Modern History - MA

The MA in Modern History focuses on the period c1500-2000, and draws on the considerable range of expertise within the School to offer a broad selection of modules, allowing you to tailor your programme to your interests.

Overview

You learn from academics regarded as experts in their fields and research areas. You develop your capacity to think critically about past events, approach primary and secondary sources from a variety of perspectives and strive to understand the complex issues surrounding context and significance. In addition, you engage with the wider historiography and discourse associated with your studies, understanding the structure and nature of cultural, political and social forces in the modern period.

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 most recent Research Excellence Framework, 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 medieval and early modern cultural and social history, early modern religious history, the history and cultural studies of science and medicine, the medicine, the history of propaganda, military history, war and the media, and the history of Kent.

Entry requirements

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You are more than your grades

For 2021, 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 second class honours degree (2.2 or above) 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.

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice.

If you are an international student, visit our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country, including details of the International Foundation Programmes.

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

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

This module 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 module 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.

Find out more about HIST8780

This module further develops students' understanding of the methods and interpretations, introduced in Reading the Past, and encourages them to consider how these can be applied to their own specialist areas of historical research. There is a particular focus on communication skills, both written and oral, as a dimension of the historian’s professional practice. The nature and use of history in public contexts is also considered. The module is delivered via workshops; the trajectory of the workshops and the module’s assessments is to enable students to lay the groundwork for their dissertations.

Find out more about HIST8920

Optional modules may include

The aims of this module is to explore the concept of propaganda and roles of the mass communications media in times of conflict. This will involve an historical approach which takes into consideration the numerous theoretical problems associated with the study of propaganda as well as the different ways political propaganda has been interpreted and used internationally in time of war or peace. Using case studies ranging from World War I to the present day, the aim of the module is to enable students to think critically about the manner in which propaganda is disseminated in wartime and the pressures governments, media organisations and journalists face in times of conflict. The module explores how different types of conflict and changing technology have elicited different relationships between the media, the military and government. The module also examines the impact of the media upon public opinion and the increasingly important part played by the 'homefront' in twentieth century warfare.

Find out more about HIST8150

From those viewed as medical marvels in the nineteenth century to questions surrounding quality of life in the late twentieth century, the course explores the continuities and changes in the relationship between medical science and difference. Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, the increasing influence of medical practitioners ensured that disability, deformity, disfigurement and mental illness were categorised through a medical perspective. Categories about the acceptability of physical and social norms were constructed from the eighteenth century, indeed, the term ‘normal’ was not commonly used in the English language until the 1840s. In the nineteenth century, the growth of capitalism and the concentration on industrialization, excluded those deemed different from the workplace and the community as they were not judged to be economically useful. In addition, philanthropic gestures which grew in the nineteenth century, saw people who were categorised as different, moved from mainstream society into institutions, which were often supported by the medical profession. Medical practitioners and the general public were fascinated by difference in body and mind, and often those considered different were observed, studied and experimented on. The influence of medical practice grew in the twentieth century and the course will explore this in relation to (amongst others) the two World Wars, the growth of special institutions and new types of therapy.

Overall, the course will investigate the ways that medicine has understood, categorised and treated those whose body or behaviour was considered different. It will also examine the body and mind as contested sites; spaces occupied by those considered different; the establishment of normality versus deviance; the changing conceptions of difference in this historical period and the shifting theories and methodologies of medical practice in relation to it.

Topics include:

The history of anatomy

Idiocy and feeblemindedness

Madness

The development of forensic science

Murder

Dying and the rituals of death

Agency, freakery and the politics of display

Homosexuality as deviance

Madness and mental health

Find out more about HIST8170

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.

Find out more about HIST8320

This module critically examines the surface and decay of Nuclear America in the twentieth century. Responsible for ushering in the modern atomic era, the USA is widely acknowledged as a pioneer in nuclear technology and weaponry. Receptivity towards the atom has nonetheless shifted over time: atomic materials once heralded the saviour of American society (through the promise of reactors delivering 'electricity to cheap to meter') have also been deemed responsible for long-term environmental problems and doomsday anxieties. Why the atom has received typically bi-polar and polemic responses is of great interest here. Along with events of global significance (such as the bombing of Hiroshima), the module also covers the more intimate views of American citizens living and working close to ground zero. Personal testimonies come from ‘atomic foot soldiers’ traversing blast sites in the 1950s and protesters trespassing across reactor sites in the 1970s. In particular, the module examines the role of media, propaganda and image in inventing popular understandings of the nuclear age, as well as the contribution of atomic scientists to national discourse.

Find out more about HIST8570

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.

