Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Medieval and Early Modern Studies - MA


This unique interdisciplinary programme provides the opportunity for intensive historical, literary and art-historical study.



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.

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS)

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.

National ratings

School of English

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.

School of History

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.

Course structure

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.

Modules may include Credits

The aim of the module is to give students a firm foundation in Classical Latin, both vocabulary and grammar (accidence and syntax), using a modern course devised precisely with that objective in mind. This thorough grounding in the Classical language will enable the student to study Medieval texts.

The schedule will follow the structured approach of Wheelock's Latin, covering: verbs: all four conjugations, indicative (both active and passive), present infinitive and imperative active; nouns, all five declensions, singular and plural, pronouns, demonstratives, relatives; adjectives, prepositions, the uses of the cases, simple sentence construction.

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Palaeography is the study of handwriting. This module aims to teach students how to read a variety of scripts that were used in western Europe from late antiquity to the early modern period. This also involves learning how to properly transcribe a document, in accordance with palaeographical conventions. The students will also learn to recognise particular types and families of scripts, which will in turn allow them to start dating the manuscripts.

The module also aims to provide students with a grounding in codicology and diplomatic. Codicology is the study of books and diplomatic is the study of the formal qualities of a document. The students will get the opportunity to work with original documents and learn how these were constructed and to what purpose, how to approach them as historical sources and how to formally describe them.

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This core course introduces students to different types of evidence, and to the relationship between evidence, disciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, analysis, method and argument. The teaching is based around categories of evidence and the ways in which scholars have written about them, using detailed work on primary-source examples. In addition to this explicit engagement with interdisciplinarity, which introduces students to the different approaches they will encounter in the weekly research seminar and in the series of options courses taught by staff across the Faculty, the course encourages students to think about the process of constructing a dissertation in relation to published work within the field. The assessment relates to both of these interrelated aims.

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Having arrived from the East in late 1347, a deadly and mysterious epidemic, whose nature is still uncertain, ravaged Europe for four years, killing about 50 per cent of its already weak population. But apart from killing the population, the Black Death left its profound marks on European economy, society, mentality and art. The course aims at studying the causes, spread, impact and consequences of the plague. Since no historical event, or phenomenon, can be studied separately from its context, the Black Death will be examined in a larger context of the fourteenth-century crisis, comprising population pressure, the Great Famine (1315-21), Cattle Plague (1319-21), anti-Jewish violence, violent warfare and social unrest.

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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.

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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, as follows:

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Printing was first undertaken in Europe in 1439, it was introduced to England in the 1470s, and arrived in Scotland in 1508. The impact of the printing press on the flow of information was one of the most significant innovations of the early modern period. However, more recently, scholars have argued that this new technology needs to be understood in the context of continuity of oral culture and a market for manuscript circulation of texts which remained thriving until the eighteenth century. This course will introduce MA students to the complexities of the circulation of news and ideas in early modern Europe. In so doing it will introduce them to a particular areas of scholarship (such as book history or the public sphere) and provide them with essential information for approaching primary source materials (e.g., practical knowledge of the limitations and strengths of the English Stationer's Register). Whilst primary source materials and secondary reading will be provided in English, because the book trade and news market were international, this course will cover other European contexts and so be of use to students with either British or European research interests. Moreover, concerns surrounding the movement of texts and ideas are of the essence for scholars in faculties of both literature and history, as such, the module will be naturally interdisciplinary and so suited to students with interests in both History and English.

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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.

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The module deals with aspects of ecclesiastical history, theology, Medieval canon law and Medieval political thought c. 1180—c. 1400. The course will be structured chronologically, tracing the development of political theories and practices of government developed by popes and lay rulers during the thirteenth century. Topics will include the ideas of papal power, ideas of state in England, Germany and Italy, the clash between papacy and lay rulers, the rise of new political subjects within Medieval Europe, especially towns.

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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.

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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.

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Teaching and Assessment

Assessment is by coursework and dissertation. The skills modules are assessed by a combination of coursework and examination.

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • provide you with a thorough grounding in the techniques and approaches necessary for advanced research in the medieval and early modern periods
  • introduce you to a wide range of literary and historical sources and to encourage you to identify and develop your own interests and expertise in the medieval and early modern periods
  • enable you to undertake interdisciplinary work
  • enable you to understand and use a variety of concepts, approaches and research methods to develop an understanding of the differing and contested aspects between and within the relevant disciplines
  • develop your capacities to think critically and to argue a point of view with clarity and cogency, both orally and in written form
  • develop your abilities to assimilate and organise a mass of diverse information
  • offer you the experience of a variety of teaching, research and study skills
  • develop your independent critical thinking and judgement
  • promote a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that provides breadth and depth  of intellectual inquiry and debate
  • assist you to develop cognitive and transferable skills relevant to your vocational and personal development
  • offer you learning opportunities that are enjoyable, involve realistic workloads, are pedagogically based within a research-led framework and offer appropriate support for students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the importance of considering continuities as well as decisive breaks in the transition from the medieval to early modern periods
  • the value of original materials to study local and regional history and literature.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • developing the skills needed for academic study and enquiry
  • the ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of primary and secondary sources
  • the ability to identify, investigate and analyse primary and secondary material
  • the ability to develop reasoned, defensible arguments based on reflection, study, analysis and critical judgement
  • the ability to reflect on, and manage your own learning and to seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your own performance and personal research skills
  • the ability to organise and present research findings
  • the ability to study and reach conclusions independently.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the close critical analysis of both primary and secondary material/sources
  • the ability to articulate your knowledge and understanding of material
  • well-developed language use and awareness, which includes a grasp of the standard critical terminology
  • appropriate scholarly practice in the presentation of formal written work.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • developed powers of communication and the capacity to argue a point of view, orally and in written form, with clarity, organisation and cogency
  • developed critical acumen
  • the ability to assimilate and organise substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds
  • enhanced skills in the planning and execution of project-based work
  • an enhanced capacity for independent research, intellectual focus, reasoned judgement and self-criticism
  • an ability to undertake original research, utilising all the facilities available including libraries, archives and online data and to extend this research through the use of email communication, processing information using databases and spreadsheets (where necessary).


