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First World War Studies - MA


This new MA programme explores the military, cultural, political and social history of the First World War, introducing you to advanced concepts of historiography and cultural theory. Although based in the School of History, this Masters programme takes an inter-disciplinary angle on the First World War drawing on expertise from the School of Arts, and involves the collaboration of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper/Ypres.



History, memory and culture are the heart of the programme which is based on two bespoke core modules that introduce different disciplinary approaches examining the history of the war and how it has been interpreted and understood since.

You have the opportunity to travel to the battlefields of the Western Front around Ypres, to examine the memorials and cemeteries and engage with the In Flanders Fields Museum staff to explore their collections, and consider the changing ways in which the war has been presented to the public.

Optional modules explore subjects in detail ranging from the impact of the conflict on Ireland to a detailed examination of the Imperial War Graves Commission in the first decades of its existence.

The programme draws upon an extremely wide range of sources including official documentation, propaganda materials, plays, films, radio broadcasts, architecture and even the landscape itself.

You conclude the programme with a major research dissertation (15,000-18,000 words) and will have the opportunity of using the materials at the In Flanders Fields Museum and Commonwealth War Graves Commission archives.

Compulsory modules, Landscapes of the Great War: Interpretations and Representations and Landscapes of the Great War: Public Histories, are interdisciplinary in nature, and aim to reinforce the different intellectual approaches to the war.

Think Kent video series

The famous Christmas Truce of 1914 now looms large in public perceptions of the First World War. In this lecture, Professor Mark Connelly from the University of Kent revisits this amazing event to explore Christmas 1914 in more detail and question what it tells us about the wider history of the conflict.

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.

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

A compulsory module, ‘The First World War: History and Memory’, is interdisciplinary in nature, and aims to reinforce the different intellectual approaches to the war. In addition you will study a further core module; 'Methods and Interpretations of Historical Research', which will encourage you to consider history as a wider discipline and to broaden your approach to evidence and interpretation.


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 Credits

This module will explore the way in which different academic disciplines have dealt with the three main overarching experiences of the Great War – mobilisation, attrition and endurance and remobilisation. Each week students will be exposed to the differing interpretations and will explore the major differences between them. The agreed historical facts are therefore the starting point; the harnessing and meanings is the terminus. The module convenor will be present in all sessions chairing them and facilitating the dialogue with the contributing academics. Where possible it is expected that each seminar will have multiple academic contributors. Each section will consist of a tripartite format – week one sets up the following week in special collections with the final week being reflections on what was examined in special collections and interpreted according to the approaches of different academic disciplines.

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This module builds on Landscapes 1, but moves the students towards the public presentation of the Great War concentrating on museums, galleries and the processes of re-enactment/performance. Here students will apply the different disciplinary approaches and nature of the materials they have seen to the presentation of the conflict. The Special Collections team will contribute regularly to teaching.

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Optional modules may include Credits

The aim 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 the First World War 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 home front in twentieth century warfare.

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This class aims to bring awareness to the possibilities of using oral history as a way of understanding the past, using the topic of twentieth-century war as a case study. It will examine the advantages and disadvantages, classic texts and theoretical and methodological insights. It also features a strong practical dimension and will provide experience in interviewing, transcription and analysis. Sessions will typically include What is Oral History?; Understanding Memory; Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity; Doing Oral History I: Plans and Preparation; Doing Oral History II: Recording, Summarising and Transcribing; Interpretation: Reconstructive Evidence and Narrative Analysis; Oral History and Public History; Fieldtrip to The Imperial War Museum; Reflecting on the Oral History interviews I and Reflecting on the Oral History interviews II.

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The module will examine the experience of Ireland during the First World War. There is now considerable historiography available on Irish recruitment to the British armed forces between 1914 and 1918 and this will form the basis for three seminars; considering Nationalist and Unionist reactions to recruitment and the place of Ireland within wider UK recruitment. Political developments, caused largely by the war, namely, the decline of the Irish Parliamentary Party, rise of the Sinn Fein movement and Irish Unionisms acceptance of partition will form another important element of the module. There has been considerable work carried out on commemoration of the Great War in Ireland and Irish commemoration overseas (most notably the building of the Ulster Tower at Thiepval, France in 1921 and of the Irish Peace Park at Messines / Mesen, Belgium in 1998) and this will form the focus for two seminars. Other seminars will consider the Irish economy and the war and Irish paramilitarism between 1914 and 1918.