Find out more about HIST8680

The period 1815-1848 is often seen as an age of stagnation, reaction and obscurantism when compared to the heroic revolutionary and Napoleonic maelstroms that had preceded it. There is a sense that, once the monarchs who attended the Congress of Vienna returned home, they turned the clocks back to 1789 and pretended that the previous decades had never happened. This is why the period is often given the label of the 'Restoration.' Nothing could be further from the truth. This was the age of Tocqueville, Turner, Balzac, Hugo, Schubert, Gogol, Hegel, Rossini, Bellini, Mazzini and Schinkel. Europe was awash in political, international and cultural ferment. States could not just sweep reality under a carpet of reaction, Europeans struggled to reconcile their heroic revolutionary past with the need for stability in the present. This age witnessed the first experiments with modern parliamentary government and democracy ceased being shorthand for demagogy. Key terms, like liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and egotism, that remain foundational to our contemporary political lexicon, were all coined at this time. Equally, these years witnessed the great revolt against the austere classicism of the eighteenth century. Artists, novelists, poets, playwrights, philosophers and architects all sought keenly their inner genius and struggled to give life to their demons and monstrous passions. The movement known today as Romanticism was the result of this far from innocent soul-searching. It had repercussions that went well beyond the cultural sphere, spilling over into the world of politics, government, war and peace.

This module will introduce students to the latest research, theories and controversies surrounding the history of the European Restorations. Each week a theme, event or controversy will be chosen. Students will be presented with a key historiographical text and a key primary source. Every week, they will try to gauge how well the interpretations and arguments of historians fit the period. The primary goal of this module is to demonstrate that, far from stagnant, the Post-Napoleonic age was a crucial étape in the transition to what we today understand as modernity.

Find out more about HIST8860

Compulsory modules currently include

This is an independent study module with no specified curriculum. 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.

Find out more about HIST9930

Teaching and assessment

All courses are assessed by coursework, and the dissertation counts for half the final grade (comprising one third assessed preparation, two thirds actual dissertation).

Programme aims

This programme aims to:

  • place the study of texts, images and artefacts, in their historical contexts, at the centre of student learning and analysis;
  • ensure that students of modern history (ie history after 1500) acquire knowledge and understanding in the historical modes of theory and analysis
  • enable you to understand and use the concepts, approaches and methods of modern history in different academic contexts and refine their understanding of the differing and contested aspects between, and within, the relevant disciplines
  • develop your capacities to think critically about past events and experiences
  • encourage you to relate the academic study of modern history to questions of public debate and concern
  • promote a curriculum supported by scholarship, staff development and a research culture that promotes breadth and depth of intellectual enquiry and debate
  • assist you to develop cognitive and transferable skills relevant to your vocational and personal development.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You will gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the ability to understand how people have created and reacted to texts, images and artefacts in the differing contexts of the past and present
  • the origins and development of culture, politics and society in the modern period
  • the structure and nature of cultural, political and social forces in the modern period
  • the ability to understand historical and contemporary texts and materials both critically and empathetically while addressing questions of genre, content, perspective and purpose
  • the problems inherent in the historical and contemporary record: a conceptual understanding that enables you to evaluate a range of viewpoints, an awareness of the limitations of knowledge and the dangers of simplistic explanations
  • a comprehensive knowledge of modern history (after 1500), from different perspectives within the discipline of history and relevant disciplines from the social sciences and humanities.

Intellectual skills

You develop intellectual skills in:

  • gathering, organising and deploying critically, evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and primary sources
  • the ability to identify, investigate and analyse critically, primary and secondary information
  • to develop reasoned defensible arguments based on reflection, study and critical judgement
  • to differentiate and evaluate arguments
  • to reflect on, and manage, your own learning and seek to make use of constructive feedback from your peers and staff to enhance your own performance and personal skills.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in:

  • understanding the nature of the socio-economic structures, cultural representations and political events in the modern period, and their significance as a global and historical human activity
  • the application of methods, concepts and theories used in the studies of history and relevant disciplines from the social sciences and humanities
  • the evaluation of different interpretations and sources
  • how to marshall an argument: summarise and defend a particular interpretation or analysis of events.

Transferable skills

You will gain the following transferable skills:

  • communication: the ability to organise information clearly, respond to written sources, present information orally, adapt style for different audiences and use images as a communications tool
  • numeracy: the ability to read graphs and tables, integrate numerical and non-numerical information and understand the limits and potentialities of arguments based on quantitative information
  • information technology: how to produce written documents, undertake online research, communicate using email, process information using databases and spreadsheets (where necessary)
  • independence of mind and initiative
  • self-discipline and self-motivation
  • the ability to work with others and have respect for others’ reasoned views.

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £8100
  • EU full-time £12600
  • International full-time £16800
  • Home part-time £4050
  • EU part-time £6300
  • International part-time £8400

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.

Search scholarships

The Complete University Guide

In The Complete University Guide 2021, the University of Kent was ranked in the top 10 for research intensity. This is a measure of the proportion of staff involved in high-quality research in the university.

Please see the University League Tables 2021 for more information.

Complete University Guide Research Intensity

Independent rankings

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

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.

Careers

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.  

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Learn more about the applications process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.

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Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

E: information@kent.ac.uk

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