MA/MRes in Historical Research



The MA in Historical Research at the Institute of Historical Research is tailored to individual research interests. It allows students to undertake assessed work and independent projects in the issues and controversies which interest them most. Students are introduced to key historical approaches, sources and methods and learn to apply them to their particular subject area. The course offers wide-ranging research training, and importance is placed on the use of architecture, material culture, archaeology and literature to aid historical research and understanding. Field trips and museum visits form a key part of the training programme.

The MA will appeal to anyone wishing to develop a broad range of transferable historical skills and those seeking a professional career in the historical profession. It represents excellent preparation for future PhD research.

The MA is taught by staff at two of the United Kingdom's leading research centres, the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History both are based within the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), where students can draw on wealth of expertise in urban and metropolitan history as well as unrivalled library and other resources for the study of the history of London and of other cities. Students join a thriving and lively community of students, researchers and teachers at the IHR and take full advantage of the facilities and resources of the central University, as well as the nearby British Library, the Museum of London and other important national centres.

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The MRes in Historical Research at the Institute of Historical Research  is an integrated research training programme designed to provide graduates with a foundation for a career in research in industry, the public sector or in academic life or a platform for entry to a PhD programme. Its purpose is to offer high quality postgraduate training in the methods and practice of research in relevant transferable skills.

The programme aims to:

  • Give a detailed understanding of educational research methodologies and the theoretical/methodological issues/assumptions they entail;
  • Develop skills in research design, methods of enquiry, data analysis and other analytical strategies;
  • Develop an understanding of the issues involved in effective communication of research findings including: a critical appreciation of the research process relevant to advanced research in the individual’s field of study; an extensive understanding of research methodology relevant to individual field of study; the capacity to independently design and undertake a substantial research project; an awareness of the specialist research methodologies appropriate to their research project; the ability to select and provide a rationale for the selection of particular methodological approaches.

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Credit value: 180

Core courses:

  • Module 1: Historical Training: Methods and Approaches to Historical Research
  • Module 2: History in Context: Cities, States and Localities in History

Option module:

  • The special project is an original extended assignment based around the individual student’s particular area of interest. It requires students to show that they can analyse primary source material in an effective and convincing way and place it in context to throw new light on a specific historical problem or controversy. The project may focus on a particular historical event or how a particular cultural activity (such as an exhibition, film or play) has interpreted such an event. Students will not be required to attend formal weekly classes but they will attend group discussions on the practical application of historical methods and at least four supervisory sessions

Dissertation of 15,000 words

Students are also required to undertake a short (unassessed) research training course.


Credit value: 190

    Module 1 (core): Historical Research Training Skills (incorporating dissertation preparation)
    Module 2 (core): History in Context
    Module 3: Research Pathway option (selection of a research pathway depending on dissertation focus)
    Module 4: Research component, Dissertation, 30,000 words



Module 1 is assessed by two 2,500 word written exercises, one of which may have an oral component. Module 2 is assessed through one 5,000-word assignment and presentations based on the topics covered by the module. The special project is assessed by a 5,000 word report. Students write a dissertation on a topic of their choice, agreed with the Course Director, and submit it by 30 September.


Module 1: A 1,500 essay based on participation in one of the IHRs research training courses, and an essay of 5,000 words on the use of research skills for a particular piece of historical research of the student’s choice.

Module 2: One 5,000 word essay and an assessed oral presentation on one of the aspects of History in Context.

Module 3: One 3,000 word essay discussing research design, sources, historiography and methodologies to be used for the MRes dissertation.

Module 4: Dissertation

Mode of study

12 months full-time or 24 months part-time.

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This MA provides graduates with a wide range of transferable skills such as understanding and analysis of issues and events, introduction to key historical approaches, sources and methods and research training. Using architecture, archaeology and literature all aids our understanding of context.  A history degree at postgraduate level particularly develops analytical and investigative skills, language skills and bibliographic search skills to enable students to access a wide range of careers. Over the past decade our graduates have gone on to follow careers in TV and the media, archaeology, archiving, research, politics, museum work, teaching at secondary and tertiary levels, higher education lecturer, tourism, civil service, intelligence work, law, library and information work and publishing. Our conversion rate from Masters to PhD is also very good.

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What our students say

"As I hadn’t taken a degree in history, many programmes I looked at required me to take several prerequisites before I could apply. The programme at the Institute of Historical Research wasn’t straight history, but historical research, and was thus more open to students of other disciplines. This meant that I could apply straightaway, and the focus on methods of researching history rather than, say, on a specific historical period was exactly the right fit for me.

I’ve definitely narrowed and deepened my focus, so while I studied a lot of subjects as an undergrad, it’s been pretty much straight history as an MA student. But rather than feeling restricted, it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment when I can confidently contribute to the academic conversation on a historical point.

I can add the research skills and historical knowledge of my MA degree to the writing and editing skills I learned as an undergrad, which will make me more marketable as a writer and editor, a research assistant, or a hundred other such jobs. After I graduate I’d love to pick up an internship or two in some archives to gain a bit more practical experience before heading back to work.

For my studies, there’s literally no better place than London in the world to be. The resources and facilities available here are simply staggering in their scope.’’

Meagan Brady (USA)

Why study at the Institute of Historical Research?

The Institute of Historical Research provides an excellent space for teaching and research. Students study alongside two resident research centres – the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History. The IHR has a large research community including junior and senior fellows, staff, visiting academics, and students. The Institute also has a growing range of dedicated historical research training courses ranging from Oral History, Introductory Latin to Historical Mapping and Material Culture. It runs the largest programme of history seminars in the UK, houses an outstanding open access library of primary printed sources, hosts conferences and workshops, and maintains a wide range of digital history resources.

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