MA History part 1

This is the first of two modules which together lead to the award of the MA in History. You'll specialise in the study of Britain and Ireland during either the early modern or the modern period. You can choose from a range of themes to explore in depth. These include the body, popular politics, interpersonal violence, immigration, the environment and institutions. Along with the digital skills you'll gain from studying, you'll develop advanced skills in locating and using primary and secondary sources and in the communication of research to various audiences. 

Vocational relevance

The module will contribute to enhancing your prospects in careers such as teaching, libraries, archives, museums, heritage and tourism industries, as well as providing content relevant to the continuing professional development of employees in public-facing roles such as education, police, and social and health services.


A883 is a compulsory module in our:

A883 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module focuses on the development, to an advanced level, of core skills in primary and secondary source analysis and the ability to communicate research in a range of formats to academic and non-academic audiences. Module materials address a broad range of themes and topics, and the diverse histories of people living in Britain and Ireland in the early modern and modern period, including histories of women and other marginalised groups.

Before you begin, you’ll be asked to specialise in either early modern (c.1500–c.1780) or modern history (c.1750–c.1970). All students study the same material at the start of the module, which begins by reviewing and interrogating the core principles of the discipline to understand what it means to be a historian. You'll survey the many different forms of history practised inside and outside the academy and examine the craft of the historian: research, analysis and communication. You'll also address the ways in which the discipline, and our understanding of history, has been shaped by the enfranchisement of various groups within society over time.

From Block 2 onwards, you'll specialise in the study of either early modern or modern Britain and Ireland. This will involve studying the approaches historians have taken in their research and writing on your chosen period. You'll become immersed in the key historiographical debates and trends, and acquire training in the use of sources peculiar to your specialist period. For example, you might examine early modern images and manuscripts, or modern sound recordings and moving images.

At Block 3, you'll choose between two specialist themes. One theme will focus on your period of specialism, and the other will take a longue durée approach, or in other words, span a longer duration of time. If you're specialising in early modern history, you may opt for a theme on political communication c.1500 to c.1750; and if you specialise in modern history, you may opt for a theme on environment and landscape history from c.1750 to c.1970. All students have the option of studying the longue durée theme on interpersonal violence from c.1500 to c.1970.

Block 4 provides another opportunity for theme-based study. If you're specialising in early modern history, you may opt for a theme on bodies and health, c.1550 to c.1780; and if you specialise in modern history, you may choose a theme focussing on the history of modern institutions. Alternatively, all students have the option of studying a longue durée theme, in this case focussing on immigration to Britain and Ireland between c.1500 and c.1970.

Throughout Blocks 3 and 4, you will be exposed to and receive training in using a wide range of specialist resources for primary source research.

You will learn

This module will:

  • familiarise you with key events which shaped either early modern or modern Britain and Ireland
  • expose you to historiographical trends in the study of either early modern or modern Britain and Ireland, including those at the forefront of academic history
  • develop, to an advanced level, your skills in the location, handling and analysis of a wide range of primary sources
  • prepare you for the planning and execution of an independent research project as part of MA History part 2 (A884).

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Tuition will be delivered by means of online tutorials and online forums.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box.

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

MA History part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2033.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

You must hold an honours degree (or equivalent) to study our MA in History. Although your degree does not need to be in History or a closely related subject, you will need some knowledge of the subject to successfully complete this qualification as the MA in History assumes all students have the knowledge and skills usually acquired by pursuing the subject at undergraduate level.

An honours degree of at least 2.1 (or equivalent) will greatly increase your chances of successfully completing the MA in History.

Alternative entry
Applications from candidates who don't have an honours degree but do have knowledge and skills relevant to studying history at postgraduate level, demonstrable through a track record of prior study and/or work experience (paid or voluntary), will be considered. Applicants must include the following information when returning requested entry check documentary evidence.
  • Details of why you are interested in studying our MA in History, details of any skills and knowledge you have relevant to studying history at postgraduate level, and any further information that you feel might support your application (e.g. membership of historical societies, publications on historical themes). 
  • A CV (2 pages max)
  • Evidence of prior study, if applicable (e.g. copies of certificate or transcript higher education, further education or professional qualifications).

Additional considerations
If your degree or background is not in history or a related subject, we recommend that you take this self-diagnostic test. If, after trying the test, you are not confident about studying this module, we recommend that you work through the resources listed in the Preparatory work section below.

It is expected that your spoken and written English will also be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum score of 7 under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for more details.

If you’re in any doubt about the suitability of your qualifications or previous experience, please contact us.

Preparatory work

Open Learn offers two free courses which are designed to prepare students for postgraduate study: Succeeding in postgraduate study and Are you ready for postgraduate study? We strongly encourage you to complete one or both.

As this module focuses on the use of digital resources for the study of history, we also recommend the Open Learn course Digital Humanities: Humanities research in the digital age which will help you to develop your research skills. 

If you wish to prepare for this module, you are encouraged to read The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods, and New Directions in the Study of History by J.Tosh (see 'Study materials' for more details).


Start End England fee Register
07 Sep 2024 Jun 2025 £3820.00

Registration closes 08/08/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in September 2033.

Future availability

MA History part 1 starts once a year – in September. This page describes the module that will start in September 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in September 2033.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a module guide
  • an interactive week-by-week study planner
  • teaching text and activities for each week
  • video and audio recordings
  • assessment guidance
  • electronic resources for studying history, including access to our world-class collection of primary and secondary source databases and ebooks, as well as training in their use, via The Open University library
  • access to online forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Tosh, J. The Pursuit of History: Aims, Methods, and New Directions in the Study of History Routledge £32.99 - ISBN 9780367902469 The current edition is the 7th edition, but students may also use the 6th edition - ISBN 9781138808089

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components and electronic journals may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader; this applies in particular to historical records that may have been scanned for use online. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

During this module, you may need to use primary historical data sources (such as local archives) which may not yet be available as online resources; in which case, you may need to arrange physical access to their location (such as a library or other public record office).

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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