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Modern and Contemporary History BA

UCAS code V140
Year of entry 2017
  View 2018 entry »
Course Length 3 years full time
Department History »

Studying Modern and Contemporary History is exciting and rewarding. It will help to satisfy your curiosity about our recent past and allow you to acquire an in-depth understanding of the history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As well as an in-depth knowledge, Modern and Contemporary History students also develop essential skills of analysis, argument and communication - all highly valued in today’s competitive employment market.

Our internationally renowned academics are developing the very latest thinking on historical problems; this cutting edge knowledge informs the curriculum and will enhance your learning experience. By studying at one of the largest and most influential departments in the country, you will have access to a range of course options.  This degree allows you to study a range of issues in modern and contemporary history and through our courses you will learn how to analyse these issues in different ways - from the biographical, looking at Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela; the national, by studying, for instance, modern British or American history; and the thematic, with options such as the history of global terrorism, and modern political thought. You will also study leadership and government and the broader social and cultural contexts, to form a holistic view of modern history.

You will receive individual attention and learn in small teaching groups, whilst having access to some of the richest facilities for historical research anywhere in the world; in addition to the College’s substantial library collections, there are the National Archives, British Library and other libraries of the University of London.

  • 96% say that our teaching makes the subject interesting and 94% find the course intellectually stimulating (National Student Survey 2016).
  • World-leading and internationally excellent research which is ranked joint first for its impact on greater society (Research Excellence Framework 2014, 4* and 3* research).
  • Global opportunities. You can apply for the chance to study abroad during your third year, before returning to Royal Holloway for a fourth and final year.
  • Maximum flexibility to pursue your own interests, helping you to construct a coherent degree programme that provides a sense of development of societies and institutions over time.
  • Unique access to the College's world-learding Research Centres, including the Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender; the Holocaust Research Centre; and the Centre for South Asian Studies.

Core modules

Year 1

History and Meanings

This module examines the development of historical writing and debates around the meaning of history. Overall, the framework is chronological, taking you on a journey from Herodotus and other historians of the ancient world, through to the development of history as a professional discipline in the nineteenth century, and finally on to more recent debates about ‘postmodernism’. Both western and non-western history-writing traditions are discussed for comparative purposes. On the way, in both lectures and in small tutorial groups, you will need to think about the nature of historical ‘truth’ and objectivity, and will be asked to reflect upon your own status and practice as historians.

Public History

History has never been so popular. This course explores the development in recent years of ‘public history’, or the ways in which the past is used and written about by academic and popular historians, the heritage industry, journalists, the state, and the wider public. The module examines the nature of ‘public history’ through a series of case-studies, including topics such as how history is presented on the television and in film; history in museums and heritage sites; community and oral history; the memory of the Holocaust; debates in European societies about ‘making amends’ for slavery and the colonial past; and the uses of history in contemporary South Asia. You will be given the opportunity to make your own contribution to the field through your own ‘public history’ project.

Doing History 1

Where and how do historians ‘do’ history? In dusty and damp archives, for sure, but in reality, history is everywhere, in everything, in the very fabric of our everyday lives. There is nothing in human culture that does not have a history. One of the roles of the historian is to take not just documents but also artefacts, landscapes and the remnants of private lives (clothes, diaries, bones) and make these ‘talk’ to later generations. Using lectures and seminars, these courses aims to give you an insight into the practices and processes by which ‘sources’ are turned into ‘history’. You will be introduced to a range of primary source material – written, material, oral, and visual – and encouraged to reflect upon its potential for historical study by examining how historians today use and think about evidence.

Doing History 2

Building on Doing History 1, you’ll further develop your skills at reading and extracting the historical arguments from social, cultural, political, diplomatic, military, feminist, Marxist, revisionist, local and economic perspectives. By the end of this module you’ll be confident in using apt and appropriate evidence, such as citations from diaries, examples of trial records, statistics of consumption or wage earning, to support the arguments you make when writing essays and your dissertation. 

British and Social Economic History, 1914 to 1945

This module aims to draw out the particular features which made the economic and social history of Britain in the three decades between the beginning for the First World War and the end of the Second, and to study them in depth while incorporating basic economic statistics as a tool for analysis. Your focus will primarily be on the years of turmoil during the 1920s and 1930s, and will deal with the social impact of economic change as much as the economy itself.

British and Social Economic History, 1945 to 1997

This module focusses on the basic economics necessary for you to understand the nature and workings of economies at the national level. This will be done through consideration of some of the recurring themes in modern Economic History – individuals’ welfare and the State, growth, labour supply, overseas trade and national accounting. These topics will be considered using examples drawn from British History between 1945 and 1997.

Year 2

Independent Essay

This module allows yous to undertake a small research project of your own. You will sign up for one of approximately twenty-five advertised thematic ‘workshops’ run by academics within the department, and through a series of seminars will explore key themes and debates that allow you to identify a project of your own choosing. The course also includes training in research and writing skills, and is excellent preparation for your final-year dissertation.

Research Skills

This module will ensure that you have a cogent, practicable and interesting research topic to write your independent essay, and that you are equipped with the appropriate skills and a timetable for undertaking and producing research and writing in a timely manner. You will be encouraged to consult with the module leader and your supervisors to develop your research topic.

