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The MA in Garden and Landscape History introduces students to key historical approaches, sources and methods relevant to the study of gardens and landscapes throughout history. They will learn how to acquire knowledge from a range of sources, including history, horticulture, architecture, and garden archaeology, in order to develop an appreciation of the study of garden history as a cultural discipline. Students will be able to appreciate differences in garden-making over time and in different countries, from the medieval period to the present day in Britain, Europe and America. Contact the institute

If you have specific questions about the MA or MRes degree, please contact Olwen Myhill or the admissions office.

Degree Overview

The MA in Garden and Landscape History emphasises design and management, ownership, and the cultural contexts of gardens and landscapes. Students learn a range of research and writing skills. Teaching is provided by the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), with a strong emphasis on tutor-student interaction in class. The programme features visits to gardens throughout London, along with practical sessions at museums and libraries. Students can participate in an optional field trip to Italy in the spring (depending on student demand).

Why study at the IHR?

  • Specialist provider of history programmes 
  • Tuition and research supervision by leading historians 
  • Small-group teaching 
  • Access to a dedicated history research library 

Modules and structure

The programme can be completed in one year (full time) or two years (part time). Teaching takes place on Thursdays from 10:00 to 17:00 and is divided between two terms. The third term is dedicated to writing the dissertation.  

Students must complete core module 1, core module 2 (selecting two options from the four provided), and core module 3 (a 15,000-word dissertation) to be awarded the MA. However, there are a range of options available for flexible study.

Those wishing to pursue this course on a part-time basis can complete modules 1 and 2 (the taught elements) in their first year and module 3, the dissertation, in their second year. 

Module 1 can be undertaken as a stand-alone unit leading to a PGCert; modules 1 and 2 can be taken as stand-alone units leading to a PGDip. In either of the options, the credits can be banked should the student wish to complete the MA at a later date (within a prescribed time frame). Please enquire for further details.

Modules (subject to change)

Module 1 (autumn term): Theory and Practice in Garden and Landscape History (60 credits) 

The first term will showcase the huge variety of resources available to study garden and landscape history from archaeology, architecture, cartography, horticulture, manuscripts, paintings, and other works of art, from the sixteenth century to the present day. A key aspect of module 1 is the opportunity to consider in detail theoretical concepts underpinning garden history and their practical application in the present day. Students will be expected to make themselves familiar with the timeline of garden design history by studying recommended texts and to prepare for each session by advance reading to enable full participation in discussion. Sessions include: 

  • Resources for garden restoration (Hampton Court) 
  • Conservation theory and practice
  • Italian Renaissance philosophy and garden design 
  • Sustainability and contemporary garden and planting design
  • Politics and gardens
  • Picturesque theory
  • Visits to RHS Wisley, the National Archives, RHS Lindley Library and the Garden Museum Archives

This module is assessed by a 1,500-word essay on a conceptual issue (e.g. sustainability, conservation or picturesque theory) plus a 5,000-word report on the history of a garden chosen by the student.

Module 2 (spring term): Culture and Politics of Gardens (60 credits) 

This module consists of four optional units; students choose two. These sessions aim to: 

  • Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of gardens and landscapes in different countries 
  • Develop students’ critical analysis and judgement 
  • Demonstrate the importance of context and the relationship of garden and landscape history to other disciplines such as literature, social history, film and visual media, and the history of ideas 

This module addresses historiography, theory, and the connection between culture and politics in landscape-making. Students will expand skills developed in the first term by considering gardens and landscapes across regional boundaries. 

Representative topics include the influence in Britain of the Italian Renaissance’s new ideas on garden making, including architecture, sculpture and hydraulic engineering; iconography in gardens and landscapes; formality in garden-making as an indicator of the power of the owner, from the sixteenth century onwards, as in France; different aspects of the ‘natural’ garden from the eighteenth century onwards; conflict between the ‘natural’ and the formal in the nineteenth century, including the approaches of William Robinson and Reginald Blomfield in Britain; gender and garden-making; and the shifting boundaries between architect, landscape architect and plantsman relating to the status of those designing gardens and landscapes in the 21st century. 

