MSc/PgDip Historical Studies

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Key facts

  • Start date: September
  • Study mode and duration: MSc: 12 months full-time; 24 months part-time
    PgDip: 9 months full-time; 18 months part-time

Study with us

  • deepen your historical knowledge, understanding and awareness on a range of issues, debates, and specialist topics of historical importance and present-day resonance
  • assess historical themes and historiographical interpretations across a broad chronological range
  • develop your transferable skills (for example critical analysis, communication, research, organisation, and project management) necessary for employment
  • gain invaluable research tools and practical skills while studying a range of thematic, historiographical or theoretical topics across a broad chronological and geographical range
  • undertake an original piece of research on the topic of your choosing with support from an expert in the field
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Why this course?

The MSc in Historical Studies is a taught postgraduate programme, which seeks to introduce students to advanced historical study while deepening their historical understanding and awareness. You will gain invaluable research tools and practical skills while studying a range of thematic, historiographical, and theoretical topics across a broad chronological and geographical range. You will have the opportunity to choose from a wide choice of specialised classes taught by experts in the field, while undergoing rigorous training in historical research methods and sources. You will also have the opportunity to carry out an extended piece of original historical research and writing in the form of the dissertation.

You can choose to study thematic, historiographical, or theoretical topics across a broad chronological and geographical range, covering such themes as:

  • Ireland’s complex historical relationship with colonialism
  • global histories of imperialism and colonisation
  • the origins and development of Arab nationalist movements and their contribution to the creation of nation-states in the Middle East
  • the changing nature of conflict management and resolution in the Arab-Israeli dispute
  • the changing relationship of human beings with natural environments
  • the diplomatic relations between Britain, France, and the United States
  • the relationship between Scotland and Ulster
  • national experiences of resistance during the Second World War

You may also engage with theoretical, methodological, and practical-based modules focused on:

  • Palaeography
  • Advanced Oral History
  • Work Placements in History

THE Awards 2019: UK University of the Year Winner

Interested in postgraduate study?

At the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, our friendly and knowledgeable team will be available to provide you with all the information you need to kick-start your postgraduate journey at the University of Strathclyde. Register for upcoming events below:

What you’ll study

In your first semester you will take our core module, Research Skills, Sources and Methods for Historians, as well as two specialist modules of your choosing. Our core module equips you with the skills you need to conduct your own research as well as grounding you in the different methodologies and approaches to history. In your second semester you will take 3 specialist modules of your choosing. Every year we offer a variety of modules (see our list of ‘optional classes’ further down this page). You will also conduct your own extended piece of original historical research - a 15,000-word dissertation - with the support of an expert supervisor. 


MSc students also write a dissertation of 15,000 words. You will research a topic of your choice, under the supervision of an expert member of staff.

Teaching staff

Teaching and research training is provided by expert historians whose research cover diverse fields. This includes:
You can read more about their research and expertise by clicking on their names.
David Wilson
MSc Historical Studies is ideal for those looking for an introduction to an advanced level of history, while deepening your historical understanding and awareness across a broad chronological and geographical range. The work placement option is unique to this programme and gives students the opportunity to spend eight weeks working with museums, archives or historical associations in Glasgow.
Dr David Wilson
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Course content

Research skills, sources and methods for Historians

This team-taught module will introduce students to the key research skills and resources required for successful completion of this programme and for pursuing further research.  It will provide them with greater understanding and deeper historical awareness of methodological approaches (e.g., international and diplomatic history, oral history) and historiographical debates (theories of history); students will learn how to locate and use key archival depositaries (for early modern sources as well as more contemporary material) and online resources, how to approach the use of newspapers, personal testimonies and non-literary sources. Students will be able to apply their understanding of the theories and methods of historical research in the two pieces of coursework set up for this module, the literature review and the research proposal, which will also constitute the foundation of their dissertation.

Dissertation Preparation

This module provides a structured approach to preparing Masters students for their dissertation projects. The nature of the class is to ensure that students can make use of the time dedicated to dissertation preparation in Semester 2 by following a structured programme focused on productive supervisory conversations and assessments targeted at supporting them towards robust and innovative dissertation research.

Five modules to be chosen from a selection of classes covering broad themes from across our key research areas: Scotland & the World; European & International History; Science, Technology & Medicine; Oral History. Students also have the option to choose one elective from another MSc programme, including from the MSc in Health History.

