2 years part-time or 1 year full-time
1-2 evenings a week part-time or 2-3 evenings a week full-time, October to June
This Master's degree in the history of ideas is concerned with excavating and understanding the lived reality of ideas. We consider how the study of the history of ideas can help us to interpret individual thinkers and their ideas and how these have shaped past societies.
The history of ideas is a dynamic and expanding field and this programme enables you to pursue an exciting programme of study, exploring ideas comparatively and in their geographical, social and historical contexts. If you want to understand and investigate the relationship between ideas and actions across a wide variety of historical periods, geographical places, and theoretical and methodological perspectives, then this is the degree for you.
The introductory core module explores key topics and questions within the history of ideas and will introduce you to the conceptual background needed for the historical study of ideas at postgraduate level.
We offer a wide range of option modules, covering topics in periods from classical antiquity to the present day, including ancient philosophy, politics and ethics, Judaism and Antisemitism, early modern politics, Darwinism and race in the nineteenth century, psychoanalysis, modernity and technology, and Islam and the politics of fundamentalism. You will also receive training in research skills to enable you to undertake the researching and writing of a dissertation on the topic of most interest to you.
Why study this course at Birkbeck?
- Arts and humanities courses at Birkbeck are ranked third best in London and 11th in the UK in the Times Higher Education 2015-16 World University Subject Rankings.
- In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), History at Birkbeck was ranked 6th in the UK for the percentage of our research deemed world-leading or internationally excellent. 94% of our eligible staff submitted research and we achieved 100% for a research environment supporting world-leading and internationally excellent research.
- This Master's degree offers an innovative approach to an exciting area of historical and cultural study.
- The programme allows you to follow your own interests, with a wide choice of option modules, while developing your research skills and undertaking a dissertation in an area that interests you.
- Our Department of History, Classics and Archaeology is one of the leading research and teaching departments for history in the UK.
- Our academic staff are international authorities in their fields, delivering stimulating, research-led teaching.
- Our department is home to thriving student societies and a number of affiliated research centres that actively run seminars, conferences and other events where some of the world's best scholars present their latest research. These include the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, the Raphael Samuel History Centre and the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.
- We are located five minutes' walk from the British Museum and the British Library, while the Museum of London is easily reachable. The Institute of Historical Research is located in Bloomsbury, near the main Birkbeck campus, and has an internationally renowned library collection and seminars that you can attend.
- Birkbeck Library has an extensive history collection, including the major specialist journals, and access to online materials.
- The Eric Hobsbawm Postgraduate Scholarship fund offers a full fee-waiver for Home, EU and Overseas Master’s students in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology (part-time awards are pro-rata).
- Find out more about why you should study with us.
- Watch videos of our postgraduate students discussing their experience of studying at Birkbeck.
The programme consists of three assessed elements: a compulsory 10-week core module taught annually in the autumn term, with an additional research skills and method component in the summer term; three option modules, each taught over 10 weeks (one term); and a dissertation due at the end of September of the final year of study.
The introductory core module aims to equip you with the conceptual background necessary for historical study at postgraduate level. It includes 10 broad lectures and 10 weekly seminars dedicated to exploring specific topics and questions on the history of ideas.
We offer a wide range of option modules, covering topics from classical antiquity to the present day.
Not all modules are available each year.
Indicative option modules
- Ancient Knowledge
- Britain and Germany: The History of a Relationship, 1815-1990
- China and the West: Encounters
- Civil Society: Ideas, Practices and Dilemmas in the Modern World, 17th Century to the Present
- Cultural History of War in Britain and America between the First World War and the Conflict in Vietnam
- Darwin, Darwinism and the Modern Ages
- Empires in Modern East Asia
- Gender in Britain
- Globalisation: A Short Historical Introduction
- Jews and Antisemitism in Modern Europe: Histories and Approaches
- Madness and its Meanings
- Magic, Science and Religion in the Renaissance
- Monastic Lives in Medieval England
- Politics and Islam
- Race and the Victorians
- Religion in Society and Politics: Britain and Ireland, 1801-2001
- Rethinking the Cold War
- Technology, Modernity and the Nation: Britain and Germany, 1880 to 1930
- The Making of Modern Societies: Britain and Europe, c.1500-c.1750
- The Rise of the Modern Consumer: Consumers and Politics in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
- The Two Irelands 1911-1998
- The Victorian Communication Revolution
- Venice and Istanbul, 1453-1797
- Vice and the Victorians: Moral and social reform in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century
We welcome a wide range of qualifications, from the UK and abroad, and we will also consider your non-academic achievements.
