Students preparing for their graduation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral

Imperial History - MA


The MA in Imperial History allows you to examine key themes and regions in the making of world history, from the 18th century to the present day.



Imperial history is a rapidly growing and innovative field of historical research, which offers you the opportunity to explore the origins, workings and legacies of empires. By critically engaging with a range of theoretical and empirical literatures, as well as conducting original research, you use historical data to tackle momentous questions relating to violence, development and global inequality.

The programme is administered by the School of History and convened by Dr. Giacomo Macola, Senior Lecturer in African History. Led by five specialists in the School, the programme takes a broad interdisciplinary approach which also encompasses renowned academics from other departments.

The team offers particular expertise in African political history, the history of military technology and conflict, global histories of religion and the newly-emerging field of children and childhoods. You also have the opportunity to participate in the activities of the Centre for the History of Colonialisms.

This programme offers an ideal launching pad for students who envisage careers with an international dimension or plan to embark on doctoral work.

Two bursaries to cover full-time tuition fees at the home/EU rate will be made available on a competitive basis. Details about funding opportunities will be posted on the School of History website here in due course. For further information and informal enquiries, prospective applicants should contact either the MA convenor, Dr. Giacomo Macola ( or Faye Beesley, the School of History’s Postgraduate Co-ordinator (

About the School of History

The School of History at the University of Kent offers a great environment in which to research and study. Situated in a beautiful cathedral city with its own dynamic history, the University is within easy reach of the main London archives and is convenient for travelling to mainland Europe.

The School of History is a lively, research-led department where postgraduate students are given the opportunity to work alongside academics recognised as experts in their respective fields. The School was placed eighth nationally for research intensity in the Research Excellence Framework 2014, and consistently scores highly in the National Student Survey.

There is a good community spirit within the School, which includes regular postgraduate social meetings, weekly seminars and a comprehensive training programme with the full involvement of the School’s academic staff. Thanks to the wide range of teaching and research interests in the School, we can offer equally wide scope for research supervision covering British, European, African and American history.

At present, there are particularly strong groupings of research students in imperial and African history, medieval and early modern cultural and social history, early modern religious history, the history and cultural studies of science and medicine, the history of propaganda, military history, war and the media, and the history of Kent.

National ratings

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

The MA in Imperial History is available for one year full-time, or two years part-time study

Students take four modules: two compulsory and two additional specialist modules (to be chosen from a menu of at least five variable yearly options). 60 further credits are earned through a final 15,000-word-long dissertation.


Compulsory modules

  • Methods and Interpretations in Historical Research
  • Themes and Controversies Modern Imperial History
  • Dissertation of 15,000 words

Optional modules

  • Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa
  • War in the Hispanic World since 1808
  • Colonial Childhoods
  • An Intimate History of the British Empire
  • Europe in Crisis, 1900-1925
  • No End of a Lesson: Britain and the Boer War
  • Writing of Empire and Settlement
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Discourses
Modules may include Credits

This is a core module for the MA in Imperial History. Its chief objective is to survey the field of imperial history and chart the momentous changes it has undergone since the heydays of Western imperialism. The module explores the principal controversies that have shaped this field of scholarship over the past century. By focusing on a series of past and ongoing scholarly debates, students will gain a thorough understanding of complex theoretical issues pertaining to the operations and consequences of Western empires. Themes to be explored successively include: the relationship between empire, slavery and the industrial revolution; 'peripheral' readings of late nineteenth-century imperialism and the Scramble for Africa; ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ and British imperialism; violence and settler colonialism; colonial knowledge production; popular imperialism; the imperialism of decolonization; empires as global networks.

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This course investigates the nature of historical research at its highest level. While postgraduate students are expected to become highly specialised researchers in their own particular field or subfield, this course encourages them to consider history as a wider discipline and to broaden their approach to evidence and interpretation. Students will be expected to engage with a variety of intellectual viewpoints and methodological approaches to the discipline, and consider the impact that other disciplines have had on the study of History. A number of dissertation workshops will be arranged to help students with their dissertations.

Part I: Paradigms

Historicism: the emergence of ‘historical science’ in the 19th century

Structural history: the challenge of the social sciences

Cultural turns: history after the end of the master narrative

Part II: Fields

Religious history

Oral history

Military history

Propaganda studies

Environmental history

History of medicine

Part III: Portfolio and Dissertation workshops

Book reviews

Annotated bibliographies and historiographical reviews

Dissertation outlines

In addition, we will undertake field trips to archives and research libraries.

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This module is organised around a work experience placement, undertaken in an institution relevant to the student's Masters' programme. This may be a museum, archive, school or other institution involved in engaging or communicating history and/or science to specific audiences or the general public.