Please note that this is an indicative list and not all options run every year.

Britain, France and the United States, 1945-1958: Diplomacy, Strategy and Alliance

This class explores the diplomacy of the post war world. It will provide students with a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the key international issues faced by Britain, France and the United States after the Second World War. Students will examine the issues which strengthened the post-war alliance and those which challenged it.

Nationalism and Nation-states in the Arab Middle East, 1900-1945

This class will explore political, cultural and social conditions that favoured the emergence of an Arab political national identity in the region. It will consider a number of case studies (for example, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Iraq) and will examine the origins and development of Arab nationalist movements and their contribution to the creation of nation-states in the Middle East, against existing trends of historical interpretations. Through the use of primary and secondary sources, this class will examine the regional distinctive features of nationalism in the Arab world and assess its impact on the emergence of nation-states during the interwar years; it will also examine the transition from nationalism to pan-Arabism, which dominated Arab politics in the period after the Second World War.

Advanced Oral History

This class allows students to explore advanced oral history theory and practices as a valuable means of understanding the past. In weekly seminars, we will examine the advantages and limitations of oral history as both a research methodology and an outcome by reading and discussing key texts written by leading oral historians and related practitioners. In addition, students will gain practical experience designing and implementing a mini oral history project directly related to their postgraduate dissertations. By the end of the semester, students will have submitted their dissertation project proposals for ethics approval, and gained preliminary experience in conducting and analysing an interview of relevance to their dissertation topic. Students seeking careers in history, museum studies, human rights advocacy, international law, diplomacy, and journalism will find this course particularly relevant.

Palaeography, c1500-c1800

This class will teach students how to read handwriting from the sixteenth through to the eighteenth centuries.  It will introduce students to different types of hand (e.g. secretary) and the various contractions often used in documents from the early modern period. Palaeographical skills are crucial preparation for any trip to the archives and, consequently, this is a class that all students of early modern history are advised to take.

War, Sacrifice and the Nation in Europe, 1789-1918

This class explores the changing concepts of death in war in the European conflicts between the French Revolution and the First World War. From being left on battlefields to being granted permanent resting-places and being remembered in war memorials, this period saw fundamental shifts in practices and attitudes towards soldiers’ death in war. Students will therefore analyse the efforts to create meaning for soldiers’ sacrifices and to inspire future generations to follow in their footsteps. The underlying themes of this class will be the emergence of national sentiment and national consciousness and the role of religion in concepts of sacrifice in war. The class will focus upon Europe (including Britain), but comparisons will also be made with the American Civil War, in which treatment of the war dead and memorialisation shifted fundamentally, prefiguring changes that were to occur with the Franco-Prussian War only a few years later.

Work Placement in History

This class is designed to help students reflect on the subject specific and transferable skills they have acquired through their academic journey, articulate them to a potential employer and apply them in the workplace. This module aims to provide students with an insight into the day to day workings of an organisation, in order to develop history-specific vocational skills and promote reflection on employability and also on the issues involved in disseminating history outside academia. The class offers students the opportunity of spending eight weeks in a placement of their choice with museums, archives, historical associations, third sector organisations, university professional services. Placements are provided but students who have already identified an organisation or project they would like to work with, can discuss this with the class lecturer. Students will be asked to complete a small project or piece of research for their host. Assessment for this class include an initial work plan and a reflective essay on the student's work experience.

Plantations by Land and Sea: British imperial projects in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, 1590-1720

This class explores the development of the British empire throughout the Atlantic and Indian Oceans between 1590 and 1720. Focusing on the comparative analysis of two settlements each week, students will explore diverse themes including piracy, slavery, trade, religion, settler-indigenous relations, disease, and colonial rebellion. Throughout the course of the module, students will cover cash-crop plantations like Virginia and Jamaica, religious colonies like Massachusetts Bay and Maryland, commercial bases like Bombay and the Gold Coast, and piratical outposts like Campeche and Madagascar. In doing so, students will investigate the ways in which empire was formed through the haphazard activities of individuals operating throughout Britain, the Caribbean, North America, Africa, and India. In assessing the means, methods, and consequences of these projects, students will engage with a wide range of primary sources including settlers' journals, official letters, voyage logs, and political pamphlets. Students will also be encouraged to shape the class assignment to match their own particular interests.

