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History (MA by Research)

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Course overview

This Masters has been devised for students who wish to develop advanced historical research skills but who prefer, for practical or other reasons, not to attend a taught Masters programme.

The MA is assessed entirely on the research dissertation (maximum 40,000 words) which is supervised one-to-one. It is intended to give you scope to explore your area of interest in depth, test out a possible research topic, and learn the skills of extended scholarly writing.

This is an attractive advanced qualification which may also be suitable if you are seeking a career in academic research. Students intending to pursue an academic career (via PhD) should seek prior advice from the History Department, as some specialisms may require skills (such as languages) that can more easily be provided via a taught Masters programme.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts by Research
Duration One year full-time or two years part-time
Department and Faculty History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) --
Course director Professor Jonathan Harris
Contact for more information Professor Jonathan Harris 

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to Apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

A minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree in a relevant subject or overseas equivalent.

Relevant professional qualifications and relevant experience in an associated area.

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


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 requirements:

  • 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.

Why choose this course?

  • You will have 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.
  • Our academic staff are at the leading edge of their research fields and as such offer you an exceptional variety of expertise.
  • We host an exciting range of research seminars that are open for you to participate in.

Department research and industry highlights

Noted for depth, breadth and innovation, the research output of Royal Holloway historians ranges from ancient to contemporary times, from Britain and Europe to America, the Middle and Far East and Australia, and from political history to economic, social, cultural, intellectual, medical, environmental, and gender history. In particular, the History Department has special strengths in social, cultural, and gender history, and in the history of ideas - with research that covers a notable range of countries, periods, and approaches.

We have a number of research centres including:
Bedford Centre for the History of Women
Centre for the Study of the Body and Material Culture
Centre for the Study of the Domestic Interior
Centre for Public History
Research Centre for the Holocaust and Twentieth-Century History
Centre for South Asian Studies
Centre for Minority Studies
Hellenic Institute
1970s Network

Course content and structure

Content and structure:

Students will have an induction meeting with the supervisor (week 1) in which an initial work programme will be agreed, as well as coverage for any outstanding training needs. Students will also receive an introduction to the Library facilities.

The role of the supervisor is to offer support and advice at the different stages of the degree, beginning with advice about secondary bibliography and primary source research, progressing through to discussion of suitable structures for the dissertation, followed by feedback on sample drafted material. 

As further research preparation, supervisors can also arrange for Masters by Research students who wish to do so (and who are able to attend the scheduled hours) to audit on a voluntary basis appropriate taught courses in RHUL History department (for example, the MA in History skills and/or concepts courses). 

Students are encouraged to attend relevant seminar sessions (such as the History Postgraduate Seminar, the RHUL History Departmental Research Seminar, HARC and also to take advantage of the many seminars offered by the Institute of Historical Research, Senate House.

Students should expect to meet their supervisors at least once every month in the first two terms. Phone and e-mail contact may take the place of face to face supervision for students who have difficulties attending College, or who are conducting archival research or other field work. Written work should be produced regularly to be discussed with the supervisor. The History Department will monitor and take action regarding students who fail to have regular contact with their supervisor, whatever their mode of communication.

The Masters by Research (History) is examined 100% on the final dissertation which the candidate is required to defend in a viva. 

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • a high level of skill in the research, analysis and presentation of complex/fragmentary data
  • an advanced knowledge and critical understanding of the major concepts and theories that inform the subject
  • an understanding of the various explanations and theories for change and continuity in history
  • an understanding of the underlying social, cultural, economic, religious, ideological and political changes occurring during the periods studied.


100% assessed on the basis of the research dissertation submitted (40,000 words max).

Employability & career opportunities

Our graduates are highly employable and, in recent years have entered roles such as university lecturer, archivist, curator, journalist, librarian, PR consultant, teacher, freelance researcher, radio producer and a wide variety of other jobs within the ‘knowledge industries’. This degree also equips you with a solid foundation for continued academic study.


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