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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 past

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.

Contact the Institute

Key Information

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 eight 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.


Dr Adam Chapman

  • Lecturer in Medieval History; Editor, Victoria County History
Adam Chapman

Email | Research Profile


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


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.

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.

Prof Catherine Clarke

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


E-mail | Research Profile 


  • 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


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.

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.

Prof Claire Langhamer

Director of the Institute of Historical Research.


Email Research Profile



  • Modern Britain
  • Emotions and Feeling
  • Everyday Life
  • Life Writing and Mass Observation


Claire's research focuses on twentieth- and twenty-first-century Britain. She is particularly interested in the intersections between the social, the cultural and the emotional, and has tried to develop new ways of working across these categories using life writing, particularly that found within the Mass Observation Archive, and oral history. Her publications on women’s lives include studies of leisure, home and employment and a collaboration with Penny Tinkler and Stephanie Spencer on Women in Fifties Britain (2017). Her work on girls’ autobiographical writing culminated in a trade book - Class of ’37, co-written with Hester Barron - which explores the lives of one particular class of twelve and thirteen-year-old Bolton schoolgirls who wrote essays for Mass Observation in 1937. The book uses both their own writing and the memories of their descendants. 
Claire’s interest in emotion has led her to historicize individual feelings and employ emotion more broadly as a category of historical analysis. Her work with Ian Gazeley on interwar happiness brought emotion and economics together; her publications on love - including the monograph, The English in Love (2013) - challenged existing chronologies of social and cultural change. She continues to explore the history of love through her editorship of the modern volume of Bloomsbury’s A Cultural History of Love which will examine love in all its forms, within a global context. Claire’s other research projects explore emotion during war, at work and in politics. A British Academy-sponsored collaboration with Lucy Noakes and Claudia Siebrecht resulted in in the co-edited volume, Total War: an Emotional History (2020) and she is currently writing a book on Feelings at Work in modern Britain which is under contract with Oxford University Press. She has published articles and chapters on the emotional politics of the 1940s and 1950s and a monograph on The Emotional Reconstruction of Postwar Britain is in its early stages.

Claire has supervised twenty-three PhDs to completion on a diverse range of topics and welcomes enquiries from students interested in pursuing doctorates in the social and cultural history in modern Britain.

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.

Professor Jo Fox

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

jo fox

Email | Research Profile


  • 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


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.

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 Justin Colson

Senior Lecturer in Urban and Digital History

Dr Justin Colson

Email | Research Profile


  • Urban and Digital History
  • History of Towns and Cities
  • London: Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods
  • Societies and Cultures through Digital and Spatial Techniques


Justin Colson moved to the IHR in 2022, having previously worked as a lecturer at the University of Essex, and earlier as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Exeter. Justin has responsibilities at the Institute including Layers of London, digital projects, and research training and teaching. He is also co-convenor of the IHR’s People, Place and Community Seminar and the Digital History Seminar. 

Justin’s research explores urban life and communities through a range of social, economic, and cultural lenses. Having completed a PhD thesis on London neighbourhoods in the fifteenth century, he specialises on the history of London between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, but also explores towns and cities throughout Britain and Europe across the medieval and early modern periods, and beyond.

Spatial approaches and methods are integral to Justin’s work, and he makes extensive use of digital tools including Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Social Network Analysis (SNA). He uses these techniques not only to explore previously invisible patterns amongst the records of pre-modern lives, but also to communicate the place of the past in new and exciting ways. 

He is therefore keen to supervise not only historical and interdisciplinary PhD projects on the history of London and other towns and cities in the medieval and early modern periods, but also to (co)supervise topics considering the use of space, place, landscape, streetscape, and mapping across all periods.

Justin is also reviews editor for Urban History, a council member of the London Record Society, and a member of the steering committee of the Pre-Modern Towns Group.

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.

Prof Philip Murphy

Director of History & Policy at the IHR

Prof Philip Murphy

Email | Research Profile


  • Twentieth-century British and Commonwealth history
  • British Monarchy and the Post-War Commonwealth
  • Post-war British decolonization particularly in Africa
  • Post-war African politics


Professor Philip Murphy is Director of History & Policy. He is a Professor of British and Commonwealth History at the University of London and also joint editor of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Philip joined the School of Advanced Study in 2009 as Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. 

Philip's research interests include Twentieth-century British and Commonwealth history, including aspects of post-war British decolonization particularly in Africa, and post-war African politics. The British Monarchy and the Post-War Commonwealth. Also an interest in the Conservative party, right wing politics in Britain, and the European colonial empires since the nineteenth century. Intelligence History, MI5 (the Security Service) in the colonial Empire, and the activities of the British, Commonwealth and US intelligence communities in the twentieth century. Currently writing a biography of the journalist Andrew Roth.

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 Simon Trafford

Director of Studies and Lecturer in Medieval History

Simon Trafford

Email | Research Profile


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


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.

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.

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.