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Undertaking doctoral research allows you to develop in-depth knowledge, while making a meaningful contribution to your chosen field.

With guidance from our expert supervisors, you'll carry out extensive independent research culminating in a thesis of up to 100,000 words. The Institute has a broad remit to cover the history of the world from the fourth to the twenty-first century, but has particular strengths in British and European history.

This degree presents the opportunity to gain expertise in your area of interest while also honing a range of transferable skills. On completing this course, you'll be well prepared for specialist career paths both within academia and beyond.

Subject Areas

The Institute of Historical Research offers doctoral research supervision in the following broad areas:

  • Religious and cultural history
  • Political history
  • Economic and social history 1300-1500
  • Imperial history
  • History of Victorian Britain
  • Urban and metropolitan history (especially London) history, including comparative approaches across Europe and elsewhere
  • Royal and Diplomatic history since 1900
  • Local and regional history, primarily concerning England and including the impact of towns 
  • The experience and impact of empire
  • Architecture and planning and the built environment in Britain
  • Social, cultural, and environmental history, 700-1200
  • Medievalism and modern evocation of the Middle Ages
  • Digital history

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Institute's academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.


The Institute of Historical Research

The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) is an important resource and meeting place for researchers from all over the world, providing an accessible and stimulating portal for the exchange of ideas, information, and current developments in historical scholarship. 

It promotes the study of history and an appreciation of the importance of the past among academics and the general public, in the UK and internationally, and provides institutional support and individual leadership for this broad historical community. It offers a wide range of services that promote and facilitate excellence in historical research, teaching, and scholarship in the UK through its library, seminars, conferences, fellowships, training, consultancy, Continuing Professional Development programme, and publications. Its own academic staff and research centres produce internationally regarded scholarship.

The School of Advanced Study

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London brings together nine internationally renowned research institutes to form the UK's national centre for the support of researchers and the promotion of research in the humanities.

Course Structure

Full-time study for the PhD degree entails three or a maximum of four years' independent research, culminating in the writing of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words. Part-time students complete the same programme in five, or a maximum of six years.

After submission of the thesis, you will attend an oral examination conducted by an internal examiner, from the University of London, and an external examiner, normally from another British university.

There is no formal coursework, but you will be expected to participate in a Work in Progress seminar each term and to present at that seminar from your second year onward. You are also encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.

Distance Learning

The School of Advanced Study will offer students with an appropriate topic and level of local resource the opportunity to undertake a PhD by distance learning. These students are required to attend our London campus at set intervals to complete an intensive research training module, for upgrade, and for the viva but will otherwise study at their own location. This option is available to UK, EU and international students on the same basis as our on-campus PhD programmes (three years full time, six years part time). Fees are the same as for our on-campus PhD programmes. Please note that not all institutes and supervisors offer this option, and that some topics are not appropriate to be studied this way.

If you would like to be considered for our Research Degree programme via Distance Learning, please download and fill out the Research Degrees by Distance Learning form, to attach to your online application.

Opportunities and Facilities

The Institute of Historical Research is based in Bloomsbury, located within the University of London’s Senate House, and in easy walking distance of the British Library. Students have access to the world-renowned IHR library with over 180,000 history books and periodicals, the digital and online resources within the institute as well as free access to the University of London’s Senate House Library with over a million books. Also available are other unique collections such as the Institute of Classical Studies Library and the Warburg Institute Library.

Students at the Institute are welcomed to the wide range of history seminars and specialist research training progra

mmes, as well as benefitting from the Institute’s network of Senior, Honorary, Research and Associate fellows. There are also opportunities to work alongside the established research centres in History – the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History.

The Institute is at the centre of academic history, and has partnerships with numerous nationally and internationally renowned library and art collections, as well as links with the cultural and heritage sector, professional bodies, Guilds and Livery Companies, Archives, the City of London and higher education institutions in the UK and internationally. 

More broadly, the School of Advanced Study itself offers excellent resources for inter-disciplinary research by bringing together nine internationally renowned research institutes that support the promotion of research in the humanities.

Much like the Institute itself, the School offers a broad range of events, seminars and conferences that we encourage our research students to engage with.

Our research students can also take advantage of a varied and challenging research training programme, with general research skills training and research methodologies courses provided through the School and subject-specific training provided within the institutes.

How to Apply

Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Warburg academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.

Before agreeing to accept you, the School will require you to submit a research proposal, so it is worthwhile having this drafted ahead of a formal application. Guidelines on drafting your research proposal.

Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within 28 working days. Those who have been formally interviewed will normally be informed within one week as to whether they are to be offered a place.

Note: in accordance with regulations research students will be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Upgrading to PhD will be considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.


Please note that occasionally the Institute will co-supervise with individuals outside of the IHR in order to enhance the breadth of expertise available to the student.

Dr Adam Chapman

Lecturer in Medieval History; Editor, Victoria County History

Email | Research Profile


Adam is Editor and Training Co-ordinator with the Victoria County History and one of the organisation’s central office editorial staff based at the Institute of Historical Research. Adam received an MA in Medieval History from the University of East Anglia in 2003, followed in 2010 by a doctorate from the University of Southampton. Before joining the VCH, Adam worked on the AHRC-funded project ‘The Soldier in Later Medieval England, 1369-1453’, and in a variety of teaching and research roles at several UK higher education institutions. Adam specialises in the history of Wales and England from the thirteenth century to the fifteenth. His research interests include the cultural effects of war on medieval society, the development of the medieval landscape, and tracing the lives and careers of individuals through documentary records. He is also interested in the development and application of new technology to historical and archaeological research. He has published on the role of Wales and the Welsh in later medieval England.