Year 3


This module explores the key theories, debates and developments that have emerged within the writing and practice of History, in particular over the last 50 years, and which today collectively inform and invigorate its study. The course is delivered through a series of lectures that cover broad topics such as nationalist historiography; Marxist historiography; subaltern studies; the history of women and gender; the history of emotion; space and place in History. The lecture series is supported by seminar discussions that focus on the work of particular historians, allowing you to pursue your own interests. The module allows you to bring together the knowledge and skills that you have acquired over the three years of your undergraduate degree programme. 


You will write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of your own choosing, with an academic supervisor vho will provide regular consultation.

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.

Year 1

Republics, Kings and People: The Foundations of European Political Thought From Plato to Rousseau

Conflict and Identity in Modern Europe, 1770 to 2000

Mao to Mandela: Twentieth-Century Leaders of the non-Western World

Year 2

Modern Political Ideas

The Islamic Revival: from 18th Century Reform to 20th Century Political Action

Mutiny to Modi: the Indian Subcontinent from the 19th Century to the Present

Waging Armageddon: The First World War in British Experience and Memory

Modern Girls: Women in Britain, 1914 to 1990

Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, 1955 to 1968

Awakening China: From the Opium Wars to the Middle Kingdom

Year 3

Victorian Babylon: Life, Work and People in London, 1840 to 1890

The History and Historiography of The Holocaust

Malcolm X and African American Islam

Migration, Identity and Citizenship in Modern Britain

The Clash of Powers and Cultures: Sino-American Relations During the Cold War

The Age of Terror: Terrorism from 1945 to Present

Photography, Film and British Society 1850 to 1965

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, large and small seminar groups and occasionally in one-to-one tutorials. Outside classes you will undertake group projects and wide-ranging but guided independent study. Private study and preparation are essential parts of every course, and you will have access to many online resources and the University’s comprehensive e-learning facility, Moodle, which provides a wide range of supporting materials. A Personal Tutor will guide and support throughout your degree and you will be supervised by a member of staff when preparing your second-year independent research essay and your final-year dissertation.

Some course units are assessed solely by coursework, others by a combination of examinations, coursework, online quizzes and presentations. In your second year, you will write a 5,000-word independent research essay, and in your final year you will research and write a 10,000-word dissertation based on primary sources.

You will take a study skills course during your first year, designed to equip you with and enhance the writing skills you will need to be successful in your degree. This course does not count towards your final degree award but you are required to pass it to progress to your second year.

Typical offers

Typical offers


The offer given will take into consideration:

  • subjects taken at A level
  • the educational context in which academic achievements have been gained
  • whether the Extended Project Qualification is being taken.
Required/preferred subjects Required: Five GCSE passes graded A*- C including Maths and English.

Preferred: History A level.

Other UK Qualifications
International Baccalaureate 6,5,5 at Higher Level with a minimum of 32
points overall
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction, Distinction, Distinction in a related subject.
BTEC National Diploma Distinction, Distinction in a related subject plus an A level grade B.
BTEC Subsidiary Diploma Distinction plus A levels grade BB.
Welsh Baccalaureate Requirements are as for A-levels where one non-subject-specified A-level can be replaced by the same grade in the Welsh Baccalaureate - Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate
Scottish Advanced Highers AB at Advanced Higher Level plus Higher requirements.
Scottish Highers AABBB at Advanced Level plus Advanced Higher requirements.
Irish Leaving Certificate H2, H2, H3, H3, H3 at Higher Level.
Access to Higher Education Diploma Pass with at least 30 level 3 credits at Distinction and 15 level 3 credits at Merit in a relevant subject area. Please note that the Access to Higher Education Diploma will only be acceptable if the applicant has had a considerable break from education.

Other UK qualifications

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International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

English language
IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in each remaining subscore. For equivalencies please see here.

For more information about entry requirements for your country please visit our International pages. Royal Holloway offers an International Foundation Programme and pre-sessional English language courses, allowing students to further develop their study skills and English language before starting their undergraduate degree.

A Modern and Contemporary History degree gained at Royal Holloway provides valuable training that allows entry to many professions, and the focus on modern history is particularly useful for careers such as government or civil service, where a knowledge of contemporary history and public policy is highly valued. The degree is well-regarded by employers because of the skills and qualities you will develop. It demonstrates that you enjoy being challenged, are able to understand complex issues and have a understanding other values and cultures, which equips you to operate successfully in a fast-changing and increasingly globalised and multi-cultural environment.  

On graduation you will be informed and independent - armed with key skills, including problem-solving, organisation and planning, as well as research and analysis.

  • Recent History graduates have very successfully entered a wide range of careers including working as curators (Imperial War Museum, Museum of London), in information management (British Museum), teaching, finance, law, marketing/PR, national defence (Royal Navy), or the performing arts.
  • Our careers service offers a range of tailor-made careers events, one-to-one careers advice sessions and skills workshops specifically for history students.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £9,250

International students tuition fee per year 2017/18**: £14,000

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

How do I pay for it? Find out more.

*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year. This amount is subject to the UK Parliament approving a change to fee and loan regulations that has been proposed by the UK Government. In the future, should the proposed changes to fee and loan regulations allow it, Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for UK and EU nationals annually. If relevant UK legislation continues to permit it, Royal Holloway will maintain parity between the tuition fees charged to UK and EU students for the duration of their degree studies.

**Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for international fee paying students annually. Tuition fees are unlikely to rise more than 5 per cent each year. For further information on tuition fees 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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