space held a vivid place in the English imagination. This module is oriented around trans-national exchange (of ideas, people, goods, services) in early modern plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and other dramatists. France, and Paris in particular, will be read as a site of political unrest and religious fervour and debate, with the plays analysed in parallel to historical studies of the French Wars of Religion and networks of Anglo-French exchange during this period. Analysing the literary and historical contexts to these plays, the module will encourage students to think deeply about the dramatists’ creative engagement with issues such as national and religious identity, trans-national intellectual exchange, and the politics of difference.
This interdisciplinary course will focus on a number of inter-related themes which will be studied through differing types of evidence from written and printed texts to objects and standing buildings. Thus, as a way of aiding students to expand their intellectual horizons, some seminars will take place outside the seminar room to look at evidence in situ. Topics will include medieval topography, parish churches and lay piety, houses and shops, pilgrimage, and urban defences, using Canterbury as a contextualised case study.
This module explores the supposed renaissance in English devotional writings after the pastoral initiatives of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215. Students will consider the validity of historiographical models of religious change in this period, examining the emergence of pastoralia, 'affective piety' and of the so-called ‘vernacular theologies’ of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Among the texts to be explored will be extracts from a number of early fourteenth-century pastoral texts (such as Handlyng Synne and The Northern Homily Cycle), from the late fourteenth century – the Showings of Julian of Norwich, and, moving into the fifteenth century, Nicholas Love’s Mirror, The Boke of Margery Kempe and a range of Wycliffite and other ‘suspect’ writings. The literature of religious belief will in turn be situated against a range of manuscript case studies, critical readings, and theoretical studies.
This module will examine the social, material and experiential conditions of medieval and early modern drama. It will draw on a range of theoretical approaches to do so and consider the implications of applying these various approaches. Students will consider the implications of analysing performance as an ephemeral art form and the difficulties of doing so at a historical distance. This will entail analysing a wide range of primary sources, as well as engaging with current debates in Performance Studies and about contemporary theatrical 'reconstruction' projects, such as Shakespeare's Globe and Staging the Henrician Court. The module is structured around five key approaches to performance which students will examine in relation to a late-medieval and early modern playtexts over the course of ten weeks.
This module develops the skills introduced in the core palæography module by demonstrating their application to cultural and literary history. It will do this by considering the milieux in which hand-written texts were produced, circulated and stored in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. It, therefore, spans across both 'manuscript culture' and the centuries after the introduction of print. It considers the process of destruction and survival of codices from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, and also reflects on the continuing production of manuscript books and documents. At the same time, it assists students in further refining their technical skills in working with codices and documents.
In 888, the Carolingian Empire, often viewed as the last of the post-Roman successor states, collapsed. By the beginning of the twelfth century, Western Europe had been completely transformed – politically, socially, economically, culturally. What happened? This module offers an in-depth comparative study of France, Germany, Italy and the Low Countries in the tenth and eleventh centuries in order to address the controversies and challenges presented by a pivotal period of European history. With the onset of the later Middle Ages, historians begin to see a Europe characterised by quintessentially 'medieval' institutions and phenomena such as feudalism, the crusades, scholasticism, heresy, chivalry, public opinion, urbanisation and the supreme power of the papacy. It has been suggested that these transformations constituted a turning point in world history, setting Latin Europe on a path to global domination. Yet there is considerable disagreement over how all this came about. Indeed, some have suggested that little changed on the ground, that scholars have been tricked by the texts and by changes in the style and form of written records. Is it simply a matter of perception, or were there in fact profound political and social changes that amounted to ‘the making of Europe’? What did the Carolingian Empire bequeath the polities that rose in its wake? What was the ‘feudal transformation’, and why has the concept been so controversial? How did the pope come to wield such great power in European politics? To answer these and other questions, students will analyse a wide array of surviving documentation, including charters and administrative records, narrative histories and other literary works, letters, canon (church) law, liturgical and theological texts, and more.
An extraordinarily rich, multilingual corpus of writing survives from early medieval Britain. This material takes many physical and literary forms, including stone and metal inscriptions, and, on parchment, histories, hagiographies, elegies, riddles, epics, charters, liturgical rites, and so much more besides. Collectively, it attests to the vitality of the written word in a diverse range of social and political contexts in a period that is often, erroneously, described as a 'dark age'. The aim of this module is to provide students with an appreciation of the breadth and depth of the surviving textual corpus from early medieval Britain, equipping them with the technical and methodological skills to engage directly with this material for a wide variety of intellectual enquiries. Particular emphasis will be placed on the multilingual nature of this corpus and its ‘social logic’: what does the composition, use and reception of these artefacts tell us about the societies that produced them? Throughout, we will encounter some of the most celebrated literature from the period, including Beowulf, Asser’s Life of King Alfred, and Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica; we will also meet some texts and artefacts that to date have received relatively little attention. By the end of the module, students will have gained a keen awareness of the exciting possibilities that this corpus offers researchers for exploring the social, cultural and political worlds of early medieval Britain.
From the commencement of your MA you will be asked to start thinking about a proposed topic for a dissertation. You are advised to talk to members of staff about your topic before a suitable supervisor is assigned.
Assessment is by coursework and dissertation. The skills modules are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination.
This programme aims to:
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
You develop intellectual skills in:
You gain subject-specific skills in:
You will gain the following transferable skills:
The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:
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In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of English was ranked 10th for research intensity and 15th for research power in the UK.
An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 95% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of History was ranked 8th for research intensity and in the top 20 in the UK for research power.
An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
The research interests of our staff cover areas as broad as: religion, ideas, material culture, theatre and performance culture, gender, economy, food and drink, legal history, war, visual culture, politics, architecture, history of books and manuscripts, environment and travel, art history, and literature.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
The transferable skills gained from this postgraduate programme are enhanced by the University of Kent’s employability initiative and careers advice service. Many of our recent graduates have gone on to careers in heritage, museum or archivist work. Some go on to pursue research in the area, many continuing with PhDs at Kent or other higher education institutions.
Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library have unparalleled holdings of manuscripts and early printed books. Kent’s Templeman Library holds a good stock of facsimiles, scholarly editions, monographs and journals, and we are within easy reach of the British Library, The National Archives, and other London research libraries. There are good online computing facilities across campus and, in addition, our students have special access to postgraduate computer terminals and the postgraduate student room provided by the School of History.
The Centre runs a weekly research seminar, and special termly, public lectures to which we welcome distinguished speakers. These events are at the heart of the Centre’s activities. We also run a full programme of conferences and colloquia.
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Historical Research; English Historical Review; Renaissance Studies; Medium Aevum; Transactions of the Royal Historical Society; and Studies in the Age of Chaucer.
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
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