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Public History

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Public History


The closing date for applications to start this course in September 2024 is 31 July 2024. Further detail here.

Key information

Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham and Central London

UK fees*: £10,600

International/EU fees**: £21,700

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 the following:

Dinah and Jessica Nichols scholarship – Cash award of £6250 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.


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.


UK Upper Class Honours degree (2:1) or equivalent, in History or a related subject in the Humanities or Social Sciences.

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.

International & EU requirements

English language requirements

  • 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
  • TOEFL iBT: 88 overall, with Reading 18 Listening 17 Speaking 20 Writing 26.
  • Duolingo: 120 overall, 135 in Literacy, 135 in Production and no sub-score below 100.

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*: £10,600

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £21,700

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 in the academic year 2024/25. 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.

Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase all postgraduate tuition fees annually, based on the UK’s Retail Price Index (RPI). Please therefore be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree (if longer than one year’s duration), and that this also means that the overall cost of studying the course part-time will be slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. For further information, please see our terms and conditions.

** This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25. Find out more 

*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

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