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Medieval Studies MA


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Year of entry 2017
Course Length 1 year full time
2 years part time
Department English »
History »

A collaboration between the Departments of English and History at Royal Holloway, the MA in Medieval Studies at Royal Holloway has an excellent reputation, having been running for almost thirty years.  That reputation comes from the variety of teaching on our course: we draw on medievalists teaching across Royal Holloway in disciplines as diverse as History, English, French, Theatre Studies, and Music. The joined up approach allows us to introduce you to many aspects of medieval society and culture, while giving you the opportunity to concentrate on the areas that most fascinate you.

As historians and students of literature we come together to explore the medieval world from both literary and historical perspectives, working with source material including artefacts and manuscripts as well as archives and printed sources. The course emphasises the skills that are required for postgraduate research, whether your focus is literary or historical.

  • Our close link with the Museum of London means plenty of opportunities for field trips, courses, research, and internships.
  • As part of the University of London, we take part in the variety of events taking place in the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of English Studies. Staff from the English Department also run the London Old and Middle English Research Seminar (LOMERS).
  • You'll have the opportunity both to pursue a wide range of disciplines in small groups, coming together weekly to form a close-knit cohort. The result is not only a supportive research environment, but also the better for research, but for the warm community spirit this engenders.

Students also have the option of completing a Postgraduate Diploma in Medieval Studies. This course is designed for those who want advanced instruction in Medieval Studies, but not necessarily an independent research project. You'll take on the taught portion of the MA in Medieval Studies, without the dissertation.

Designed to be flexible, you can study the MA or Postgraduate Diploma full time or part time.

Core modules

Medieval Narratives

This module explores traditions and forms of narrative in the light of historical record and medieval and modern critical approaches. Texts will be chosen to illustrate the development and relationships between the various narrative genres of the period, in Old and Middle English and also in French and Italian (non-English and Old English texts may be read in translation).

Medieval London - Society and Literature

To module will introduce you to the history of the City of London during the period when it was the administrative, judicial, social and intellectual capital of the realm. The aim of the module is to extend your understanding of the period by focussing on a particular place (where you will be studying) and by reading a wide range of historical and literary texts and also secondary literature illustrative of a particular and significant place during an especially formative period. 

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Arthurian Literature and Tradition in England

This module examines the development of Arthurian literature and legend across four centuries and three languages. Beginning with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, it focuses on the different ways in which Arthur’s reign was represented and understood in the Middle Ages.

Byzantium and The First Crusade

This module traces the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade and to the establishment of the Latin East. Early classes will focus on the background of the empire as it was in the middle of the eleventh century, its relations with the Latin West and the accession and reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1081 to 1118). Attention shall then turn to the lead-up to and events of the crusade. A range of Byzantine and Western source materials will be examined in translation in an attempt to determine how the Byzantines viewed the crusaders, what they considered their aims to be, what policies they adopted towards them, and—perhaps most important of all, what mistakes were made in dealing with this unprecedented phenomenon.

Byzantium and The Fourth Crusade

This module takes a long-term view of the crusade which captured and sacked Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine empire, in April 1204. Starting in 1180, it places events in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades and assesses how key developments such as the usurpation of Andronicus I, the Third Crusade and the empire’s internal weakness contributed to the ultimate outcome. You will then look at the events of 1198-1204, studying in detail translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) to understand why an expedition that set out with the intention of recovering Jerusalem from Islam ended up pillaging the greatest city in the Christian world.

The English Reformation and its Medieval Background

This module makes a concerted effort to look at, and evaluate, the Reformation, paying as much regard to what was going on before as what emerged in the long-term – ordinarily the longer-term perspective has proved far more dominant, to the detriment of a balanced perspective. Having briefly considered what was done in the 1530s and 1540s, you will attempt to put these turbulent decades into their own long-term context by outlining the social and political conditions of the fifteenth century. Appropriate attention will be paid to the ‘major’ players of pre-Reformation institutional religion, looking in particular at the role of the monasteries and colleges, and also at parish religion. Individuals, both orthodox and heretical, will be studied, again to derive a better sense of context for the changes that were to come in the sixteenth century. Having prepared the ground, events such as the monastic and collegiate dissolutions, the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the mid Tudor rebellions will be appraised as part of an attempt to gauge the tenor of society in the mid and later sixteenth century, and the part that the Reformation had played in defining the prevailing atmosphere.

Introductory Latin For Medievalists

This module will supplement and enhance the basic linguistic training you will have received in your Undergraduate studies. This is achieved by giving specific training in the reading of medieval documents, and by testing attainment in a separate exam that requires translations of medieval passages as well as testing comprehension of an unseen passage.

Further Latin for Medievalists

The aim of this module is to supplement and enhance your linguistic training of Latin. This is achieved by through specific training in the reading of medieval documents, and by testing your attainment in a series of translations of medieval material.

Literature of Medieval London

This module invites you to read and discuss a wide range of late medieval texts in relation to the city of London. You will interrogate the way that London, its inhabitants and its institutions are represented in medieval literature, from the court at Westminster to the pulpit at St Paul’s, the ‘lewed ermytes’ of Cornhill and the inns of Southwark.  You will read Middle English texts in glossed editions, and Latin texts in modern English translations.

Museum Skills

This module aims to promote an appreciation and critical understanding of the history and nature of the museum sector in Britain. Taught at the Museum of London, it will use this institution as an example to explore the nature of museum collections, how these are acquired and cared for, and how museums go about using these collections to communicate to a range of different audiences. Using archaeological and early social history collections it also aims also to encourage and improve the use of museum resources for research. You will learn how museum collections are cared for, catalogued and used, and how exhibitions and other museum projects are organised. 

Assessment is carried out by a variety of assessment methods, including coursework, essays, oral presentations, and formal examinations.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1); or equivalent in relevant subjects. Relevant professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will be considered. 

English language requirements:

IELTS score of 7.0 with 7.0 in writing and no sub-score below 5.5, for non-native English speaking applicants.


If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a UK government-approved Secure English LanguageTest (SELT).

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below




Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

 A successful applicant will usually have the following qualities:

  • good writing skills and analytical abilities
  • broad knowledge of the medieval period
  • openness to multi-disciplinary approaches.

The Department of English has an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs and in prominent position outside academia. In the field of Shakespeare and Renaissance studies alone, our postgraduates have recently secured positions at the Universities of Edinburgh, Sussex and Leeds, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National University of Ireland. Recent postgraduates in America literature, modern and contemporary literature and theory have secured prestigious appointments in London.

The English Department also prepares postgraduates for successful careers in a variety of the other areas, such as:

  • teaching
  • writing and journalism
  • administration
  • marketing

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £7,000

Overseas students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £14,500

Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

*The tuition fees given above apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis.  Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee and information is available from the Royal Holloway Student Fees Office on Student-Fees@rhul.ac.uk. All fees are likely to rise annually in line with inflation but no more than 5 per cent per year.

For further information, please see Royal Holloway’s Terms & Conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

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