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Public History (MA)

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Course overview

This MA is a specialised qualification for those wishing to pursue a career in history working in broadcasting or in film, in museums, heritage or in journalism.

You will be equipped with professional skills of historical interpretation and communication and provided with an opportunity to work alongside practitioners in the field, including museum curators, public archivists, publishers and TV and radio producers. We welcome a variety of guest lecturers and collaborate with a number of external partner institutions such as the National Trust, London Metropolitan Archives and ancestry.co.uk. 

This is a unique gateway to the heritage sector and to the popular media, a new MA for historians keen to engage in the modern world.

Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Arts
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) National Trust, Historic Royal Palaces, Surrey Record Centre, London Metropolitan Archives, ancestry.co.uk, Houses of Parliament Education Service
Course director Dr Graham Smith
+44(0)1784 414962
Contact for more information Marie-Christine Ockenden
Postgraduate Administrator
+44 (0)1784 443311

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:

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.

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

Applicants come from a diverse range of backgrounds and we accept a broad range of qualifications (including first degrees in subjects other than History).

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:

  • 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.

Why choose this course?

  • You will have the opportunity to network with producers and representatives from production companies and develop links within the industry.
  • You will be entitled to become members of the Institute of Historical Research, an excellent research library, which is housed in Senate House of the University of London. Every evening, many seminars meet at the Institute; here internationally known historians, postgraduate students, visiting historians or local scholars give papers and discussion follows.
  • Our unique course units are taught by industry professionals who are well connected and up-to-date with the latest techniques.
  • This is a unique gateway which provides students with the knowledge and skill base from which they can proceed to careers in the knowledge economy, the creative industries and the heritage industry.
  • Provision is made for students pursuing continuing professional development programmes and part-time study.

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:

Course content and structure

You will study five core units and produce a Project Dissertation.

Core course units:

Studying and Communicating the Past
You will be introduced to the range of skills and resources you need to understand and deploy as a historian. The unit includes guest talks by specialists and practitioners.

History Past and Present: Definitions, Concepts and Approaches
This is a wide-ranging methodology unit that explores the development of history as a discipline and considers the question ‘who and what is history for?’

The Public Communication and Understanding of History
This is an introduction to writing for popular media (journalism, TV and radio). The unit will include outside lecturers and a visit to a BBC/independent production company to meet working producers.

Pathways to the Past
This unit has been developed in collaboration with a number of external partner institutions and considers public history in the contemporary world through popular history books, films, exhibitions and national and local memorials

The Voice of the Public: Oral History in Public History
You will be introduced to the theory and practice of oral history and develops the skills necessary to conduct and record an audio oral history interview to current broadcast and archive standards.

The Public History Project Dissertation
This gives you the opportunity to either research a specific issue or engage with a specific partner institution to produce an exhibition, piece of oral history, a publishable article or radio programme.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • a systematic understanding and knowledge of issues of knowledge transfer and public engagement
  • critical awareness of current issues related to public history, heritage and citizenship
  • theoretical insights and methodological techniques relevant to the development and interpretation of historical knowledge in the public presentation of the past and to the evaluation of current research and scholarship in the field
  • tools of analysis to tackle issues and problems of the representation of the past.

View the full course specification for Public History (MA) in the Programme Specification Repository


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, examinations and a dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

This course fully prepares graduates for careers in heritage, media, journalism and education. 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. 


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