A good Honours degree in History or an equivalent discipline. Other professional experience or qualifications comparable to degree standard would also be considered, e.g., an Honours degree or higher degree in a subject other than History, or professional qualifications of degree standard such as law, accountancy, management, or published work in a relevant field. Every submission is considered on its own merits.
Months of entry
This two-year distance learning programme offers you the opportunity to explore military history, drawing in particular on Birmingham's expertise in the history of the two world wars and air power. Subjects to be studied include command and leadership; tactics, operations and the use of technology; ethics and war; and the individual's experience of war. You will complete the MA with a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your choice.
From the walls of Troy to the streets of Sangin, warfare has been at the centre of human life and death. He who knows nothing of war can understand neither the past nor the present, for, as Trotsky famously said, ‘war is the locomotive of history’. Modern military history does more than re-fight old battles, however. It can, for example, teach us much about the cultures and societies that find themselves at war, and indeed about the souls of the men and women who do the fighting.
This course will stimulate and challenge you to think about the history of warfare in all its aspects, building a skill set over two years of part-time study which will equip you for further research in the field and/or broaden and deepen your understanding of the cruel, complex but endlessly fascinating phenomenon that is war.
To gain a Masters degree you will need to complete 180 credits. You will study six core modules (see below), each worth 20 credits and assessed by an essay of not more than 4,000 words, followed by a 15,000-word dissertation worth 60 credits. Your dissertation will be based on a substantial and sustained investigation of an historical problem – of your choice – relating to military history, undertaken in the light of current knowledge and after an analysis of available primary material. You will receive one-to-one advice and supervision from an expert in your chosen field.
In addition to your dissertation, you will study six core modules:
Research Skills: Methodology and Sources
The module will introduce you to the historiography of warfare as well as to a variety of different research methodologies and research sources. A series of case-studies will focus on key research sources (published and unpublished) for the experience of war, including: official histories; the diaries, memoirs, letters and autobiographies of contemporary actors; archival sources, including the National Archives of the United Kingdom; as well as non-documentary kinds of evidence.
Tactics and Operational Art
The module will introduce you to how technological and conceptual change has driven the development of tactics and operational art over time, examining how armies from different cultural backgrounds have managed these issues and the relationship between innovation and military success. A series of case studies will focus on key examples of tactics and operational art in warfare.
Command and Leadership in War
Questions of command and leadership are central to the history of warfare. The module will introduce you to the evolution of command styles and the role of the leader over time, assessing the importance of the individual’s contribution to military history and placing this in the context of broader structural change. A series of case-studies will focus on key debates about command and leadership in wartime.
Ethics of War
The module will introduce you to concepts of Ius ad Bellum and Ius in Bello (“justice of war” and “justice in war”) and explore how they have been applied in various conflicts over time, addressing issues such as proportionality and the status of non-combatants. It will analyse attempts to impose legal, ethical and moral constraints on warfare and the successes and failures of these attempts.
Experience of War
The module will introduce you to ‘war from the bottom’: how individuals have experienced warfare. It will analyse coping strategies, the construction and maintenance of morale both military and civilian and explore why these have sometimes broken down. Finally, it will introduce you to individuals’ response to war as expressed in art, from poetry to moving pictures.
Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation
This module will also equip you with the skills necessary to both plan and undertake a specialist piece of research at Masters level. It will provide detailed guidance on the techniques necessary for the location of primary and secondary sources relevant to your dissertation research. You will become familiar with advanced bibliographical aids and with how to search in relevant libraries, archives and data sources. You will also undertake a detailed analytical survey of the secondary literature relevant to your dissertation topic.
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Fees and funding
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Qualification and course duration
Course contact details
- Postgraduate enquiry service