Taught course

Modern British Studies

University of Birmingham · School of Historical Studies

Entry requirements

You will need an Honours degree in a relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard.

Months of entry


Course content

This programme provides an intellectually rigorous introduction to Modern British Studies through two core modules and your choice of optional modules. You will benefit from the expertise of a large number of British historians at Birmingham, who will both teach on the programme and provide expert supervision for your dissertation.

You will study four core modules:

New Directions in Modern British History
This module will expose you to some of the key debates and moments in Modern British Studies and its associated historiography. There are difficulties in identifying organising narratives for understanding modern Britain. How do we write history that remains intellectually inclusive, avoids privileging historic and contemporary historiographical concerns and creates conversations that cut across regional, temporal and disciplinary boundaries? This module will introduce you to historical works that have stimulated new visions the past and its role in public life. If British society and culture has changed, so has the way that historians have approached and conceptualised it. While the module focuses on a series of key interventions, we will situate these in the context of broader debates about Modern Britain.

Sites and Sources in Modern British Studies
This module goes beyond thinking about Britain in terms of the great and the good and introduces you to rich and diverse sources through which historians have tried to understand the contours of everyday life in the past. The module will enable you to capture the pluralistic and inchoate messiness of ordinary life and historical change. A seaside postcard can be just as useful to a historian as a work of art. It is a module that will give you grounding in the interpretation of different sources and the problems and possibilities these present in studying the past.

Historical Methods
This module introduces you to the major developments in historical approaches since the Second World War and to some of the major schools of, or tendencies in, historical research such as the Annales School, the English historians’ response to Marxism, cultural history, the linguistic turn, gender, history of science and critical social theory (Geertz and Foucault). The focus is on the application of the ideas to historical practice then and now.

Research Methods and Skills: Dissertation Preparation
This module covers what the dissertation project will entail. You will be expected to produce a short dissertation proposal for submission and you will be allocated a tutor who will supervise your dissertation preparation work. You will have one-to-one meetings with your supervisor, but you will also attend available generic sessions on skills run on the Research Skills module and available across the University.

You will also choose two optional modules from a range which includes:

  • 'A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’: Nuclear weapons and the Cold War
  • Britain at the Movies
  • Britain’s Wars of Colonisation and Decolonisation
  • Hidden from History: Homosexuality through History from the Ancient World to the Present Day
  • On the Road to Nowhere? Traffic, Transport and Mobility in 20th Century Britain
  • Reason and Romance: the cultural history of 19th Century Britain
  • Sex and Sexualities in the Modern British World, 1880-1970
  • Speaking to the People: Political Communication in 20th Century Britain

Alternatively, you may wish to choose a double special subject module. The options available will typically include:

  • Britain and the Home Front in the Second World War
  • Britain, the Slave Trade and Anti-Slavery in Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries
  • British Army on the Western Front
  • Dossers: A History of homelessness in modern Britain
  • Facing the Fuhrer and Duce: British Foreign and Defence Policies towards the European Dictators 1935-40
  • Mass Media and the Making of Modern Britain
  • Of Rice and Men: NGOs and Humanitarianism since ‎‎1945‎
  • Social Activism in Ages of Affluence and Apathy
  • The Sharpe End: the British Army and the Defeat of Napoleon
  • Where There is Discord: Making Thatcher’s Britain

Explore postgraduate study at Birmingham at one of our on-campus open days. Register to attend at: www.birmingham.ac.uk/pgopendays

If you can’t make it to one of our on-campus open days, our virtual open days run regularly throughout the year. For more information, please visit: www.pg.bham.ac.uk

Fees and funding

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Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Postgraduate enquiry service
0121 414 5005