MSt in Historical Studies

Course details

The MSt in Historical Studies builds upon the success of the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies in attracting academically committed and high-achieving students from a wide range of professional and educational backgrounds. The MSt course is the second year of a two-year part-time graduate programme that focuses on British, Western European, and imperial history and promotes a broad approach to historical research across the historical disciplines. It provides an opportunity for successful graduates of the Postgraduate Certificate course to extend their studies for a further year and to receive systematic training in research methods while researching a 15,000 word dissertation.

The course will be taught during three weekends in October, December, and January and a further dissertation workshop in April. Seminar classes will build upon the skills and knowledge acquired in the Postgraduate Certificate year and focus on the development of the research skills and methodological and theoretical approaches underpinning modern historical research. Individual supervisors are appointed for dissertations.

The course will build upon the research and writing skills developed in the Postgraduate Certificate and encourage students to engage actively with theoretical and historiographical approaches underpinning modern historical research. It will prepare students to undertake original archival research and develop a theoretical framework for their dissertation. It will guide and support the planning and writing of the dissertation. It will promote learning through discussion and practice and provide training for progression to doctoral programmes in history in Oxford and elsewhere.

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The course in detail

Course content

The three units for the forthcoming academic year, 2024-25 are:

Unit 1: Using Archives and Analysing Sources 

In this unit students examine the key documentary and material sources and resources for their specialist period selected from three parallel strands covering the medieval, early modern and modern periods. They are encouraged to sharpen their critical and analytical skills and to reflect upon the challenges and opportunities particular sources or categories of source present to users. They are introduced to the main historical methods informing the design of research projects, for example macro and micro approaches, quantification and the use of material evidence. Training is also offered in the use of electronic search engines, catalogues and data-bases and guidance provided on using archives and their catalogues. 

Unit 2: Theoretical Approaches to History 

Students examine themes and theoretical approaches that have provided the critical framework for, or have influenced, approaches to historical research. Four seminars are offered each year.  In the first instance, these will cover gender, space, and violence and identity. There is assigned reading but students are also encouraged to consider the application of the chosen approaches to their own research and to subjects that interest them.  Students are required to give short presentations, for example, introducing key texts.

Unit 3: Writing History 

Students are encouraged in this unit to reflect upon the challenges historians face in framing, structuring and presenting their research findings. A visiting lecturer and members of the course team share their experience of planning and writing books and handling conceptual issues such as causation, problem solving and controversy and the challenges of presenting qualitative and quantitative research findings. Students give short presentations on their dissertations and take questions and comments from tutors and students.

There will be a total of 6 hours palaeography sessions for medievalists and early-modernists. There will be a workshop to discuss the organisation and presentation of the dissertation in April. 

Course aims

The main aims of the MSt in Historical Studies are:

  • To build upon the historical knowledge, skills and methodologies acquired in the  Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies;
  • To advance knowledge and understanding of the theoretical and historiographical approaches underpinning historical research;
  • To promote further development of the critical and analytical skills required to interpret and evaluate historical evidence;
  • To develop students’ capability to undertake original research in national, local or private archives, galleries or museums and to search and use electronic research resources;
  • To support students in conceiving, researching, and writing a substantial dissertation.

Teaching methods

The course is delivered in three weekend units providing 38 hours of teaching, seminar discussion and presentations. Student will additionally receive up to 5 hours individual supervision for their dissertations. Students are expected to spend at least fifteen hours per week in independent study preparing for the weekend residences and researching and writing their dissertations.

Tutors and supervision will be provided by research-active academic staff from the Department for Continuing Education and by historical specialists drawn from the University of Oxford and other institutions.

Students will be members of the Department’s Graduate School and able to attend its training, research and social events. 

They will also be able to attend research seminars run by the History Faculty and have full access to the University’s Libraries, Archive and Computing facilities.

Learning outcomes

The main teaching outcomes of the course should enable successful students to:

  • undertake original research in appropriate archives and other institutions;
  • identify and utilise relevant electronic research resources;
  • demonstrate a secure understanding of the relationship between their own research and broader national or international historical perspectives;
  • identify, select, interpret and evaluate historical evidence to shape and support their research project;
  • evaluate and analyse texts and material culture as historical evidence and utilise them to develop and support a dissertation argument;
  • apply relevant theoretical and historiographical approaches to their own research project;
  • conceptualise, explore and seek to answer the historical questions and problems raised by their research project;
  • develop, sustain and communicate sophisticated historical arguments orally and in writing;
  • demonstrate the skills needed to conduct an independent research project and present their findings as a dissertation within a restricted time-frame.