The curriculum is flexible to allow students to work around other modules, to adapt to the requirements of different placements and to follow their interests. Placements should, with support from teaching staff, be researched and confirmed in the Autumn Term, with tasks/projects agreed.

Seminar sessions on campus will be organised to reflect the placements, offering appropriate reading, discussion and critical reflection. They are an opportunity for students to feedback on work they have achieved, giving presentations to share their experiences with other students. There will also be an opportunity for one-to-one feedback and discussion.

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This module will introduce students to the field of the history of childhood through cross-colonial comparison. Students will be introduced to some of the key debates surrounding childhood studies, including: what defines childhood and how does that definition change through time and in different places? How do class, race and gender affect experiences of childhood? And how can we uncover children's experiences and perspectives from the archives? After this historiographical introduction, students will work through a number of case studies of colonial childhoods in the contexts of Spanish, French, British, American and Italian colonisations. In particular, the module will focus on the clash between indigenous notions of children and childhood and imposed colonial ideals.

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This module introduces you to a wide range of colonial and postcolonial theoretical discourses. It focuses on the construction of the historical narrative of imperialism, psychology and culture of colonialism, nationalism and liberation struggles, and postcolonial theories of complicity and resistance. The module explores the benefits and problems derived from reading literature and culture by means of a postcolonial and postimperial lens. Through the study of crucial texts and events, both historical and current, the module analyses the birth of imperialist narratives and their complex consequences for the world today.

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The aim of the module is to read selected prose writing in English, which appeared during the period of high imperialism and into the mid-century (approximately 1880s-1940s) and to trace the evolution of particular writings of empire. This will involve a comparative study of writing from different locations of empire. The module will explore representations of relations between the coloniser and the colonised in selected literary texts, and will contextualise the historical and cultural contexts of their production. The texts will be studied as texts in themselves but also as expressions of a particular vision of European self-representation and its conception of the challenge of the colonised.

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This module investigates Britons’ complex aspirations during the age of Enlightenment: wealth and politeness, adventure and the cult of sensibility, collecting rare commodities, seeking ‘extreme experiences’, discoursing on sympathy while owning slaves. What was the British empire that necessitated anti-colonial resistance? How did a backward island nation become an imperial power? We will explore fiction, travel writing, political theory and philosophy. Novels, Oriental fantasy, explorations of the Ottoman empire, Continental Europe, and the South Seas, and Black Atlantic writing (by slaves and freed people) will be featured. How did new styles of masculinity and femininity and new ideas about gender and sexuality emerge by means of urbanisation, global exploration, and mercantile capital? We will also reflect upon methods of historical recovery and approaches to texts of the past. The eighteenth century was a period of dynamic change and radical social upheaval that has left us with various legacies whose effects are still being felt today.

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This module will explore how war and the threatened or actual use of armed force shaped the regional, national and transnational politics and societies of Modern Spain and Latin America. It will follow a broadly chronological theme embracing Spain's Peninsular War, Latin American Independence Wars, Spain's Carlist Wars, Latin American wars of borders and nation-building, Mexican Revolutionary and Cristero Wars, Spanish Civil War, and the revolutionary and counter-revolutionary wars of Cold War Latin America. Even though the world-wide Spanish empire collapsed in the early nineteenth century, the relationship thereafter between war and society followed remarkably similar patterns on both sides of the Spanish Atlantic.

Each week students will attend a two-hour seminar hosted by at least one of the two co-convenors of this module who will chair it and facilitate the dialogue. Each week students will be exposed to a new case-study, its agreed historical facts, and its differing interpretations, all of which will enable students to gain a comparative grasp of the similarities and differences between conflicts. Each seminar will include an assessed presentation by one or two students on a particular question or problem related to a respective case-study.

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When it comes to the history of the British Empire, matters of intimacy were matters of state (Stoler). Colonial governments, communities and individuals were all voyeuristically involved in the politics of intimacy – from the bedroom to the bazaar. Inspired by the approaches of New Imperial History, feminist history and cultural studies, this module explores the history of empire by examining its impact upon the intimate, everyday lives of those involved in Britain's colonial project. Individual seminar topics will touch upon issues of empire and sexuality, interracial intimacy, colonial violence and affective economies using primary source analysis, secondary reading and independent research.

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This module will provide students with a detailed study of the evolution and work of the IWGC during the first period of its existence.

The module curriculum will consider the following issues:

• The way in which the mass casualties of the war caused people, as individuals, as families, and as groups across the Empire, as well as the imperial authorities, to consider the issue of suitable commemoration of those who had given their lives in the service of the Empire.

• The competing demands and visions of the various 'stakeholders' throughout the period 1914-1939 including the post-war resistance to the IWGC and the continuation of alternative solutions provided by independent pressure groups.