Scotland and Ulster in the early Modern North Atlantic World

This postgraduate module examines the relationship between Scotland and Ulster in terms of the 'Three Kingdoms History' of the early modern period and how this then developed and interacted in the context of colonial North America in the eighteenth century. The module examines the Plantation of Ulster and its impact; Scotland, Ulster and the British Civil Wars; Restoration links between Scotland and Ulster, c. 1660-88; The Williamite revolution and Scottish migration to Ulster in the 1690s; Ulster migration to colonial North America in the eighteenth century and Scots v. Scotch-Irish/Scots-Irish. Conflict in a colonial context? Historiography, sources and debates will be discussed in the class and students will be given information on key resources and how to access them. Guidance on primary sources and manuscripts will be given. Students are strongly encouraged to develop and consolidate their knowledge of primary sources and transcribed manuscripts within a broader historiographical context.

Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in the Arab-Israeli Dispute

The class surveys and analyses the changing nature of conflict management and resolution in the Arab-Israeli dispute, together with the range of conceptual tools that seek to explain the international activity in this region. The objective is to examine the relationship between the theoretical literature within the field of diplomacy and conflict resolution and specific case studies with a particular focus on the period from the 1947 UN Partition Plan to the brink of the 1979 Camp David settlement, realised under President Jimmy Carter. The first part of the module will focus on the influence of the United Nations on the region and the establishment of Israel in 1948. Students will then explore the impact of the Cold War on the Middle East and the role of the UN in international conflict resolution. Then the course will examine the 1973 crisis management and the US-Soviet competition to become a unilateral peacemaker in the region. Students will then explore Henry Kissinger’s negotiation tactics, including shuttle diplomacy, step-by-step approach and hard bargaining. The latter part of the module will then focus on summit diplomacy with Jimmy Carter’s single-negotiating text approach and Camp David Accords as a case study. 

Ireland, Colonialism, and Anti-colonialism

This class explores Ireland’s complex historical relationship with colonialism and engages with critical questions that have been animated by recent public debates in Ireland, the UK and globally about empire. Ireland’s history has been shaped by British colonial policies and dispossession, and by the nationalist and anticolonial movements that challenged British authority. At the same time, Ireland has different colonial pasts. Some Irish people participated in the administration of the British empire in the 1800s, and Irish merchants traded with plantations in the Caribbean and colonial America in the 1700s. Irish Catholic missionaries played significant roles in building a religious empire from the nineteenth century. Taking a broad perspective and periodisation from c. 1700-2000, this class investigates aspects of British colonialism in Ireland and resistance to it, as well as Irish participation in types of colonialism in different locations. Students will examine the historiography of empire in Ireland and the role of Hibernocentrism or ideas of Irish exceptionalism within it. This class situates Ireland’s colonial history within a broader global history of empire in which the relationship between Ireland, Britain, and its colonies is just one constituent part. Students will develop critical thinking skills through engagement with the secondary literature on these themes and through the evaluation of a range of primary sources that will form the basis of each class.

Organic Machines, Engineered Environments and Hybrid Natures

This module explores the co-production of industrial civilization and the environment in multiple contexts. It will prompt students to consider how human beings study and interact with natural environments, conceive the relationship between nature and society, and select frames of reference in studying relationships between people, animals, and natural places. Students will engage methods, theories, and concepts across a number of disciplines, utilizing a variety of textual and filmic materials in considering the ways that people imagine, analyse, and utilise nature in science and technology, work and leisure, and philosophy and religion. They will consider diverse ways of knowing including natural history, environmental studies, environmental history, the history of science and technology, and studies of science, technology, and society. They will critically engage concepts such as envirotechnical regimes, organic machines, deep ecology, and environmental sustainability. And they will consider the practices that distinguish conservation, preservation, regulation, historical and contemporary environmental justice movements, ecosystem services, and green industry. Throughout the class, students will attend to how ideas of the relationship between society and nature have changed over time.

