Skip to main content

Public History

Public History

Apply now

For an early decision on your application, apply by 1 June. Standard closing date is 31 July 2023. Find out more

Key information

Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees*: £10,100

International/EU fees**: £19,500

The course

Public History (MA)

Royal Holloway’s MA in Public History was launched in 2009 and is the most well-established programme of its kind in the United Kingdom, attracting applicants from across the world. The Department of History, which forms part of Royal Holloway’s School of Humanities, is both a leading European centre for public history and one of the most innovative, diverse and widely recognised departments in the country. Members of faculty regularly appear on television, radio and in the popular print media and many of our staff are also engaged in community-based projects that make important contributions to policy development and national debates.

This MA offers a unique qualification for those who hope to forge a career in the public history sector, and to work at a heritage site, in a museum, or in film, television or print journalism. Through a variety of highly engaging modules, students are trained in the professional skills of historical interpretation and communication and provided with opportunities to meet leading practitioners in the field, including popular historians, museum curators, public archivists, publishers and TV and radio producers.

The programme thus provides a dynamic and challenging combination of practical and theoretical learning for historians who are keen to communicate with a wide public audience and offers students a unique gateway to the heritage sector and to the world of popular media. Many of our graduates have gone on to establish rewarding careers in the heritage and public history sectors, working for the National Archives, BBC, the Imperial War Museum, and a whole range of more local institutions.

We offer a wide range of postgraduate scholarships to help with funding your studies. We especially encourage eligible applicants to apply for one of the following:

Brian Harris scholarship – full tuition fee reduction plus £14,800 research, living and travel costs for UK students with, or expected to achieve, a First Class degree.

Dinah and Jessica Nichols scholarship – £12,000 scholarship for Home/EU or international students with, or expected to achieve, a First Class degree or equivalent.

From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

  • This module introduces students to ideas about, and approaches to, public history in Britain and the wider world, with the seminars providing a weekly forum for students to learn about and discuss the rich variety of ways in which historians engage public interest in the past. Students are encouraged to explore the history of public history and heritage and to understand that the representation of ‘the past’ has often been, and continues to be, contested and exploited for political, commercial and community ends.

    Over the module of two terms, students acquire a repertoire of skills and approaches (combined with the development of advanced skills in the researching and writing of history) to enable them to act as effective and engaging public historians. These include knowledge about ethical and legal matters, strategic planning and development, as well as awareness of a range of issues that arise when working with local communities, conducting audience/visitor surveys and evaluations, exhibition planning and development, collection conservation, and education techniques for working in informal public spaces. The successful communication of ideas about the past, as well as what to avoid when communicating, are key, overarching themes of the module.

  • Radio broadcasting has a long and distinguished tradition of public history programming and innovation. This module seeks to equip students with a practical skillset and to offer you industry insights that will enable you to produce radio programmes that are informative and accurate, but also entertaining and engaging. Over the course of an intensively-taught series of seminars, you will learn how to devise, research, record, structure, edit and present radio programmes to professional broadcasting standard. Importantly, the very transferable skills you’ll acquire on this module can be used to create a wide range of other aural and audio projects.

    In order to explore fully the range of possibilities available students are taught the necessary basics of sound recording, from types and use of microphones to various different kinds of recording equipment and editing suites. You’ll also learn the technological side of interviewing techniques, before progressing on to the techniques of finding and interviewing interesting and relevant contributors to obtain the right kind of material to use in a radio programme. As part of this module you will work in pairs to produce a five-minute audio guide on some aspect of the history of the College. The major piece of assessment, which is completed after the end of the module, will be to create a half-hour radio documentary. No previous knowledge or expertise of recording or editing is required and students often really enjoy this highly practical component of the MA in Public History course.

  • This module aims to introduce students to the theory and practice of oral history in the wider context of public history. Throughout the module we will examine the challenges and opportunities of employing oral history in a range of public history settings, including museums, the web, film & television, and community histories. Beginning with an exploration of the development of oral history as a rigorous academic field with strong grassroots and community-led foundations, we will go on to discover the ways in which oral history and public history have developed together as potentially radical ways in which to ‘do’ history. The module aims to provide students with the skills necessary to conduct and record an audio oral history interview to current broadcast and archive standards. Each student will undertake an oral history interview as part of a class project, with the completed interviews being deposited in the RHUL Archive.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of the range, scope and access to physical and digital archives, museums and resources. You will learn how to evaluate and interpret documents, recordings and artefacts; how to construct a convincing historical narrative; and how to effectively communicate your findings in print, oral and digital formats. You will interpret a variety of evidence including manuscript and printed texts, oral testimony, film and photography, and material objects, as well as look at some key interpretative methods such as oral and digital history. You will learn from members of staff who are experts in their fields and from visiting speakers who are specialists and practitioners, examining a range of theoretical and methodological approaches to historical interpretation and its communication to academic and public audiences.

  • This module looks at history from the point of view of its practitioners. It approaches historians as academic researchers but also as social actors and cultural brokers both in dialogue with the past, but also part of the societies they inhabit. The module centres around a set of key questions that drive historical research as well as historiographical debate today. How do historians think and write about the past? Do they have a role to play in our globalized and very much present-minded world? And how has "history" become part of contemporary debates on identity politics, post-truth and the digital divide? To answer these questions, the module critically interrogates history’s ambivalent position between art and social science and asks how historical concepts and historical research practices intersect with methods of communicating the past to an academic and wider audience.

  • In lieu a conventional academic thesis, all students are required to design and create a project through which they communicate with the public about the past in a meaningful and engaging fashion. The project can take the form of an exhibition, a teaching resource, a website, a podcast, a documentary, a play, or indeed any substantial output through which the author conveys ideas about the past to a wider public. This can focus on any historical period or theme, and, over the years, students have truly excelled when engaging with the final project and produced some extraordinarily creative and professional pieces of work.

  • 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.


Optional Modules

In addition to working towards producing their final project in the second half of the year, full-time MA students are required to take a two-term core module (Pathways to the Past), a radio, podcast and social media communications module, an innovative oral history module and two more conventionally historiographical one-term modules.


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.

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.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 6.5 overall Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.

On completion of your MA in Public History at Royal Holloway you will be equipped to pursue a career in the world of museums and heritage sites, in broadcasting or film, with community organisations or in journalism. You should 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 gone on to pursue a variety of really interesting careers with the BBC, Hampton Court Palace, the Imperial War Museum, the Houses of Parliament, the National Archives, and as engagement officers and historians with a variety of public history institutions and heritage sites. This module also equips you with a solid foundation for continued PhD studies.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £10,100

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £19,500

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.

* 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.

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones.

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start.

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help.

Discover more about our 21 departments and schools.

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Royal Holloway is a research intensive university and our academics collaborate across disciplines to achieve excellence.

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway.

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future.

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today.

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable.

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today.