• The establishment and evolution of the authorities responsible for burial and graves registration in France and Belgium and the gradual expansion of powers and influence.

• The creation of the IWGC, its immediate tasks, the debates over its authority, reach and role, and its eventual triumph as the crucial agency.

• The issue of suitable commemoration of the missing.

• The role and visions of the architects both at the consulting level and on the ground.

• The process of constructing, making permanent and maintaining the cemeteries and memorials across the globe.

• The experiences of visitors to the sites and the role of the IWGC as a mediator of that experience and the Commission's interactions with other bodies.

• The IWGC as a simultaneous medium for the harnessing of a central imperial message and distinctive statements about the component parts of the Empire.

• As a conclusion to consider the importance of the IWGC in influence conceptions of the conflict into the present.

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The overthrow of white settler minority rule and apartheid by the peoples of South Africa and Zimbabwe marked a key period in the history of the twentieth century. This module traces the trajectory of these linked struggles both by examining contemporary written and visual sources and by engaging with current debates. Themes to be discussed include the dynamics of anti-colonial nationalism, the tactic and strategy of armed insurrection, and the ambiguities of independence.

The convenor will be primarily responsible for the teaching of this module; specific seminars, however, will also be taught by one or more experts drawn from the members of staff of the School of History. The seminar leader will chair each session and facilitate dialogue between students. Each week students will be exposed to a new case-study, its agreed historical facts, and its differing interpretations, all of which will enable students to gain a comparative grasp of the similarities and differences between conflicts. Each seminar will include an assessed presentation by one or two students on a particular question or problem related to a respective case-study.

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All students on taught MA programmes in the School of History are required to complete a 15,000-18,000 word dissertation as part of their programme. The task of the dissertation is designed to provide students with the opportunity to articulate key concepts, ideas and theories underlying their creative work, as well as providing an in-depth contextual presentation of their work situating it within the current historiography. The dissertation involves student-directed learning and research with the aim of producing a structured and persuasive argument, demonstrating a command of the technical languages of a variety of historical approaches, and perhaps including the effective use of visual materials in support of their arguments.

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Teaching and Assessment

This is by coursework and a 15,000-word dissertation, which counts for one-third of the final grade.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • Further the School of History’s teaching and research excellence in the field on imperial and non-Western studies and increase postgraduate numbers in history.
  • Meet internal and external student demand for a taught programme in this field.
  • Provide a research-led curriculum that promotes breadth and depth of intellectual enquiry and debate.
  • Offer a flexible and multidisciplinary programme of study that draws on existing expertise, not only within the School of History, but also the School of English and SECL.
  • Provide a feeder for postgraduate research programmes, by training students capable of undertaking high-level analysis of specialist material and producing high quality written and oral work.
  • Develop students’ capacities to think critically about past events and experiences.
  • Encourage students to relate the academic study of Imperial History to matters of contemporary debate and concern.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the structures and instruments of modern western empires on a global scale (History Subject Benchmark Statement
  • the relevance of western imperial activities to the making of our globalized world
  • advanced concepts and methodologies in imperial historiography
  • complex theoretical issues pertaining to the operations and consequences of Western empires.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • the ability to show mental flexibility
  • the ability to sustain focus and concentration
  • the ability to construct coherent written and oral arguments
  • the ability to combine multiple theoretical and disciplinary approaches.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • the ability to engage with different types of sources
  • the ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • the ability to assess, and differentiate between, arguments and interpretations
  • the ability to summarise and defend a particular interpretation or analysis of events
  • the ability to understand historical and contemporary texts and materials both critically and empathetically, while addressing questions of genre, content, perspective and purpose.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • to create and defend arguments
  • to communicate fluently, both orally and in writing
  • to undertake rigorous investigation and time manage effectively
  • to show flexibility of mind and the ability to consider different interpretations, opinions and surmise the range of different possible outcomes to any given situation
  • to use IT proficiently.


As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, postgraduate qualifications are becoming more attractive to employers seeking individuals who have finely tuned skills and abilities, which our programmes encourage you to hone. As a result of the valuable transferable skills developed during your course of study, career prospects for history graduates are wide ranging.

Our graduates go on to a variety of careers, from research within the government to teaching, politics to records management and journalism, to working within museums and galleries – to name but a few.

Study support

Postgraduate resources

The resources for historical research at Kent are led by the University’s Templeman Library: a designated European Documentation Centre which holds specialised collections on slavery and antislavery, and on medical science. The Library has a substantial collection of secondary materials to back-up an excellent collection of primary sources including the British Cartoon Archive, newspapers, a large audio-visual library, and a complete set of British Second World War Ministry of Information propaganda pamphlets.

