The IHR is a centre for historians from all over the world to meet, research and discuss ideas. It is home to the UK’s largest programme of history seminars, covering the whole range of historical enquiry, and houses its own dedicated library of over 180,000 volumes and periodicals. 

The MA and MRes in Historical Research will equip students with a range of specialist and transferable research skills, as well as an understanding of the theoretical approaches to history, enabling them to pursue an academic career in history or careers in many other fields.

The MA and MRes programmes enable students to undertake both assessed work and independent research in the historical issues and controversies that interest them most. The core of both programmes consists of dedicated research skills training on a wide range of sources, methods and disciplines, including architecture, material culture, archaeology and literature, to enhance historical research and understanding. Field trips and museum, library and archive visits form a key part of the training programme. The MA has been offered since 2007, whilst the MRes was introduced in 2014.

Both programmes offer a combination of taught components and supervised independent research designed to provide graduates with a foundation for a range of careers, within and beyond academia. They provide an ideal platform for entry to a PhD programme and research-based careers such as Library and Information Sciences. Beyond the core elements of the MA/MRes programmes, the MA provides the opportunity to study two specialist historical subjects in detail before proceeding to a 15,000 word dissertation. The 30,000 word dissertation of the MRes allows students to undertake more in-depth research on the subject of their choosing. 

The courses are based at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) in central London. The course director is Dr Mark Merry (Centre for Metropolitan History, IHR), and the courses are taught by a team of tutors, including Professor Sally Alexander (Goldsmiths, University of London), Professor Lawrence Goldman (IHR), Mr Matthew Bristow (VCH/Historic England), Dr Adam Chapman (VCH), Dr Herbert Eiden (VCH), Dr Andrea Tanner (IHR), and Dr Simon Trafford (IHR).

Course handbook


Course Structure

Students of both the MA and MRes will take the core ‘Historical Research Skills’ and ‘History in Context’ modules, which introduce them to ideas and methods involved in historical research from the medieval period to the 21st century. Further skills-based training is provided by specialised courses at the Institute.

For the MA, module 3 provides students with the opportunity to study particular topics in more detail, offering two courses from a list of options. For the MRes, module 3 involves the selection of a research pathway which will prepare students for the dissertation through a series of classes discussing research design, sources, historiography and methodologies. Module 4 is a 15,000-word (for the MA) or 30,000-word (for the MRes) dissertation.

Alongside the development of techniques, skills and knowledge relevant to individual interests and research needs, the programme aims to equip students for both independent research and analysis in primary and secondary material, and writing at an advanced level, thus fostering their intellectual development and independent learning ability required for continuing professional and personal development.



Module 1: Historical Research Skills

This module introduces students to advanced historical studies. It focuses on providing students with practical historical skills and a practical understanding of different historical approaches and methods. It offers students an introduction to the theoretical basis of historical approaches and the opportunity to explore how related disciplines (such as archaeology, anthropology, sociology and political science) have helped historians adopt new approaches to the past. Methodological approaches, including the handling of material evidence, the use of digital techniques, and the interpretation of visual sources, are also studied.

This module is assessed by a 5,000-word essay. 

As part of this module, students are also required to take one of the IHR’s short training courses, e.g. Historical Citation, Local History, Oral History, Using the Internet for Historical Research, Constructing Databases, Textual Analysis, Latin (beginners and intermediate) and Palaeography – see www.history.ac.uk/research-training. This is assessed by a 1,500-word report.

Module 2: History in Context 

This core module, taught through 2-hour lectures and seminars, explores a number of themes in historical research, building on the skills and approaches learned in module 1. These include local and urban history, as well as the history of gender, migration and empires. Students will be encouraged to think about the significance of continuity and change in history and periodisation, as well as the presentation of history in museums and other public fora. This module is assessed by one essay of 5,000 words and a 15-minute presentation on an aspect of history in context.

MA course

Two core modules, two taught option courses, a supervised dissertation of 15,000 words. For the MA, part-time students complete the two core modules and one option course in the first year of study and the second option course, plus the dissertation in the second year.

Module 3: Taught option courses

Two ten-week courses are chosen from a list of options which may include ‘Health and Welfare’, ‘Local History’, ‘Material Culture’, ‘The Making of the Metropolis’, ‘Death in England’, ‘Rural History’ and ‘Digital History’. Each course is assessed by a 3,000-word essay.

Module 4: Supervised Dissertation (15,000 words)

The dissertation offers the chance to design and implement a project drawing on the skills and methods learnt during the course. It can be undertaken in any area of history in which the course tutors have supervisory expertise.

MRes course

Two core modules, a research pathway module, a supervised dissertation of 30,000 words. For the MRes, part-time students complete the two core modules and research pathway module in the first year and the 30,000-word dissertation in the second year. All taught classes are on Wednesdays.

Module 3: Research Pathway

In preparation for the dissertation, students select a research pathway in discussion with course tutors. Possible pathways include: local history, digital history, history of medicine, urban history, including the history of London, modern history/imperial history/global history, material culture and archaeology. Through a series of classes and individual supervisions, students will be helped to choose a dissertation subject and to become more familiar with the chosen period or area of study. The module is assessed by a 3,000-word essay.

Module 4: Supervised Dissertation (30,000 words)

The dissertation consists of a significant research project providing the opportunity for the student to undertake an in-depth investigative project from one of the research pathways.


Mode of Study and Assessment

Both the MA and MRes are designed to be completed over one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). The programmes are modular. Students are required to complete two core modules, each consisting of ten, weekly two-hour classes, in historical research skills and history in context. Students are also required to take one of the IHR’s short research training courses. For the MA, module 3 is made up of two ten-week taught option courses, with a dissertation of 15,000 words forming module 4. For the MRes, module 3 consists of a series of weekly classes and individual meetings with supervisors in preparation for the module 4 dissertation of 30,000 words. The Institute welcomes applications from part-time students and has ensured that degrees are accessible to those who are working and studying part-time, with all the teaching of the core modules being undertaken on one day a week, i.e. Wednesdays. Supervision for the dissertation can be arranged to suit working patterns.

The MA and MRes are assessed through essays, a short report on a research training course, a fifteen-minute oral presentation and a dissertation.


What our students say

I work as a freelance science reporter but in my spare time got involved in a community history project and discovered a fascination with archives and the thrill of the chase for a lost map. Having found the map and published a short article on it, I knew I wanted to keep digging for buried historical treasures and telling the world about them. 

Also, I realized that much of my journalism had a historical flavour. So, for career development and personal interest,  I ended up on the IHR’s MRes in Historical Research. I could never have predicted how valuable it would be.  It gave me a solid grounding in historical methods and the dissertation supervision was everything I could have hoped for, and more besides. 

And I had the chance to present a paper to a postgraduate history conference and start to experience being part of a community of historians. It has truly been one of the most amazing things I have done in my life. I have found a new confidence and new insights at work and started me on a career development path I could never have imagined in a million years.

Sadly it has not completely cured me of hyperbole but I feel that in this context it is warranted. I am currently applying to do a PhD in Urban History.

- Tracey Logan (2016 MRes in Historical Research graduate)