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Public History MA

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
1 year full time
2 years part time
History »
Location of study
Main Campus (Egham) »
Central London »

The Royal Holloway MA in Public History is aimed at historians who are keen to engage the public by becoming experts in communicating ideas about the past in a range of spaces and media. It provides a unique gateway to the heritage and history sectors, as well as in public media, it therefore provides relevant learning opportunities if you wish to pursue a career in broadcasting or film, in museums, heritage, with community organisations or in journalism. It is also suited to academic historians who are looking for the theories, knowledge and skills to communicate their research in the most effective way to wider audiences. 

The course was designed in collaboration with potential employers and is taught by staff and industry professionals who are well connected and up-to-date with the latest techniques. Through your studies you will develop professional skills of historical interpretation and communication and have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals, including museum curators, public archivists, publishers and TV and radio producers. You will learn about the key theories that underpin public history, digital history and public engagement and become equipped to work in a sector undergoing constant development, where collaborating with other professionals and members of the public will be essential.

We are one of the largest and liveliest History departments in the UK yet our size is not at the cost of anonymity; you will receive our individual attention and become part of our close-knit post graduate community. Our internationally renowned academics are developing the very latest thinking on historical problems and their interests range from the ancient to the contemporary.

  • 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 libraries of the University of London.
  • Access to some of the most exciting heritage sites in the world
  • Valuable networking opportunities with producers and representatives from production companies, heritage organisations and the museum sector develop links within the industry.
  • Membership to the Institute of Historical Research, an excellent research library housed in Senate House of the University of London where you can attend regular and informative evening seminars.
  • Guest lecturers and regular collaboration with external partner institutions that have included the National Trust, the Royal Household, media historians, and members of the Houses of Parliament public engagement team.

Core modules

Pathways to the Past

In this module you will develop an understanding of a range of practical issues relating to the presentation of the past to contemporary audiences, including the interpretation of history in public and communal spaces and the management of heritage sites. You will look at ethical and legal matters, strategic planning and development, as well as awarenesss of a range of issues related to working with local communities, visitor survey and evaluation, exhibition planning, collection conservation, and education techniques for working in informal public spaces. You will examine debates relating to history in museums, community history, history as commemoration, history as apology and communicating with minorities about the past. You will also consider popular writing, history journalism, and history broadcasting, with the opportunity to visit several museums and galleries, experiencing how institutions and projects use archival, visual and material resources.

History Past and Present - Definitions, Concepts and Approaches

In this module you will develop an understanding of the major intellectual traditions within the study of History as a discipline. You will look at how history is a subject that sits between the social sciences and the arts, and often avoids reflecting on its own practice. You will consider what 'writing history' actually entails and what possibilities it offers, considering how history has proliferated over the last decade, both in the growth of scholoarly monographs and articles, and in the field of public history with its television serials, trade books, and museum displays.

Studying and Communicating the Past

In this module you will develop an understanding of the range, scope and depth of historical archives. You will learn how to uncover documents and artefacts, and how to construct a convincing historical story. You will interpret a variety of evidence including written texts, recorded interviews, film and photography and material objects, as well as look at some key interpretative methods such as oral and transnational history. You will hear from a number of visiting speakers who are specialists and practitioners, examining a range of theoretical approaches to historical interpretation.

Voice of the Public

In this module you will develop an understanding of the theory and practice of oral history in the wider context of public history. You will look at a range of current theories within oral history, including experience, collective memory and social remembering. You will examine the relationship between individual narratives, group narratives and public memory, and the concept of historical consciousness. You will examine the ethical and legal implications of collecting and using oral history interviews, including the significance and implications of shared authority and the Copyright, Designs and Patenets Act (1998).  You will also learn how to design questions and schedules, and how to conduct and evaluate an interview, considering the different ways an interview can be interpreted.

The Public Communication and the Understanding of History

In this module you will develop an understanding of the core issues in communicating the public understanding of the past. You will learn how to plan, record and produce a variety of aural, written and visual projects. You will look at recent and current developments in the field of public communications in a variety of printed, audio and visual media. You will examine controversies in contemporary public history and heritage, archives and museums, and consider the interface between historical resources and public output, analysing how the public engages with history.

Project Dissertation

You will carry out an extended piece of research. You will be appointed a member of academic staff who will act as your supervsior, providing you with support and guidance. You will produce a written report of between 10,500 and 12,000 words in length or a comparative piece of work in another medium, such as a video or website.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, and a final project with accompanying reflexive essay.

Entry criteria:

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

Candidates with professional qualifications and work experience in an associated area will also be considered.

  • Applicants come from a diverse range of backgrounds and we accept a broad range of qualifications (including first degrees in subjects other than History).
  • We occasionally invite candidates to an interview  when we would like more information upon which to base a decision. If applicants are unable to attend, such as overseas students, we interview by telephone.

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies please see here.

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

Additional information:

  • An interview and sample essay may be required if we would like more information upon which to base a decision. Applicants unable to attend an interview, such as overseas students, will be interviewed by telephone.

On completion of your MA in Public History at Royal Holloway you will be equipped to pursue a career in broadcasting or film, in museums, heritage, with community organisations or in journalism. You will also have started to develop a valuable network of producers and representatives from production companies and links within the industry. Our Careers team will work with you to enhance your employability and prepare you for the choices ahead. Their support doesn’t end when you graduate; you can access the service for up to two years after graduation.

  • Our graduates are highly employable and, in recent years, have entered many different areas, including working for an MP, as a Heritage Officer, teaching and marketing. This course also equips you with a solid foundation for continued PhD studies. 

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**: £350 (£200 for travel to heritage sites for the Pathways to the Past module; £50 for travel and interview expenses for the Voice of the Public and Public Communication modules; book purchases across all units approximately £100).

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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