Medieval and Early Modern Studies - MA

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

Overview

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.

Entry requirements

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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.

Entry requirements

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. 

International students

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.

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.

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Course structure

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.

Modules

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.

Compulsory modules currently include

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).

Find out more about MEMS8880

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?

Find out more about MEMS8930

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.

Find out more about MEMS8940

Optional modules may include

Inscriptions are crucial for the study of ancient history. Straddling the divide between material evidence and literary sources, they are challenging to read because of their (often) fragmentary state and formulaic language.

This module will train students to handle epigraphic evidence and exploit its potential to the fullest extent. Key themes include but are not limited to textual problems, statistical approaches, and the confrontation of epigraphic and literary sources. Each theme will be explored in the context of a topic from political and/or social history (e.g. status, migration, multiculturalism, religion, law, the military). No knowledge of an ancient language is required.

Find out more about CLAS8360

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.

Find out more about HART8260

Religion has often been regarded as the motor for change and upheaval in seventeenth-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 seventeenth-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 about 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 the erosion of its position from a national Church to the established Church over the century. The marginal position of English Catholics in seventeenth-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.

Find out more about MEMS8000

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.

Find out more about MEMS8030

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.

Find out more about MEMS8050

The teaching 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. Consequently, certain seminars will take place outside the seminar room, looking at the evidence in situ. Topics covered will include topography, civic governance, urban defence, house and household, commercial practices and premises, parish church development, the place of religious houses, pilgrimage and city-crown relations, as a way of examining issues such as space, power, patronage and responses to changing social, political and economic conditions. Students will be encouraged to think comparatively, both nationally and internationally, to assess Canterbury's place within medieval European society.

Find out more about MEMS8640

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.

Find out more about MEMS8760

This module is designed to introduce students to the range of evidence and approaches to that evidence available to investigate the pre-modern past. This objective will be achieved in the context of providing them with the opportunity to undertake in-depth investigation of the city in which they are studying: Paris. Paris was one of the great cities of the pre-modern world and long before the French Revolution, Paris was a crucible of cultural change throughout the Medieval and Early Modern period. Here, surrounding the banks of the Seine, the city witnessed the rise of the University, the creation of Parliament, the invention of Gothic art and architecture, and the formation of the Huguenots, leading to the spread of scholasticism, democracy, artistic development, and religious reformation across Europe and beyond.

A study of its history offers unparalleled opportunities for students to examine themes of European relevance, such as the beginning of urbanisation, the growth of Universities, or the outbreak of religious violence during the Protestant reformation, grounded in a particular historical, literary or artistic context. Likewise, the study of Paris in Paris will allow staff delivering the module to introduce students to a range of types of evidence and of scholarly approaches to that evidence, thus giving them the skills they need to proceed to the MA dissertation. This aspect of the course will include appropriate field trips, locations might include the royal palaces of Sainte-Chapelle and Versailles, leading museums such as the Musée national du Moyen Âge, or to world-class libraries, such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The opportunity to study the history of Paris in situ using real artefacts will present a uniquely stimulating opportunity for students to develop their understanding of the period and of the use of evidence in research.

By providing research-driven teaching, access to source material through site-specific analysis, and facilitating pedagogical encounters with the history of the city in which they are studying, this core module presents an exceptional pathway for MEMS graduates. The curriculum design will enable MEMS students to enhance their historical, literary and artistic knowledge, cultivate their interdisciplinary skills, and acquire the necessary methodological tools to prepare for their dissertation. Above all, the study of pre-modern Paris in modern-day Paris will present MEMS students with an unparalleled opportunity to engage with the past in a dynamic learning environment.

Find out more about MEMS8840

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.

Find out more about MEMS8860

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.

Find out more about MEMS8900

Compulsory modules currently include

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.

Find out more about MEMS9980

Teaching

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).

Fees

The 2022/23 UK fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9300
  • EU full-time £13000
  • International full-time £17400
  • Home part-time £4650
  • EU part-time £6500
  • International part-time £8700

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

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 information@kent.ac.uk.

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Additional costs

General additional costs

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

Funding

Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both:

We have a range of subject-specific awards and scholarships for academic, sporting and musical achievement.

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Independent rankings

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.

Research

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.

Careers

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.  

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