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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. 

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.

The Institute of Historical Research 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

Subject Areas

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

• Medieval British history

• Modern British history

• Local, regional and community histories of the British Isles

• Place and Identity

• Early medieval Northumbria and the north

• Later medieval armies and warfare

• Urban and metropolitan history (especially London), including comparative approaches across Europe and elsewhere

• Late medieval and early modern urban history

• Digital history and Historical GIS

• History of propaganda in the twentieth century

• History of the First and Second World Wars

• History of emotions in modern Britain

• The everyday lives of ‘ordinary’ people

• Architecture, planning and the built environment in Britain from the twentieth century onward

• The British Commonwealth and British decolonisation

• History and policy

• Medievalism and other usages of the pas

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 was founded in 1921 to address the limited opportunities for historical research and training in the UK. 

The IHR was significant in its aim to place the UK historical profession in a global context, bringing international scholars together in a variety of fora. It was designed to provide historically informed research to government, to serve as a repository of bibliographic information, to be a testing ground for new historical ideas and methods, and a meeting place for historians of all nationalities.

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

The degree can be taken full time over three years (or a maximum of four) or part time over six years (or a maximum of eight), with entry in January or October. You'll initially be registered for our MPhil and, providing your progress has been satisfactory, will then be upgraded to our PhD programme.

The primary activity of the PhD programme is the writing of a thesis of up to 100,000 words. 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're also encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year. 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.

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

You'll have access to the world-renowned Wohl library, with over 200,000 history books and periodicals, and to the Institute’s digital and online resources. You can also take advantage of free access to the University of London’s Senate House Library with over a million books, and other unique collections such as the Institute of Classical Studies Library and the Warburg Institute Library.

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.

You'll be welcomed to the wide range of history seminars and specialist research training programmes, as well as benefitting from the Institute’s network of Senior, Honorary, Research and Associate fellows. There are opportunities to work alongside the established research centres in History – the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community and the History & Policy Unit.

As part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, you'll also benefit from a collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment. You’ll learn from leading specialists in your field; hone your research skills in our highly regarded training programmes; expand your knowledge through an extensive calendar of events, conferences and seminars and become part of a worldwide network of humanities scholars. You will also have access to training opportunities from across the University of London’s colleges through the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange (BLE) and Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network (BPSN).

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


Prof Claire Langhammer

Director of the Institute of Historical Research.

Email | Research Profile


Claire is a social and cultural historian of modern Britain who specialize in the history of everyday life, especially the experiences of women and girls, and the history of feeling.


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