The School has a dedicated Centre for the Study of Propaganda and War, which has a distinctive archive of written, audio and visual propaganda materials, particularly in film, video and DVD. Locally, you have access to: the Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archive (a major collection for the study of medieval and early modern religious and social history); the Centre for Kentish Studies at Maidstone; and the National Maritime Collection at Greenwich. Kent is also within easy reach of the country’s premier research collections in London and the national libraries in Paris and Brussels.

Dynamic publishing culture

Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Journal of Contemporary History; English Historical Review; British Journal for the History of Science; Technology and Culture; and War and Society.

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

Minimum 2.1 or equivalent in history or a relevant subject (eg, politics, international relations, archaeology). In certain circumstances, the School will consider candidates who have not followed a conventional education path. These cases are assessed individually by the Director of Graduate Studies.

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

Medieval and early modern history

Covering c400–c1500, incorporating such themes as Anglo-Saxon England, early-modern France, palaeography, British and European politics and society, religion and papacy.

Modern history

Covering c1500–present, incorporating such themes as modern British, European and American history, British military history, and 20th-century conflict and propaganda.

History of science, technology and medicine

Incorporating such themes as colonial science and medicine, Nazi medicine, eugenics, science and technology in 19th-century Britain.

Staff research interests

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

Dr Julie Anderson: Reader in the History of Modern Medicine

The cultural and social history of 20th-century medicine in Britain and the Commonwealth, particularly with regard to war and medicine, surgery and disability.

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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; Anglo-papal relations in the 14th century; Latin diplomatic and palaeography.

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Dr Philip Boobbyer: Senior Lecturer in Modern European History

Russian and Soviet history, especially Russian religious and political philosophy.

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Dr Timothy Bowman: Senior Lecturer in British Military History

British military history in the 19th and 20th centuries; Irish history c1775-1998.

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Dr Ambrogio Caiani: Lecturer in Modern European History

European political, military and diplomatic history 1715-1848; The French Revolution; Napoleonic Europe; royal courts; constitutional monarchies’ Alexis de Tocqueville, French liberalism; political radicalism after the Congress of Vienna.

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Professor Mark Connelly: Professor of Modern British History

British modern history; British military history; the British at war from 1800; the image of war in popular culture. 

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Dr George Conyne: Lecturer in American History

American, constitutional, political and diplomatic history; Anglo-American relations; British diplomacy in the 20th century; the Cold War.

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Professor Kenneth Fincham: Professor of Early Modern History

Early modern British politics and 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 church history; early medieval liturgy and architecture.

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Dr Stefan Goebel: Senior Lecturer in Modern British History

Modern British and German history; war and commemoration; the impact of war on cities; collective memory; 20th-century urban history. 

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Dr Danielle van den Heuvel: Lecturer in History

The position of women in early modern Dutch society; street vending in early modern Europe; guilds, consumption and retail development.

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Dr Rebekah Higgitt: Lecturer in History of Science

History of science, especially physical sciences, in 17th to 19th-century Britain; relationship between science, government and the public; scientific institutions; popular science; biography.

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Professor Gaynor Johnson: Professor of History

The international history of the 20th century; the origins of the First and Second World Wars; international diplomacy; diplomats; the history of international peace organisations; the history of the Foreign Office.

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Dr Karen Jones: Senior Lecturer in American History

The American West; environmental history; the wolf: science and symbolism; hunting, nature and American identity; human relationships with animals; nuclear culture; parks and other tourist/heritage landscapes.

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Dr Jan Loop: Lecturer in History

The intellectual, religious and cultural history of Europe and the Near East, with a special focus on Western knowledge of the Arab, Ottoman and Persian world 1450-1800.

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Dr Giacomo Macola: Senior Lecturer in African History

Central African political and intellectual history from the 18th century to the present.

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Dr Emily Manktelow: Lecturer in African History

Central African political and intellectual history from the 18th century to the present.

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Dr Juliette Pattinson: Reader in History

Socio-cultural history, particularly the Second World War, specifically gender and oral history.

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Dr William Pettigrew: Reader in American History

England and her Atlantic colonies in the 16th to 18th centuries; the history of the British Atlantic Empire; the trans-Atlantic slave trade; race and ethnicity; the history of economic thought; Renaissance diplomacy. 

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Professor Ulf Schmidt: Professor of Modern History

German and European modern history, especially the history of medicine, eugenics and medical films during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich and the Cold War.

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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 Charlotte Sleigh: Reader in the History of Science

History and culture of the life sciences in the 19th and 20th centuries; history of natural history; literature; gender.

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Dr Leonie James: Lecturer in History

Anglicanism in Scotland and Ireland during the 17th century.

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Dr John Wills: Senior Lecturer in American History

Modern US history; environmental, cultural and visual history; American nuclear landscapes; California protest culture; Disney; theme parks; tourism; 1950s America; cyber-society (including video games).

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

Imperial History - 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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