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The University of London’s MA in Garden and Landscape History is a unique programme that brings together history, horticulture, architecture, and archaeology to develop students’ appreciation of garden history as a cultural discipline. You will learn to appreciate differences in garden-making over time and in different countries, from 1500 to the present day in Britain, Europe, and America. All of our graduates are awarded a University of London degree.

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If you have specific questions about this degree, please make an enquiry.

Degree overview

The programme emphasises design and management, ownership, and the cultural contexts of gardens and landscapes. You will be introduced to key historical approaches, sources, and methods relevant to the study of gardens and landscapes throughout history. You will learn a range of research and writing skills and be taught by expert tutors from, or associated with, the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), where there is a strong emphasis on tutor-student interaction in class.

To find out more about the course, download our programme specification

How will this course benefit me?

The Institute of Historical Research (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, which MA students are encouraged to attend. We are a specialist provider of history programmes and provide small-group teaching, with tuition and research supervision by leading historians.

You’ll have access to the IHR’s dedicated history research library of more than 180,000 volumes and periodicals, including a wide range of material covering garden history, as well as the University of London’s Senate House Library with more than one million books. The Institute’s library, teaching and events space, research training room, and the IHR common room occupy five floors of Senate House.

Modules and structure

The programme can be completed in one year (full time). 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:

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  • 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). Find out more about the PG Cert option here, and the PG Dip option here

Teaching takes place on Wednesdays from 10:00 to 17:00 and is divided between two terms. The third term is dedicated to writing the dissertation.  

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 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 twenty-first century.

Students choose one unit from each group: 

Group A 

  • Travel and the seventeenth-century garden

  • Eighteenth-century gardens

Group B 

  • Nineteenth-century English gardens

  • American gardens 1800 to the present day  

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.

 

About the institute

Founded in 1921, the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) is at the centre of the study of academic history. It is home to the Centre for this History of People, Place and Community and provides a stimulating research environment though its outstanding open-access library, events and seminar programme, its dedicated programme of research training, and 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 in any discipline in the humanities that is related to the course. I 

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

English is the language of instruction and applicants are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency.

Find out more about entry requirements here.

How to apply

For entry, please register your interest and you will be notified when applications open. For more information on how to apply, including the documentation you will need to provide on the application form, visit our How to Apply page.

Fees, funding and scholarships

The School of Advanced Study is a unique environment in which to study the humanities.  The School strives to reflect the latest developments in thinking across the humanities disciplines it supports and to ensure that its programmes reflect this.   We are also aware that the needs of our students are constantly changing.  With that in mind, the School continually reviews the its programmes and, as part of that process, reserves the right to alter or discontinue them. 

We assure you that we carry out these exercises at no detriment to any enrolled students. Students enrolled on any programme that we discontinue will be able to complete that programme within a reasonable timeframe and with all the necessary resources at their disposal. The School will communicate any anticipated changes with students as early as possible.