Level and demands

This is a one-year part-time course designed to enable students who have successfully completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies programme to study for a Master’s qualification at Level 7. Students who successfully complete the course will be awarded an Oxford University Master of Studies in the Historical Studies. The combined award will carry 180 CATS points. The Master’s qualification will be awarded on a distinction, merit, pass or fail basis. A transcript of marks awarded will be provided.

Assessment methods

The Masters will be graded on the 15,000 word dissertation, supplemented by three summative assessment exercises marked pass/fail, namely a 2,500-word survey of secondary literature for the dissertation, a 2,500-word survey of primary sources for the dissertation and a 1,500-word dissertation proposal.  Students are also required to give two oral presentations.

Students will select their own dissertation topic subject to the viability of the proposal and the availability of a suitable supervisor in the year of study. The course focuses on British, Western European and Imperial History and dissertation topics should be selected from the areas covered. Dissertations may encompass or focus on visual and material culture. Students wishing to use sources written in Latin or foreign languages must be proficient in the language or languages required before commencing the course

The final grade awarded for the MSt subsumes the grade awarded for the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies, with a weighting of 60% applied to the Master's grade and 40% to the Postgraduate Certificate grade.

Teaching staff

Dr Yasmin Khan is an Associate Professor in History at OUCDE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. Her research interests are in the nineteenth-and-twentieth-century history of the British Empire, particularly in South Asia. Her publications include The Great Partition: the Making of India and Pakistan (Yale University Press, 2007) and The Raj at War: a People’s History of India’s Second World War (Oxford University Press, 2015). Dr Yasmin Khan is the MSt Historical Studies Course Director in 2022-2023.

Professor Tom Buchanan is Professor of Modern British and European History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. He is the author of numerous articles and three books on British involvement in the Spanish Civil War, most recently War, Loss and Memory: The Impact of the Spanish Civil War on Britain (Sussex Academic Press, 2007). His latest book entitled East Wind: China and the British Left, 1925-1976 was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press. He is currently researching the history of human rights activism in modern Britain.  

Dr Elizabeth Gemmill is an Associate Professor in Local History at OUDCE and a Fellow of Kellogg College. Her research interests are in the medieval English nobility and in the social and economic history of medieval Scotland. Her main publications are on the ecclesiastical patronage of the medieval English nobility and on medieval Scottish prices, trade, and guilds.

The course will be taught by the course direction team, members of Oxford University Department for Continuing Education’s teaching staff, and visiting lecturers.

Libraries and computing facilities

Registered students receive an Oxford University card, valid for one year at a time, which acts as a library card for the Departmental Library at Rewley House and provides access to the unrivalled facilities of the Bodleian Libraries. These include the central Bodleian Library, major research libraries such as the Sackler Library, Taylorian Institution Library, Bodleian Social Science Library, and faculty libraries such as the History and English Libraries. Students also have access to a wide range of electronic resources including e-journals, e-books and e-resources, many of which can be accessed from home. Students on the course are entitled to use the Library at Rewley House for reference and private study and to borrow books. The loan period is normally two weeks and up to eight books may be borrowed. Students will also be encouraged to use their nearest University library. More information about the Continuing Education Library can be found at the Bodleain website

The University card also provides access to facilities at Oxford University Computing Service (OUCS), 13 Banbury Road, Oxford. Computing facilities are available to students in the Students' Computing Facility in Rewley House and at Ewert House.


For students who do not live locally, it is possible to book bed and breakfast accommodation at Rewley House for the weekend units. 

Reservations should be booked directly with the Residential Centre on 01865 270362 or

How to apply

Applications are restricted to only students who are currently studying or have already completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Historical Studies.

Current PGCHS students should register their interest in the MSt with the Course Director during Hilary Term of the course. They should submit a formal application via the Graduate Admissions website by the January deadline or March deadline.

All students applying to the MSt, including current PGCHS students, must submit a new application with new supporting materials.   

The MSt is a matriculated programme and therefore requires all students admitted to secure college affiliation. It is important to check which colleges admit students for the MSt in Historical Studies on the course’s webpage on the Graduate Admissions website because colleges do not accept students for all courses.

For information about how to apply to the Masters in Historical Studies, supporting materials, and application form, please visit the Graduate Admissions website.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact the OUDCE Award Programme Administrator, (tel: 01865 280783; email:
or if you have any technical queries about the application, please contact the Graduate Admissions Office, tel: 01865 270059; email:

Fees and funding

Please visit the MSt Historical Studies page on the University of Oxford Graduate Admissions website for details of course fees and costs.

Further details can also be found on the University's Fees and Funding page.

Kellogg Clarendon Award

Kellogg College is delighted to offer a partnership award for a Clarendon Scholarship. You must apply to the University by the January deadline relevant to your proposed course in order to be considered for a scholarship. This scholarship is available only to part-time students. You do not need to apply to Kellogg College.

Non-EU students

For information on short term student visas, please refer to UKCISA