Modern History - MA

November Open Event

Meet us at our Canterbury campus or join our virtual Open Event. Come along from 17.00 - 19.00 on Wednesday 16 November to find out more about postgraduate study at Kent.

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

"The MA in Modern History has given me the opportunity to explore the subjects I am passionate about alongside inspiring, supportive, and engaging lecturers. The flexibility of the course has allowed me to mature as a historian and build an exciting and progressive future."

Olivia Andrew, MA Modern History student

Why study Modern History at Kent?

  • Learn from academics regarded as experts in their fields. Based on the most recent Research Excellence Framework, the School of History was ranked 1st in the UK for research the Times Higher Education
  • Develop an advanced understanding of the modern period, from seventeenth century England to Soviet and Russian propaganda
  • Develop your capacity to think critically about past events, approach primary and secondary sources from a variety of perspectives and understand the complex issues surrounding context and significance
  • 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
  • Opt for a dedicated American pathway, including the exciting module 'Conflict, Race and American Empires' in the Autumn term, followed by a specialised module in the Spring term, this year 'Geiger Counter at Ground Zero: Explorations of Nuclear America’. You’ll also have the option to work with our team on an American-based research dissertation
  • Gain practical skills which are essential to your studies and open up an exciting range of career possibilities
  • You'll have full access to the Centre for the Study of War, Media and Society, the Centre for the Study of Global Cultures and Encounters, and the Centre for the Study of Health, Science and the Environment which provide an active programme of seminars, conferences and reading groups involving both academic staff and postgraduates.

About the School of History

The School of History 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.

We are lively, research-led department where postgraduate students are given the opportunity to work alongside academics recognised as experts in their respective fields. You'll be part of a lively postgraduate community which includes regular social meetings, seminars and a comprehensive training programme with the full involvement of academic staff. 

Thanks to the wide range of teaching and research interests in the School, we offer equally wide scope for research supervision covering British, European, African and American history, and there are particularly strong groupings of research students in British and European medieval and early modern history; imperial and colonial history; the history of science, technology, medicine and the environment; American history; and military history, including the history of propaganda, war and the media, and social and cultural aspects of the subject.

The School of History has achieved outstanding results in the Research Excellence Framework 2021. The School is the only History department in the UK to achieve a perfect score of 100% ‘world leading’ for both the impact of its research and its research environment. This extraordinary achievement has resulted in the Times Higher Education ranking History at Kent 1st in the UK.

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.

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

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.

Optional modules may include

The intersection between knowledge and power has been one of most debated themes of imperial and colonial history since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism. Focusing on 19th-century colonial South Asia (modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh), the proposed module aims to introduce students to the complexities that accompanied transmission of scientific knowledge and transfer of technology in colonial South Asia. Students will engage in an understanding of the circumstances that lead to the colonisation of South Asia and the debates surrounding introduction of western scientific knowledge and technologies (such as railways) in the region. Drawing upon methodologies of New Imperial History, the module will provide students with a critical grasp of the ways in which 'western knowledge’ was adopted and adapted in a colony, especially underlining the role of the colonised in mediating the process and therefore shaping its outcome.

Drawing out some of the key themes in American history, the module will challenge students to move beyond a chronological reading of history to consider cross-cutting themes which have influenced the development of the American republic, from within and without. The emphasis of the module will focus on building a historiographical understanding of American history: the key interpretations which have guided the field. Students will read both foundational texts and cutting-edge work, in order to better understand the central debates which have made U.S. history one of the most vital in the profession. Core themes will range from the study race and slavery, the development of capitalism, populism, ideas about American exceptionalism, the importance of gender analysis, and the environment. Students will be assessed on their understanding of this literature through a linked set of assignments (both written and oral).

The module will offer a comprehensive overview and examination of the propaganda used by the Soviet regime in its attempts to build communism and defend the interests of the Soviet regime. The seminar structure will be broadly chronological, but in such a way as also to allow for a thematic approach. The module will initially look at early Bolshevik propaganda, both in 1917 and during the Civil War. It will then go on to look at the promotion of Stalinism in relation to industrialisation, history, education, the personality cult and religion.

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.

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.

Religion has often been regarded as the motor for change and upheaval in 17th century England: it has been seen as the prime cause of civil war, the inspiration for the godly rule of Oliver Cromwell and ‘the Saints’, and central to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. Fears of popery, it has been suggested, helped forge English national identify. This module reflects critically on these claims. It explores tensions within English Protestantism, which led to an intense struggle for supremacy within the English Church in the early 17th century, to be followed in the 1640s and 1650s by the fragmentation of Puritanism into numerous competing sects which generated a remarkable proliferation of radical ideas on religion and society. The Restoration of Church and King in 1660 saw the gradual and contested emergence of a dissenting community and the partial triumph of religious tolerance, with profound implications for English society and culture. Another key theme is the changing fortunes of Anglicanism, with its erosion of its position from a national Church to the established Church over the century. The marginal position of English Catholics in 17th century England, albeit with a genuine possibility of significant recovery of rights and influence under James II, is also crucial. The module will address issues of theology, the close relationship between political power and religious change, and the nature of debates on religion at national and local level, and also track elements of continuity and change over a formative century in English religious experience.

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.

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

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 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:

  • Home full-time £9500
  • EU full-time £13500
  • International full-time £18000
  • Home part-time £4750
  • EU part-time £6750
  • International part-time £9000

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

Independent rankings

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our History research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ for research and environment. An impressive 100% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 72% of our research was classified as ‘world-leading’.

Following the REF 2021, History at Kent was ranked 1st in the UK in the Times Higher Education.

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 History of War, Media and Society, which has a distinctive archive of written, audio and visual propaganda materials, particularly in film. 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.  

Apply now

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

You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.

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Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

E: information@kent.ac.uk

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T: +44 (0)1227 823254
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