Taught course

Social and Economic History (Research Methods)

Durham University · Department of History

Entry requirements

Subject requirements are a 2:1, with an overall average score of 65% or above, or a GPA of 3.5 or above, or equivalent. An undergraduate degree in History or a related subject is required.

You are required to submit the following information with online application:

  • Two Academic References – from people who are familiar with your work, commenting on your suitability for the course
  • An Academic CV– this should be no longer than 2 A4 pages and should contain information about your academic achievements to date and any related-work experience you have undertaken
  • A sample of written work (up to 2,500 words for MA courses)
  • Academic Transcripts and Certificates, if available– a copy of your undergraduate degree and postgraduate courses (dependent upon which degree course you are applying for) transcript and/or certificate, if degree already attained
  • A 750-word outline of your intended research, concentrating on the research problem you will address, the research context in which it is located, and the methods, critical approaches, and sources you will use. You can upload this as part of the online application form
  • Personal Development Self-Assessment Table – Applicants are requested to complete and submit a self-assessment table with their online application. A copy of the form is on the department webpage here.

Months of entry


Course content

Durham's MA in Social and Economic History at Durham provides training in research methods for historical topics in any aspect of social and economic history. The MA provides quantitative and qualitative research methods appropriate to a wide range of historical approaches.

Accredited by the ESRC, this MA is part of our four year funding scheme offered by the NINEDTP (Northern Ireland and North East Doctoral Training Partnership. You can apply for 1+3 funding for this MA followed by a PhD in any aspect of social and economic history with expert supervision available within the Department – and with our partner institution in the NINEDTP at Newcastle University. This includes African history, and aspects of governance, as well as traditional social and economic topics.

For further information on funding click here.

This MA is shared with the Department of Sociology and will help you to build an awareness of the contemporary boundaries of social and economic history and to master advanced understanding of the concepts and methods with which it may be interrogated. It seeks to equip you with a diverse portfolio of research techniques and approaches to enable you to undertake extended independent research in your dissertation, and to make your own contribution to the field. The skills provided by this MA are also transferrable to a wide range of careers.

Durham has a long tradition of economic and social history, on which this MA draws. The breadth of possible subjects for study mirrors the comprehensive and global nature of the Department staff: from medieval Europe to modern-day Africa, and from north-east England to the global economy.

Durham's History Department is situated in the historic setting of the World Heritage Site, which includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. Students of social and economic history at Durham benefit from the rich archival and manuscript resources in the collections of the University, including the Palace Green Library – especially the Sudan Archive, Ushaw College and the Cathedral Library, while the wider regional resources for study of the period are also highly significant: the landscape of industrial revolution and of post-industrial response, of globalisation and regional identity.

Course Structure

The MA in Social and Economic History is a one-year full-time course (or two-years part-time). All students are allocated a supervisor at the beginning of the first term, and they will guide you through the year.

You will take 30 credits of core modules from History: Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits); and 30 credits of core modules from the Department of Sociology: Perspectives on Social Research (15 credits) AND EITHER Qualitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits) OR Fieldwork and Interpretation (15 credits).

You will write a 60-credit dissertation (15,000 words) supervised by a member of academic staff in the History Department. You will also choose a 30-credit optional module in History, AND 30 credits of optional modules from Social Sciences: EITHER Statistical Exploration and Reasoning (15 credits) and Quantitative Research Methods in Social Science (15 credits) OR Applied Statistics (30 credits).

The course structure is as follows:

Michaelmas Term (October-December)

Themes, Reading and Sources (30 credits):

This module is compulsory for all MA students and provides you with the bulk of the disciplinary training providing specific and direct training in disciplinary practices, theories, approaches and methodologies. It is intended to guide you regardless of your period specialism from a more tutor-led to independent learning on to your dissertation by combining a focus on primary sources across periods with thematic and historiographical approaches.

The module combine from the outset a focus on hands-on work with primary sources and discussion of related pieces of historiography (social, cultural, political, etc.) and theoretical readings concerning specific themes, concepts and theories (gender, power, class, the state, transnationalism, globalisation, etc.). The module is taught in a series of seminars and familiarises you with the skills and problems integral to advanced historical work. It develops your capacity for independent research, your ability to effectively present oral and written results, as well as your organisational and leadership skills in chairing discussions. Themes, Reading and Sources provides a context in which you will assess and comment critically on the findings of others, defend your conclusions in a reasoned setting, advance your knowledge and deepen your understanding of history.

Assessment is by 4,000-word essay (80% of the module mark). The remaining 20% of the module mark comes from a presentation on your dissertation topic and Q&A at the MA Conference in the Easter term.

Perspectives on Social Research (15 credits):

This module introduces you to social scientific research, and focuses on establishing cause and interpreting meaning in social sciences. The module also covers the essentials of quantitative and qualitative research in the social sciences.

Statistical Exploration and Reasoning (15 credits; OPTIONAL):

This module covers spreadsheets and data analysis; populations, sample data and sampling distributions; point estimates and confidence intervals; significance tests, cross-tabulation, and Chi-Square tests; correlation and linear regression.

Fieldwork and Interpretation (15 credits; OPTIONAL):

This module aims to give you a comprehensive view of qualitative field methods used by social sciences, including the collection, management and interpretation of qualitative data. It will cover the relation of explanatory theories to methods of research; ethnography and participant observation; interviewing, focus groups and other group-based research techniques; participatory methods; power relations and reflexivity in qualitative research; management and analysis of qualitative data; and ethical issues in qualitative research.

Applied Statistics (30 credits; OPTIONAL; runs across Michaelmas and Epiphany Terms):

This module aims to introduce you to the theory and application of statistical methods using relevant applications software, and to develop your confidence and competence in the use of statistics and the analysis of data relevant to psychologists. You will be taught a variety of parametric and non-parametric statistical data analysis methods, illustrated by examples. The module is taught through lectures and practical sessions.

Epiphany Term (January-March)

Optional module (30 credits):

Optional modules allow you the opportunity to learn about a particular topic or issue in medieval history in depth, and to consider different historical approaches to this topic over a full term's study.

In previous years, options included:

  • Intellectuals and Public Opinion in Global History
  • Elections in Africa: A cultural and political history, c. 1950–2016
  • Serious Fun: A history of sport from the late middle ages to the present
  • A Safe Democracy? Constitutionalism, extremism, and political violence in modern England, c. 1890–1939

Optional modules are taught in weekly two-hour seminars for a full term's study.

Qualitative Research Methods (15 credits; OPTIONAL):

This module covers introduction to theory and research practice in qualitative methods; ethnography and grounded theory; group discussions; data analysis and management processes.

Quantitative Research Methods (15 credits; OPTIONAL):

This module covers analysis of survey data versus experimental data; sampling and sample design, and questionnaire design; numerical taxonomy and cluster analysis in practice; methods for representing complex systems.

Easter Term (April-June), and the summer vacation (until early September)

Dissertation (60 credits):

You will meet with your supervisor on an individual basis and will discuss the topic, direction and content of your dissertation, as well as the relevant medieval evidence and scholarship which you should explore. The dissertation is a substantial, independent piece of research of 15,000 words. You are not required to write your dissertation on a topic which is in the same period and area as your optional modules, but it is recommended that you discuss your individual programmes of work with your supervisors and/or with the Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes.

The MA can be taken part-time, over two years: please contact the Department if you are interested in exploring this option further.

Information for international students

If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take a pre-Masters pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Fees and funding

UK students
£9,900 per year
International students
£23,800 per year

For further information see the course listing.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Department of History