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(Study in London)
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Part time
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Part time
​(Distance Learning)
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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.

Once you have contacted the School, you will be put in touch with a potential supervisor. It is important that you discuss your outline research proposal with them, and that you feel you can work together. Your supervisor will discuss any further development or re-focusing of your proposal before the formal application is taken to the relevant Research Degrees Committee for approval.

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

Jonathan Blaney 

Digital Projects Manager and Editor of British History Online

Jonathan Blaney

Email | Research Profile


Jonathan joined the IHR in 2007 as part of British History Online's AHRC-funded project to complete the digitisation of the Calendars of State Papers. He subsequently worked on a number of IHR projects, including Connected Histories, Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities, and Dilipad. He was Principal Investigator for the Institute's Histoire project, and Co-Investigator for TOBIAS (the 'Thesaurus of British and Irish History as SKOS') - an AHRC-funded project to publish as a web ontology the Bibliography of British and Irish History's subject classification of 8,800 terms for British and Irish History.

Jonathan is now Editor of British History Online and responsible for the Institute's current range of digital research projects. He is also a tutor on the IHR's MRes in Historical Research and is involved in training in fields including text analysis and XML.

Jonathan is available for supervision in the School's research degrees in the digital humanities. He is interested in digital citation and the history and culture of citation, and also the ethical concerns around the digital: environmental impact, surveillance, and ownership.


  • Digital 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

Dr Philip Carter  

Senior Lecturer in Digital History, Head of Digital

Philip Carter

Email | Research Profile


Philip is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Digital at the IHR. An eighteenth-century social historian by training, he welcomes applications for PhD research in this area of British history. Current PhDs include a study of the London Foundling Hospital (1740-1800) and the late-Hanoverian market in personal annuities.

Before joining the Institute in 2016, Philip was Senior Research and Publication Editor at the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and a member of the History Faculty at Oxford University. His other interests include historical biography and historians’ use of digital resources in their research. Current projects include a history of national biography in Britain and the emergence of a late-Victorian culture of scholarly reference.


  • Eighteeenth-century Britain, social and cultural history
  • History of publishing and of history publishing
  • Historical biography
  • The historical profession
  • Applications of digital methods for historical research

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

Matthew Shaw

IHR Librarian

Email | Research Profile


Matthew Shaw is the Librarian of the IHR, with research interests in the French Revolution and, more broadly, the long-eighteenth century. He has also worked on American Studies, the First World War and issues related to archives, libraries and digitisation.

Before joining the Institute in 2016, Matthew was curator of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political and historical papers and was lead curator of the Americas Collections at the British Library, where he curated a number of exhibitions, including Taking Liberties: the struggle for Britain’s rights and freedoms (2008), Growing Knowledge (2010), On the Road: Jack Kerouac’s Manuscript Scroll (2012), Enduring War: grief, grit and humour (2014) and Animal Tales (2015).

He has taught French Revolutionary and early-modern European History at Birkbeck College, where he was an honorary fellow, and is currently at visiting fellow at Northumbria University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

His DPhil (York, 2000) explored the history of the French Republican calendar. Matthew is available to supervise graduate students in the French Revolution, the history of libraries and the cultural history of timekeeping.


  • French Revolution
  • Eighteenth-century British and American history
  • History of the Book

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


Dr Hannah Elias

 Academic and Digital Engagement Officer; Associate Research Fellow; MRes Course Tutor 

Hannah Alias

Email | Research Profile


Hannah joined the Institute in December 2017 as Academic and Digital Engagement Officer, and a Course Tutor for the IHR's M.Res programme. She is responsible for the IHR's communications and engagement strategy, and is part of the IHR's Steering Group. Hannah also leads the IHR's 'inclusive histories' projects and initiatives, aimed at promoting diversity within the historical profession, and encouraging new approaches to the study, research and teaching of history that provide intellectual space for previously 'silenced' or marginalised perspectives.

Hannah studied for her PhD in History at McMaster University, Canada, where she received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for her doctoral project 'Radio Religion: War, Faith and the BBC, 1939-1948' (completed 2016). Prior to working at the IHR, Hannah was an Associate Lecturer in the Department of History at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she taught modern revolution in comparative and global perspective. Between 2015-2018, Hannah served as Editor of History Workshop Online and was an Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. Hannah is currently a Raphael Samuel History Centre team member, and part of the History Workshop Online Advisory Board. She was recently shortlisted for the 2020 AHRC/BBC3 New Generation Thinker scheme.


  • Religion and public life in the twentieth century, Britain and Atlantic world 
  • Race, postcolonialism and decolonisation
  • WW2 propaganda and media history 
  • Transnational anti-racism and social justice campaigns in the twentieth century
  • Public history
  • Radical history 
  • Cultural history
  • Ecumenism and multi-faith collaboration
  • Christianity, social Christianity and Christian feminism

Dr Laurie Lindey

 Research Officer for the British and Irish Furniture Makers Online project

Laurie Lindey

Email | Research Profile


Laurie’s principal research interests lie in the social, economic, and cultural history of London in the early modern period, with particular interest in the people, crafts and guilds associated with furniture making. She studied design history in the Royal College of Art before moving to the Institute of Historical Research to continue her research. Current research interests include:

Laurie is research officer for the Institute’s British and Irish Furniture Makers Online project, part of the IHR’s new Centre for the History of People, Place and Community.BIFMO is a unique resource for historians, curators, collectors, and anyone interested in people and their work in the past. Containing over 60,000 biographies of furniture makers from the late medieval period to the early twentieth century, the project is developing its coverage of the furniture trade, keeping in step with recent research and discoveries in the field. Laurie is also working with members of the IHR's Digital group to develop social network diagrams historical maps, making it possible to visualise and engage with aspects of the historical furniture trade in new ways.


  • Innovation, the dissemination of design sources and the transfer of skills in the early modern period
  • Roles of women and minorities in British urban manufacturing industries
  • Immigrant communities in early modern London
  • The relationship between advertising and the consumer