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Medieval Studies MA

UCAS code
Year of entry 2018
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 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. We introduce you to many aspects of medieval society and culture, while giving you the opportunity to concentrate on the areas that interest you most.

As a historian and student of literature you will look at 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, irrespective of the area you choose to specialise in.

  • As part of the University of London, you will have the opportunity to particpate fully 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 may pursue a wide range of disciplines in small groups, as well as come together weekly to form a close-knit cohort, providing the foundations for a supportive research environment.

You may choose to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Medieval Studies, taking on the taught part of the course without completing the dissertation. This is designed for those who want advanced instruction in Medieval Studies, but cannot commit to undertaking an independent research project.

The MA and Postgraduate Diploma are designed to be flexible, so you can study either of them 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

In this module you will develop an understanding of the history of the city of London during the period when it was the administrative, judicial, social and intellectual capital of the realm. You will look at how people an communities in the medieval past dealt with the social problems and conflicts of urban living, examining the different approaches taken by historians, archaeologists and literary scholars. You will consider a wide range of historical and literary texts, and also secondary literature illustrative of London during a particularly important 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

In this module you will develop an understanding of the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade and to the establishment of the Latin East. You will look at 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 from 1081 to 1118. You will examine the lead-up to and events of the crusade considering a range of Byzantine and Western source materials in translation in order to determine how the Byzantines viewed the crusaders, including what they considered their aims to be, what policies they adopted towards them, and what mistakes were made in dealing with this unprecedented phenomenon.

Byzantium and the Crusades - From the Origins of the Fourth Crusade to the Fall of Constantinople

In this module you will develop an understanding of the events surrounding the capture and sacking of Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzanthine empire, in April 1204. Starting in 1180, you will look at events in context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades and assess how key developments such as the usurpation of Andronicus I, the Third Crusade, and the empire’s internal weakness contributed to its ultimate downfall. You will examine the events of 1198 to 1204, considering accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) and 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

In this module you will develop an understanding of the basic problems and prejudices that have beset Reformation history. You will look at difficulties encountered when using sources to illuminate religious belief and behaviour, considering work done in the 1530s and 1540s and the social and political conditions of the fifteenth century. You will examine the role of monasteries and colleges in pre-Reformation institutional religion, and the role of othodox and heretical indivduals in context of the changes that were to come in the sixteenth century. You will consider events such as the monastic and collegiate dissolutions, the Pilgrimage of Grace, and the mid Tudor rebellions, evaluating the impact that religion played in both binding society and causing rifts within the social fabric, and the impact of politics on belief, and vice versa.

Introductory Latin for Medievalists

In this module you will be given specific training in the reading of medieval documents. You will look at simple texts in classical Latin and learn how to parse all five declensions and indicative verbs. You will examine a range of documents in basic medieval Latin such as wills, deeds and accounts and translate two medieval passages plus an unseen passage.

Further Latin for Medievalists

In this module you will further enhance your linguistic training in Latin. You will develop comprehensive grammatical knowledge including all declensions of nouns and moods of verbs, with specific training in a range of documents in medieval Latin, including wills, deeds, and chronicles. You will carry out 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.

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. 

Applicants may be asked to submit a sample of recent written work, such as two short essays or an extract from a dissertation.

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 Departments of English and History have an impressive record for placing graduates in academic jobs and in prominent position outside academia.

Former students from English have been appointed to university posts in Edinburgh, Sussex and Leeds, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National University of Ireland.

Our History alumni have gone on to work in university departments across the country, from Durham to Winchester, and across the world, from Swansea to Taipei.

These Departments also prepare postgraduates for successful careers in a variety of the other areas, such as:

  • teaching
  • writing and journalism
  • administration
  • marketing
  • human resources
  • the Civil Service fast track graduate trainee programme

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £7,200

International students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £14,900

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 about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email student-fees@royalholloway.ac.uk for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and 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, have not been included.

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