At least a second-class honours degree, with good supporting references.
International entry requirements
If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.
If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.
Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.
Fees and finance
We offer advice on all the options for financing your studies. You can pay your fees interest-free by direct debit and postgraduate loans are available for all Home/EU students.
FeesPart-time home/EU students: £ 3975 pa
Full-time home/EU students: £ 7950 pa
Part-time overseas students: £ 7225 pa
Full-time overseas students: £ 14450 pa
Teaching and assessment
Our innovative, engaging teaching is designed to support students who are juggling evening study with work and other daytime commitments.
Normally two-hour evening seminars with staff and student presentations, but sometimes lectures are also used.
Key teaching staff on this programme
Course director: Dr Sean Brady
Core and option modules are assessed by essays of 5000-5500 words (four in total); dissertation of 15,000-16,000 words.
Every module has an attendance requirement, so you will need to attend at least 60% of classes in order to pass.
Careers and employability
To help you get ahead in your career, we offer free advice and training and our recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, can connect you with employers.
Careers and employability
Graduates can pursue careers in research and archiving, education, the heritage industry, publication and the media, the charity sector and journalism. Possible professions include historian, higher education lecturer, or archivist. This degree provides a range of transferable skills, which may be useful in becoming a journalist, heritage manager, politician’s assistant, academic librarian, or museum/gallery curator.
Find out more about the destinations of graduates in this subject.
We offer a comprehensive Careers and Employability Service to help you advance your career, while our in-house, professional recruitment consultancy, Birkbeck Talent, works with London’s top employers to help you gain work experience that fits in with your evening studies.
How to apply
Once you've found the course that's right for you, here's what to do next to get your place at Birkbeck.
How to apply
You apply directly to Birkbeck for this course, using the online application.
Need help with your application? Watch videos featuring our academic experts giving advice on applying to Birkbeck and answering some of the most frequently asked questions.
Birkbeck can give you all of the information and help you need to complete your application form, including our online personal statement tool, which will guide you through every step of writing your personal statement.
Application deadlines and interviews
We recommend you apply as early as possible.
Interviews from January.
Life at Birkbeck
Birkbeck offers a unique combination of evening study and a matchless central London location, right in the geographic and academic centre of the city, giving you exceptional opportunities.
Most of our students live in private accommodation, but we also offer student accommodation and access to the professional services of the University of London Housing Services.
The Birkbeck experience
Birkbeck is different: our classes are held in the evening, so your days are free - to study, work, volunteer or just do your own thing.
Financial support and postgraduate loans
Birkbeck offers advice on all the options for financing your studies. You can pay loans by interest-free direct debit and postgraduate loans are available for all Home/EU students. Find out about the support we provide.
How to apply
Once you've found the course that's right for you, here's what to do next to get your place at Birkbeck. We can give you the advice and support you need.
Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research universities. Discover more about our vibrant, intellectually challenging and exciting research culture.
Boost your career
Discover how Birkbeck's unique evening teaching, coupled with our comprehensive careers and employability services, can help you get ahead in a highly competitive job market.
Fees and payment
With government loans for undergraduate and postgraduate study, fantastic financial support packages and flexible payment options, there’s never been a better time to study at Birkbeck.
There are lots of ways to come and visit us and meet our staff and former students, including Open Evenings, Open Days and guided campus tours. Discover more here.
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