Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time
Institution code: R72
UK fees*: £8,600
International/EU fees**: £18,200
Medieval Studies (MA)
A collaboration between the Departments of English and History and the Department of 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, music and archaeology. 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.
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.
- As part of the University of London, you will have the opportunity to participate 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.
All students pursuing the MA in Medieval Studies and the MA in Crusader Studies take this module, and so it creates and fosters an intellectual community of medievalists during your time on the degree. The module aims to make you aware of the issues and topics associated with the study of the Middle Ages on a wide and interdisciplinary basis, give you the skills that you need to undertake research in the field of Medieval Studies, and provide opportunities for you to engage in and practise academic dismodule, particularly in an oral context.
This interdisciplinary module explores the traditions and forms and varieties of medieval story-telling. You will read texts in Old and Middle English, French, Latin and Italian in translation. You will explore various narrative genres, such as epic, chronicle, romance, and fabliau, and two of the major tale collections of the period, the Decameron and the Canterbury Tales.
Using the skills learned during the taught parts of your MA in Medieval Studies, you will carry out your own independent research project. You will write a thesis of around 15,000 words on a topic of your choice which critically reflects upon established scholarship and provides original insight and independent judgements.
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.
This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.
There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
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.
The aims of the module are to develop an understanding of the significance of pilgrimage in the medieval world through a combination of contextual study of the ideals and practices associated with this dimension of medieval piety, and specific study of contemporary pilgrimage accounts from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. Students should thereby be able to consider specific aspects of pilgrimage and the practices associated with it within a broad context of changing practices of piety. They should appreciate the value of interdisciplinary approaches to the understanding of medieval texts, and comparative approaches to medieval religious history. The content will be based on study of a number of pre-selected contemporary pilgrimage accounts from Latin and Byzantine sources, in translation. Typical topics will include: the practice of pilgrimage in religious traditions from Late Antiquity onwards, Saints' cults and sacred space, specific pilgrimage destinations, pilgrims' writings, gender, class, material culture, etc.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the Old English poetic tradition, particularly as exemplified by the Exeter Book Riddles. You will look at unusual perspectives on Anglo-Saxon culture and literature, and examine topics such as military, religious and everyday worlds, the wonders of creation, animals, sources and analogues, sexuality and runic riddles.
In this module you will develop an understanding of how the crusading movement arose at a time of significant change for women. You will look at the effects of the Gregorian Reform and contemporary societal change on women’s traditional roles. You will examine how medieval historians used gendered language and moral tales to express their disapproval of women who took the cross, and the role of women in supporting crusader battles, often becoming the casualties of warfare. You will consider the role of noble women in providing political stability through regency and marriage after the First Crusade in the Latin society established in the East, including the dramatic reign of Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, and the effects of crusading on women who remained in the West.
This module investigates the origins of the Seventh Crusade; the progress and outcome of the campaign; the presence of Louis IX in the East, 1250-54; the writing of John of Joinville; the end of the Ayyubid dynasty and the emergence of the Mamluks; the emergence of the Mongols into the consciousness of western Europe; how the papacy tried to understand and react to this; the aims and motives of the missionary journeys of the 1240s and 1250s; their outcomes and the reasons therein.
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.
This module traces the response of the rulers of the Byzantine Empire to the First Crusade, which passed through their territory in 1096-7. It places the crusade in the context of previous Byzantine interaction with the Latin West, especially attempts by the emperors to secure military help both before and during the reign of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118). The events of the First Crusade - its preaching by Urban II in 1095, its arrival at Constantinople in 1096-7, its progress through Byzantine territory to Antioch, the ‘third wave’ of 1101 – will all be discussed in this context through a range of Byzantine and Western source material in translation. Among the issues discussed will be the role of Alexios I in the preaching and launching of the crusade, the nature of the oaths sworn in Constantinople in 1097, the importance of the schism between the Byzantine and western Churches and the origin of the hostility between Bohemond and Alexios I.
This module takes a long-term view of the crusade which captured and sacked Constantinople, the capital city of the Byzantine empire, in April 1204. Starting in around 1192, it places events in the context of relations between the Byzantines and previous crusades, of the internal situation of the empire and of the position in the Latin east in the aftermath of the Third Crusade. It then examines how the Fourth Crusade was preached and planned, how it was diverted first to Zara and then to Constantinople, and how it came to attack and pillage the city. Translations of accounts left by contemporaries and eyewitnesses (both Byzantine and Western) will be studied in detail and subjected to critical analysis.
Teaching & assessment
Assessment is carried out by a variety of assessment methods, including coursework, essays, oral presentations, and formal examinations.
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.
Normally, we require a UK 2:2 (Honours) or equivalent in history or a related subject in the Humanities or Social Sciences. Candidates with professional qualifications or relevant professional or research experience in an associated area will also be considered.
International & EU requirements
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway (apart from some language courses) is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start of your course.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 7.0 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 69 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE IV.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your future career
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:
- writing and journalism
- human resources
- the Civil Service fast track graduate trainee programme
Fees, funding & scholarships
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £8,600
EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £18,200
Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.
All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. This means that the overall cost of studying the course via part-time mode is slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information, please see our terms and conditions. Please note that for research courses, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the RCUK website.
** The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us during the academic year 2023/24, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 30% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course. Find out more
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2022/23 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.