  • Late medieval England and Wales (c. 1250-1500)
  • Later medieval armies and warfare
  • Local and regional history

Matt Bristow

Architectural Editor, Victoria County History 

Email | Research Profile


Matt is Architectural Editor for the Victoria County History and lectures in Landscape Studies for the Institute's Masters and PhD programmes. He combines this with his role as a Senior Archaeological Investigator for Historic England’s Policy and Evidence Group. Matt previously served as the Historic Environment Research Manager on the Victoria County History's 'England’s Past for Everyone Project' (EPE), a national £5.6 million Heritage Lottery-funded local history and community outreach project. He was also part of the bid team who secured HLF funding for the Layers of London digital mapping project. Matt is a graduate of the University of Leicester, and holds MIfA grade membership of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists. He is also a PRINCE2 project management practitioner. Specialising in landscape and buildings archaeology, Matt has a wide range of research interests and expertise including church architecture, vernacular buildings, monastic landscapes, the buildings of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, transport history, settlement morphology, 20th-century social housing and phase I New Towns. These research interests have resulted in published material in the EPE and VCH series, Historic England Research Reports and the delivery of conference papers. Between 2010 and 2015 Matt served as the editor of the peer-reviewed journal, Vernacular Architecture, and he currently teaches sessions on the built environment for the IHR’s MRes programme.xt here.


  • The built environment, especially of the twentieth century

Prof Catherine Clarke

Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place, and Community 

Catherine Clarke


E-mail | Research Profile 


Catherine is a cultural historian specialising in the Middle Ages, but she also works across a wide range of periods on questions of place, identity, heritage (including interpretation practice), and uses of the past (especially medievalism). Before moving to the IHR, Catherine’s disciplinary background was in English Language and Literature: she was a Professor in English Literature at the University of Southampton for seven years, and remains a Visiting Professor in English there. She has also led a number of large, multi-disciplinary projects spanning literature, history, historical geography / archaeology and digital humanities. She is thus particularly well equipped to supervise inter-disciplinary PhD projects, and keen to receive proposals in areas that bridge traditional disciplines and period boundaries, include digital methods, or involve creative, applied, engaged or practice-based elements.



  • Medieval history
  • Cultural history
  • Place and identity
  • Heritage (including interpretation practice)
  • Medievalism and other uses of the past
  • Interdisciplinary approaches (including digital methods, creative, and practice-based elements

Dr Christopher Thornton

County Editor, Victoria County History of Essex

Email | Research Profile


Chris joined the staff of the Victoria County History of Essex in 1992 and has been County Editor of the Victoria History of the County of Essex since 2003. For more information about the activities of VCH Essex, visit the VCH Essex website.


  • Local and regional history

Dr Alan Thacker

VCH consultant, local and regional history; medieval church history

Email | Research Profile


Executive Editor, Victoria County History

Dr Alan Thacker is a Reader and Executive Editor of the Victoria County History at the IHR.


  • Medieval history
  • Local and regional history

Dr Simon Trafford

Director of Studies and Lecturer in Medieval History

Email | Research Profile


Simon's broad interests are in the history and archaeology of early medieval Europe, c.350-1150. He specialises in later Anglo-Saxon England, especially the kingdoms of Northumbria and York, and concentrating in particular on migration, identity, and gender. Recently he has been developing projects in various types of human engagement with the sea and water in early medieval Britain. He also maintains a keen interest in modern constructions and appropriations of the early medieval past, with a particular concentration on representations of the vikings in popular culture.


  • Early medieval migration
  • The kingdom of Northumbria, c.450 – c.1100
  • Popular medievalism
  • 1800 – present
  • Early medieval seas and rivers

Professor Jo Fox

Director of the Institute of Historical Research; Professor of Modern History 

Email | Research Profile


Professor Jo Fox is Director of the Institute of Historical Research and Professor of Modern History at the University of London. She joined the Institute in January 2018 and was previously Professor of Modern History and Head of Department at Durham University, where she began her academic career in 1999.

Jo is a specialist in the history of propaganda and psychological warfare in twentieth-century Europe. She has published on propaganda in Britain and Germany during the First and Second World Wars, in particular exploring the connections between propaganda and popular opinion. She is currently working on a history of rumour in the Second World War and, with David Coast (Bath Spa), on a major project on rumour and politics in England from 1500 to the present day.

Jo has contributed to broadcasts for the BBC (Woman’s Hour, Making History, The One Show, and various documentaries for BBC4, including acting as historical consultant for The Documentary Film Mob) and BBC Radio 4, including presenting an episode of Document on ‘Scotland’s Lord Haw-Haw', CBC (Canada), PBS (United States), Channel 10 (Australia) and ABC (Australia). Jo is also active in the museums, archives, and heritage sectors. In addition to supervising three AHRC Collaborative Doctoral students, she regularly assists museums and archives in their public programmes and exhibitions.



  • History of modern propaganda and psychological warfare
  • HIstory of the First and Second World Wars
  • European and British History, 1900-present
  • History of communications and media