Students will choose one unit from each group: 

Group A 

  • Travel and the seventeenth-century garden
  • American gardens, 1800 to the present day 

Group B 

  • Nineteenth-century English gardens 
  • The suburban garden between the wars

Please note that optional units are subject to change and depend on a minimum number of students expressing an interest. Please consider the list above a guide only.

This module is assessed by two 5,000-word essays (one on each of the options taken) plus a 1,500-word dissertation proposal. 

Module 3 (summer term): Supervised dissertation of 15,000 words (60 credits)

The MA dissertation (15,000 words) provides the opportunity to design and implement a small research project drawing on the skills and methods learnt during the course, or to undertake an investigative project that sheds new light on an aspect of garden history.

How you study

The programme is designed to be completed over one year (full time) or two years (part time). The programme is modular; to earn the MA, students must complete modules 1 and 2 plus a dissertation of 15,000 words. The Institute welcomes applications from part-time students and has ensured that the degree is accessible to those who are working and/or able to study only part time. All teaching of the core modules is done on a single day of the week, and supervision for the dissertation can be arranged to suit the student’s schedule. 

Students who successfully complete the course are awarded their degree from the University of London. 


Find out more about the modules and structure of the course in the course handbook.


About the institute

Founded in 1921, the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) is at the centre of the study of academic history. It provides a stimulating research environment supported by the IHR’s two research centres: the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History. It is home to an outstanding open access library, hosts events and seminars, has a dedicated programme of research training, and is at the forefront of developing a range of digital resources for historians. The Institute is a member institute of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study.

Entry requirements

The normal minimum entrance requirement would be a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree from a recognised university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard (for example a grade-point-average of 3.0 or higher).

Applications from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience, could be considered

How to apply

You can apply online via our online applications system.

Apply - MA 

Apply - PGDip 

Apply- PGCert

For more information on how to apply, click here.

Fees, funding and scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees here.

The School of Advanced Study has a range of funding opportunities for home, EU and international applicants. Find out more about funding opportunities here. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

Facilities at the IHR

  • Prime location in Bloomsbury in central London with close proximity to the British Museum, British Library, Theatreland, the restaurants of Fitzrovia, and shopping in Oxford and Regent Streets 
  • Central London transport links make us easy to reach 
  • The Institute is located in the University of London’s Senate House within walking distance of other colleges of the Federation (e.g. SOAS, Birkbeck, UCL, Institute of Education)
  • The IHR is housed in its own building, comprising its library, teaching space, research training room and the IHR common room 
  • The IHR Library has more than 180,000 history books and periodicals, including a wide range of material covering garden history 
  • Free access to the University of London’s Senate House Library with more than one million books 
  • Join us for a huge range of weekly events celebrating history in both the IHR and the School of Advanced Study 
  • Enjoy the largest programme of history seminars in the UK, including a fortnightly History of Gardens and Landscapes seminar 
  • Extend your learning by undertaking one of our numerous specialist history research training programmes (free for registered students)
  • Take advantage of the IHR’s unique position at the forefront of digital and online resources in history 
  • Be supported by the School of Advanced Study’s student support services 
  • Seek assistance with career advice and guidance from the University of London’s specialist careers support service 
  • Use Student Central (formerly the University of London’s Union) with the latest sports facilities 
  • Work alongside two of the most well-established research centres in historical research – the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History 


What our students say 

I was a little anxious about throwing myself into academia at an advanced age, but the MA turned out to be an enriching and life-changing experience. The syllabus is wide and imaginative. The teaching is of the highest academic standard and the staff take considerable trouble to offer help and guidance in research, presentation, the disciplines of academic writing, and public speaking. 

The variety of lecturers and teaching environments on this course made me look forward to each week's new topic. This MA isn't just about 'gardens' and 'landscapes' - it gives an insight into political, economical and social history. Studying for the MA gave me the confidence to challenge some of the historical garden reports. After studying this course, you will never visit a historic house in the same way again!


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