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The MRes (Master of Research) in Historical Research is a degree programme that equips students with a range of specialist and transferable research skills, as well as an understanding of theoretical approaches to history.

Students undertake both assessed work and independent research in the historical issues and controversies that interest them most. The core of the programme consists of dedicated research skills training on a wide range of sources, methods and disciplines, including architecture, material culture, archaeology, and literature. 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, which MRes students are encouraged to attend. The IHR also houses its own dedicated library of more than 180,000 volumes and periodicals.

Contact the institute

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

Degree Overview

The programme offers 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. It provides 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 MRes programme, a 30,000-word dissertation allows students to undertake more in-depth research on a subject of their choosing.

The course is based at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) in central London, and draws on the specialist expertise of tutors from a number of institutions. The course director is Dr Mark Merry (Centre for Metropolitan History, IHR). It is taught by a team of tutors that includes Mr Matthew Bristow (Victoria County History/Historic England), Mr Jonathan Blaney (IHR Digital), Dr Philip Carter (IHR Digital), Dr Adam Chapman (VCH), Dr Herbert Eiden (VCH Essex), Professor Lawrence Goldman (IHR/SAS), Dr Peter Jones (CMH, IHR), Dr Andrea Tanner (IHR Fellow), Dr Simon Trafford (IHR), and Dr Matthew Shaw (IHR).

Modules and structure

Students take the taught core modules, which introduce them to ideas and methods involved in historical research from the medieval period to the twenty-first century. Further skills-based training is provided by specialised short courses at the Institute. Module 3 involves the undertaking of a ‘research pathway’ that will prepare students for the dissertation through a series of classes discussing research design, sources, historiography, and methodologies. Module 4 is a 30,000-word 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 for writing at an advanced level, thus fostering their intellectual development and the independent learning ability required for continuing professional and personal development.

Modules (subject to change)

Module 1: Historical Research Skills

This module introduces students to advanced historical studies. It provides practical historical skills and an understanding of different historical approaches and methods. It offers 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, such as: Oral History; Visual Sources; Local History Day School; Databases for Historians; Text Processing; Historical Mapping; Explanatory Paradigms: An Introduction to Historical Theory; Methods and Sources for Historical Research; and Palaeography (for the current courses, see This is assessed by a 1,500-word research skills assessment, which asks students to consider the application of the research skills and methodological approaches to historical research taught by that course.

Module 2: History in Context 

This second core module is also taught through two-hour lectures and seminars and 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, the history of reading and writing, environment and history, popular culture, biography, and health and mortality. Students are also encouraged to think about the significance of continuity and change in history and periodisation. This module is assessed by one essay of 5,000 words and a 15-minute presentation on an aspect of history in context.

Module 3: Research Pathway 

The purpose of module 3 is to prepare students for the dissertation through a series of classes and individual supervisions designed to help select a dissertation subject and become more familiar with the chosen period or area of study. It will include, where appropriate, visits to relevant archives and museums, as well as discussions with other IHR staff and Fellows. By the end of the module students will have clearly defined their topic and principal research questions. This module is assessed through a 3,000-word essay, which discusses research design, sources, historiography, and methodologies to be used for the dissertation.

Module 4: Supervised Dissertation (30,000 words)  

The MRes dissertation provides students with the opportunity to undertake an in-depth investigative project on the subject chosen during module 3, guided by individual supervision from an expert(s) in the chosen field. It provides an excellent platform for those wishing to go on to PhD study.


The MRes is assessed through essays, a short research skills assessment, a 15-minute oral presentation and a dissertation.

How you study

The MRes is designed to be completed over one year (full-time) or two years (part-time). The programme is modular. Students undertake two core modules, in historical research skills and history in context. Each core module is taught in small groups and consist of ten, weekly two-hour, seminar-type classes. At registration, students are given a reading list for all of the classes. It is expected that sufficient private study is undertaken to enable full participation in each class. During the first term students are required to write a short essay; this is not formally assessed but is used to gauge writing styles and to detect any issues that can be worked on prior to submitting the assessed coursework. Students are also required to take one of the IHR’s short research training courses. 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 normal minimum academic entrance requirement is an upper-second class honours degree from the United Kingdom or an international qualification of an equivalent standard. Applications may also be considered from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements, but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience. The Institute welcomes applications from part-time students and has designed the programme to be accessible to those who are working and studying part-time. All teaching of the core modules is done on a single day of the week, and supervision for module 3 and the dissertation can be arranged to suit the student’s schedule.

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.

Studying at the IHR means you benefit from:

  • Specialist provider of history programmes 
  • Tuition and research supervision by leading historians 
  • Small-group teaching 
  • Access to a dedicated history research library
  • Students who successfully complete the course are awarded their degree from the University of London

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.


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.

British and American Friends of the Institute of Historical Research Bursary

The British and American Friends of the Institute of Historical Research generously support a bursary scheme for students of outstanding promise on the MA or MRes in Historical Research. Both full-time and part-time students are eligible for the bursary, worth £3,000. Candidates should be able to demonstrate the following: a first class or upper second class undergraduate degree, or the expectation of one; evidence of exceptional research potential; a firm intention to proceed to doctoral training or a research-related career. The awards will normally be made to candidates who are not in receipt of other funding. More information on the Friends bursary.

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 

Janette Bright (2017 MRes in Historical Research graduate)For me personally, this has been a life-changing course.  Equally rewarding and challenging, it was one of the best decisions in my life to study for an MRes at the Institute of Historical Research.   

All the staff have been helpful and encouraging - it was one of the first things I noticed when I arrived.  I was particularly pleased with the support received for my final dissertation - from a very knowledgeable and approachable supervisor.  

I am pleased to say that I will be continuing my studies at the institute, having successfully applied for a PhD" 

Janette Bright (2017 MRes in Historical Research graduate)

“The course was such a happy experience for me.  It met all my expectations, and has provided me with the tools I need to take my history research to the next level. I found it both thorough and rigorous, it offered the ideal combination of challenge and support that I needed to develop as a historian” 

Yvette Williams Elliott (2017 MRes in Historical Research graduate)

Apply online 

Apply online 

Apply to study the MRes in Historical Research using our online application portal


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