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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.

The programme features practical sessions at museums and libraries. You will also have the opportunity to participate in an optional field trip to Italy in the spring (depending on student demand).

Why study at the IHR?

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) or two years (part 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:

  • 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. 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 your schedule.
  • 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 

  • Evolution of the English garden in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries
  • Eighteenth-century gardens

Group B 

  • Nineteenth-century gardens 
  • Gardens of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

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 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. Applications for this course starting in September 2019 are now closed. Register your interest in this course to be notified when applications open for 2020 entry onwards. 

For more information on how to apply, including the documentation you will need to provide on the application form, 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 


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.