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.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

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.

Dynamic publishing culture

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.

Global Skills Award

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.  

Entry requirements

A first or upper-second class honours degree in an appropriate subject or equivalent.

All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. 

English language entry requirements

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. 

Need help with English?

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.

Research areas

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.

Staff research interests

Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.

Dr Danielle van den Heuvel: Lecturer in Early Modern History

Early modern social and economic history.

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Dr Barbara Bombi: Reader in Medieval History

Ecclesiastical and religious history, 1200-1400; canon law and history of the medieval papacy; crusades and history of the military orders; Anglopapal relations in the 14th century; Latin diplomatic and palaeography.

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Professor Peter Brown: Professor of Medieval English Literature

Chaucer and other late-medieval English writers; contextual aspects of medieval culture, including historiography, the visual arts, dreams and space.

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Rosanna Cox: Lecturer in Early Modern Studies

Political thought, culture and literature in the mid to late 17th century; John Milton; early modern statecraft and diplomacy; gender, politics and reading; education and the English universities from the mid-16th century.

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Dr Sarah Dustagheer: Lecturer in Early Modern Literature

Early modern drama and literature, Shakespeare, playwriting, performance, theatre space and spatial theory.

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Professor Kenneth Fincham: Professor of Early Modern History

Early modern Britain, particularly religion; the clergy of the Anglican Church; the era of the Civil Wars. 

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Dr Helen Gittos: Lecturer in Medieval History

Anglo-Saxon England, especially the 10th and 11th centuries; the earlier medieval European Church, especially its liturgy and architecture; the status and uses of medieval vernacular languages; Anglo- Norman liturgy and architecture, and the impact of the Conquest on these topics.

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Dr Sarah James: Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Late medieval vernacular theological writings in their historical, religious and political contexts; the pastoral care tradition; interactions between medieval literature and visual culture; dreams and visions; late medieval drama.

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Dr Nikolaos Karydis: Lecturer; Programme Director, Architectural Conservation MSc

Development of construction technology and the design aspect of city making, with specific focus on the European traditions; urban development in Early Modern Rome and the ways in which specific building projects of the 16th and the 17th centuries conditioned urban renewal.

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Professor Bernhard Klein: Professor of English Literature

Early modern literature and culture, Irish studies, maritime culture and history.

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Dr Luke Lavan: Lecturer in Archaeology

Everyday use of space in the late antique and early medieval city (AD 300-700), drawing on archaeological, textual and epigraphic evidence from across the Roman Empire.

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Dr Jan Loop: Lecturer in Early Modern History

Intellectual, religious and cultural history of Europe and the Near East.

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Dr Marion O'Connor: Reader in English and American Literature

Theatrical reconstructions and dramatic revivals; iconography; drama as historiography; censorship.

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Dr Ryan Perry: Lecturer in Medieval Literature

Middle English textual cultures with a particular focus on historiographical literature; pastoral/ affective writings of the 14th and 15th centuries; late-medieval manuscripts containing English texts and methodologies which explore the axis between textual and material culture; devotional manuals and books containing lives of Christ.

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Professor Karla Pollmann: Professor of Classics

Byzantine literature and culture, Latin literature and culture, early Christian thought, exegesis and patristics.

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Dr David Potter: Reader in French History

Early modern France; the state and local society in the 15th and 16th centuries; the impact of war; the French aristocracy in the 16th century; Renaissance diplomacy.

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Dr Catherine Richardson: Reader in Renaissance Studies

Early modern literature and drama; language and narrative; material culture, especially clothing and the household.

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Dr Phil Slavin: Lecturer in Medieval History of Science

Environmental, economic and social history of late-medieval and early modern British Isles and the north Atlantic world.

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Dr Ben Thomas: Lecturer in History & Philosophy of Art; Curator, Studio 3 Gallery

Italian Renaissance art; Renaissance writing on the visual arts; 16th and 17th-century prints.

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Professor Tom Henry: Professor

Specialist in Italian renaissance art, with a particular interest in Central Italian painters including Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Pietro Perugino and Luca Signorelli.

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Dr Clare Wright: Lecturer in Medieval Literature

Medieval drama and performance; audiences; embodiment, corporeality, movement and memory; religious and devotional culture; performance theory; cognitive theory and neuroscience; space and place.

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The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

Medieval and Early Modern Studies - Taught MA at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7300 £15200
Part-time £3650 £7600

For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact

General additional costs

Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent. 


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