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Birkbeck, University of London: Historical Research

Institution Birkbeck, University of London View institution profile
Department School of Historical Studies
Telephone 0203 907 0700
Study type Taught


The MA Historical Research is our most flexible postgraduate history degree, offering you the opportunity to develop a pathway that best suits your needs and interests. You will take our flagship Mastering Historical Research module, with lectures from our leading specialists, and then choose from the full range of options offered in history, classics and archaeology. You can formulate a bespoke course which ranges across regions and periods or take a research route specifically designed to give you the intellectual foundations, practical techniques and confidence to pursue a PhD or independent historical research in a particular area.

On the core Mastering Historical Research module you will critically examine major themes and approaches used in historical research today, exploring key issues such as:

  • historical narrative

  • objectivity and relativism

  • causation

  • the relationship of history to other disciplines

  • the rise and impact of social and cultural histories

  • new directions in historical research and writing.

The culmination of this historical research course is an independently researched dissertation on a topic of your choice under the guidance and supervision of one of our research-active academics.

This course is part of our new Birkbeck Flexible Master’s UK, which gives you the choice of how you want to study - on campus, online or via flexible learning, which combines both.


  • This Master's degree offers you practical training in advanced research skills that can support progression to PhD study.

  • Birkbeck was ranked in the top eight universities in the UK for its History research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

  • Our research is unique in its range across geographical and chronological boundaries. We are the only university in London to include historians, classicists and archaeologists in the same team of academics investigating every period from prehistory to the early twenty-first century. We see the study of the past as crucial for our understanding of present-day society, culture and politics.

  • All Master’s students are eligible to apply for our prestigious Eric Hobsbawm Scholarships, subject to availability. One of the most influential historians of the twentieth century, Eric Hobsbawm taught at Birkbeck for over five decades and embodied what is central to our teaching and research: a continued commitment to critical enquiry and public engagement.

  • We are at the heart of academic London with access to unparalleled research resources. Situated very close by are: the Institute of Classical Studies, with its library, training facilities and seminars; the British Museum, with its extensive collection of classical antiquities; and the British Library, the largest national library in the world.

  • We are home to a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Careers and employability

This Master's in historical research will equip you with subject expertise which may be especially relevant to jobs in:

  • private and public consultancy

  • education

  • policy and government

  • NGOs and the charity sector.

It also gives you the opportunity to develop advanced critical thinking and analysis and high-level oral and written communication skills relevant to a wide range of other career paths. The research pathway of the MA Historical Research is especially designed to equip you with the skills and background to pursue doctoral research in history.


Birkbeck, part of the University of London, offers nearly 300 taught and research postgraduate programmes across arts and humanities, business and economics, law, science and social science. As an evening teaching specialist, Birkbeck offers its taught postgraduate courses between 6-9pm, with some courses available through distance learning. As with undergraduate courses, postgraduates can study full-time or part-time.

Home to 44 research and specialist institutes, Birkbeck is the sixth largest provider of taught postgrad courses for UK and EU students - some 44% of its 11,000-plus students are on postgrad programmes. Around 90% of its academics are active in research, and …

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