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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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This module will examine a number of aspects concerning the British army during the Great War. The (in)effectiveness of British generalship will be examined, allowing students to explore the rich historiography of this topic which dates back to the so-called, ‘battle of the memoirs’ in the 1920s. Consideration will then be given to the structure and expansion of the ‘four armies’ (regular, territorial, Kitchener and conscript) examining how effectively the British army coped with this massive expansion and trained the newly formed units. Allied to this, there will be a consideration of manpower policy during the Great War, in particular there will be some discussion given to the propaganda elements involved in the voluntary recruiting campaigns of 1914-16 and the British experience of conscription in 1916-18. Attention will also be given to the discipline and morale of the British army, which was the only European army of the Great War not to suffer from major problems in this area. Students will be invited to explore the full aspects of discipline and morale and will consider why the wartime executions of 312 soldiers have come to dominate the historiography. In terms of the British army in action, this module will contain case-studies of the well known Gallipoli campaign and the Battles of the Somme along with the lesser known so-called 100 days battles at the end of the war to consider the important issue of whether the British army did indeed participate in what some historians have termed a ‘learning curve’ during the Great War. Other topics, such as the the experience of women in the British army, the British army on the home front, logistics and officer selection will also be discussed in detail.

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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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Compulsory modules currently include Credits

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

Assessment is dependent on module choice, but is typically by coursework and a dissertation of 15-18,000 words.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • allow students to explore and develop their interest in and understanding of the First World War, based on an interdisciplinary approach to the history and cultural legacy of this period.
  • provide a well-balanced programme of study mixing seminar teaching with a substantial piece of research in the core dissertation element.
  • produce students with the potential to take on research degrees, capable of undertaking high level analysis of specialist material, capable of producing high quality written work and oral presentations. (The last three are valuable transferrable skills.)
  • provide an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon support from Arts (Theatre and Film) and SECL (German), which will provide students with experience of other methodologies and theoretical positions. This will enhance the transferable skills element by imbedding mental flexibility. The programme will also offer students the opportunity to commence (or enhance) modern European language skills through the modules and resources of SECL in order to enrich their studies.
  • allow students, through the use of museum displays and exhibitions, to gain an insight into the way the past is transferred and interpreted in the public realm.
  • provide teaching which is informed by a high degree of research and teaching expertise in this field and is designed to provide a feeder for postgraduate research programmes.
  • provide students with the opportunity to utilise University connections with the In Flanders Fields Museum (Ieper/Ypres), National Army Museum (London) and the Royal Engineers Museum (Chatham), German Literature Archives (Marbach), Austrian State Archives (Vienna), giving them the opportunity to access these institutions’ primary and secondary sources.
  • provide teaching that is based upon a well-provisioned library (both physical and online resources), and which makes use of the additional resources of the School of History’s Centre for the Study of Propaganda, War and Society.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • enhanced and sophisticated understanding of the military, cultural, political and social history of the First World War
  • advanced concepts in historiography and cultural theory
  • enhanced capability to understand theoretical issues regarding historical study and cultural study.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual abilities:

  • the ability to show mental flexibility
  • the ability to sustain concentration and aim
  • the ability to construct coherent written and oral arguments
  • the ability to research different source types
  • the ability to combine multiple theoretical and intellectual approaches
  • the ability to assess interpretations of the past drawn from museum and gallery experiences.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

  • historical research and the ability to combine it with the intellectual and theoretical approaches of other academic disciplines in particular Strategic Studies (Politics and International Relations), but also cultural and literary studies
  • the ability to understand how previous societies acted in time of conflict
  • the appreciation of contingency and the diversity of options open to human actors at various moments in time
  • an understanding of the complexity, diversity and flaws in the historical record itself
  • recognition that not all claims about the past have equal validity and weight
  • the ability to understand a wide range of source materials in context
  • appreciation of how literary, artistic and film sources inform and nuance understanding of historical events.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • to create arguments
  • to communicate fluently
  • 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
  • to commence/enhance modern European language skills.


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, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account. 

International students

Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.  Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

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

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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Professor Barbara Bombi: Professor of Medieval, Ecclesiastical and Religious Studies

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 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 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 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

The politics of religion and diplomacy in 17th and early 18th century Britain.

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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 2019/20 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

First World War Studies - MA - Full Time at Canterbury:
UK/EU Overseas
Full-time £7940 £15700
Part-time £3970 £7850

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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