Red Continent: Africa and the Global Cold War

This class introduces students to major debates in the history of the Cold War in Africa, especially focusing on the agency of Africans in international politics. The class is arranged roughly chronologically. The opening weeks set out major themes of the course, such as the nature of African nationalism and the outcomes of decolonization, before moving onto debates about development, modernisation, and culture in the African context. The class then considers several thematic case studies, which explore the causes of war, and conflict resolution, in southern Africa before finishing off with a discussion of the repercussions of the Cold War for the African continent. We will look in detail at the decolonisation in British and French Africa, before looking in some depth at the upheaval in the Congo. We will also investigate the ‘diplomacy of liberation’, employed by African revolutionaries from the Portuguese colonies and South Africa to achieve majority rule and independence; examine the onset of the civil war in Angola, and the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. While the course will deal with the policies of the Soviet Union and the United States in Africa, its main objective is to study the diplomacy, strategies and statecraft of Africans in the twentieth century and investigate their impact on the ‘Global Cold War’. Were Africans simply proxies of superpower competition or did they use diplomacy to their own advantage? The class thus aims to assess the ways in which the Cold War affected the processes of decolonisation, nation-building and democratisation in Africa. It also studies the importance of the continent for the global struggles and transformations of the post-War era. The course also allows students to creatively engage with a growing body of secondary literature and documentary evidence.

Setting Europe Ablaze: Resistance Movements in the Second World War

This module is designed to help students develop a detailed knowledge of some of the principal national experiences of Resistance in the Second World War and gain insights into the complexities of the relationships between the various forces involved, including Allied strategists, governments in exile and forces on the ground. Through the weekly seminars, students will explore the factors, both external and internal, which shaped the various Resistance movements in the Second World War and examine the nature and manifestations of the Resistance legacy over the long term, including its place in the history of cinema. Learning in the class will lead students to interrogate the interaction between history and culture, broadly conceived and to reflect on the ‘public use of history’ in a range of European countries. Home study and preparation for the seminars are crucial to this module. Students will be given weekly seminar reading assignments, including journal articles, book chapters and primary sources to be undertaken individually or in small groups.

If you progress to MSc level, you'll also write a 15,000-word dissertation.


The dissertation is an exercise in independent study. You will research a topic of your choice, under the supervision of an expert member of the programme staff. You will make full use of primary and secondary source material, including the identification and use of relevant archival holdings. While guidance will be provided by the supervisor, you will propose the area of study, compile an adequate bibliography, and take all initiatives necessary to carry out the work.

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Entry requirements

Academic requirements

First or upper second-class Honours degree in History or overseas equivalent.

English language requirements

Please check our English requirements before making your application.

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course held at the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre, for international students (non-UK/Ireland) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde.

Upon successful completion, you'll be able to progress to this degree course at the University of Strathclyde.

Please note: Previous Maths & English qualifications and your undergraduate degree must meet GTCS minimum entry requirements as well as the pre-Masters course and an interview will be conducted before an offer can be made.

Chat to a student ambassador

If you want to know more about what it’s like to be a Humanities & Social Sciences student at the University of Strathclyde, a selection of our current students are here to help!

Our Unibuddy ambassadors can answer all the questions you might have about courses and studying at Strathclyde, along with offering insight into their experiences of life in Glasgow and Scotland.

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International students

We've a thriving international community with students coming here to study from over 140 countries across the world. Find out all you need to know about studying in Glasgow at Strathclyde and hear from students about their experiences.

Visit our international students' section

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Fees & funding

All fees quoted are per academic year unless stated otherwise.

Fees may be subject to updates to maintain accuracy. Tuition fees will be notified in your offer letter.

All fees are in £ sterling, unless otherwise stated, and may be subject to revision.

Annual revision of fees

Students on programmes of study of more than one year (or studying standalone modules) should be aware that tuition fees are revised annually and may increase in subsequent years of study. Annual increases will generally reflect UK inflation rates and increases to programme delivery costs.

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Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland & Ireland

Mlitt or MSc:

Full time - £8,700
Part-time* - £4,350


Full time - £5,800
Part-time* - £2,900

*Please note Year 2 fee will be subject to an increase



Available scholarships

Take a look at our scholarships search for funding opportunities.

Additional costs

International students may have associated visa and immigration costs. Please see student visa guidance for more information.

Please note: the fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.

How can I fund my course?

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Scottish postgraduate students

Scottish postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

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International students

We've a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Scholarships

  • EU Engagement Scholarships are available to EU applicants who would have previously been eligible for Home (Scottish/EU) fee status.
  • EU and International 50% Merit Scholarships available to self-funded, international fee-paying offer-holders (includes those classed as EU fee group). The scholarship entitles the recipient to a discount of 50% on tuition fees.
View all our scholarships

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