Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Local History (Online)

Course details

A one-year, online course to help you develop advanced skills in historical research.

The Advanced Diploma in Local History is a one-year part-time course providing training in key concepts and methods of historical studies. It is delivered entirely online, so you can work at home with access to the course material, your tutor and fellow students.

This course will help you improve the key skills you need for historical research, especially the manipulation of information using spreadsheets and databases, and it will teach you how to use what you have learned to produce good, scholarly historical writing. With the help of your tutor, you will produce your own piece of local historical research. Some of our past students’ projects have been developed into articles for scholarly journals.

Equivalent to study in the third year at a university in the UK, the Advanced Diploma is good preparation for a higher degree such as Oxford University’s part-time MSc in English Local History or master’s programmes at other universities. The Open University recommends this course as preparation for its online MA in History.

Who is this course for?

As the course is delivered entirely online, you can join it no matter where you live. There are no formal entry qualifications, but you should have a lively interest in the localities and communities of the past, and some experience of local history at undergraduate level or equivalent. This might have been gained through a course, or through research into family or local history using sources in libraries and record offices. If you are in any doubt about your experience, please contact undergraduate@conted.ox.ac.uk for advice.

This course is particularly relevant:

  • if you want to learn how to use original sources and databases for your own research into local and family history (although please note it is not designed as a family history course)
  • if you are pursuing a career in the historical and archives sector
  • for history teachers and local studies librarians, who are likely to find the course professionally useful.

Past students have gone on to work in a number of related fields, including as historians and in the heritage industry. The transferable nature of the skills you acquire will be valuable in a wide range of jobs, and equally if you are retired or not currently working.

You should be familiar with the use of computers for word-processing, using email and searching the Internet. You must also have some experience of Access, Excel, or other database or spreadsheet programs before starting the Advanced Diploma. Short introductory courses are often available locally and online.

The content of the course is entirely devoted to English local history, although the skills learned may be applied more widely and the final project may concern the local history of an area of your own choice. Students outside Britain are welcome to apply but you should understand that some knowledge of British history, society and institutions will be assumed.

How you will study

All the course material will be provided on our website. In addition to the course units the material will include readings, documents, spreadsheets and database files. You will also have access to a wide range of online resources. A reading list of recommended books will be sent to you well in advance (see below for a selection).

The units will be published on the course website and you will study them in sequence. Normally you will have two weeks to study each unit, and within this framework you can study in your own time and at your own pace. There will be online material to guide your work on each unit, which will involve a mixture of downloading and studying selected passages from historical sources, exploring wider reading online or in a library, doing self-study exercises with spreadsheets and databases, and participating in online discussion with your tutor and fellow students. You must also complete your assignments and submit them via the course website by the deadlines given.

The Advanced Diploma is a rewarding and challenging course demanding a sustained commitment over one year. You must be sure that you will be able to devote enough time to studying alongside all your other commitments. The time needed will vary, but you should be prepared to commit at least 15 hours a week for the length of the course.

To preview how the platform in which you will be taught on works, please visit our course demonstration site. Please note, this example does not contain the actual ADLH content.

The course in detail

Course content

The course begins with a short preparatory unit to familiarise you with study and discussion online. Module 1 usually begins in late September and Module 2 in March.

Module 1: Concepts and methods of local history

This module consists of eight units, making extensive use of original sources and case studies. There will be four written assignments, allowing you to practise historical skills and to write some local history. The units cover approaches to local history, finding primary and secondary sources, the critical use of evidence, personal testimony as a source, a practical guide to the use of statistics for history and the use of Excel, record linkage, and effective writing and publication.

Module 2: Databases for historians

The second module consists of six units and uses data sets for two contrasting communities, the Lancashire port of Liverpool 1650-1750 and the Oxfordshire market town of Woodstock in the 17th century, as well as criminal records for London from the Old Bailey online database.  Students will practise methods for querying existing databases, then move on to learn how to design, create and use their own database for the analysis of historical data. Two further units introduce some of the exciting ways in which historians are now using databases, with up-to-date examples. There will be two assignments, the first to design a database to answer an historical question, based on data supplied. The final project is a longer piece of historical writing using data analysis.

Full module details


The award of the Advanced Diploma is based on successfully completing the five written assignments and the final project. There is no written examination. All students are strongly encouraged to participate in the group discussions and activities which are an essential part of the course.

IT requirements

This course has a substantial IT element. Students are required to register on the course website, to receive and respond to course emails, to access online course information, use an electronic library catalogue and online library account to find and borrow books, articles and other materials to write their assignments, complete online study modules, word process essays and other coursework and to submit assignments online.

Guidance is provided but students need to have regular access to a computer and the internet and a good level of experience and skill including the proficient use of Microsoft Word or similar word-processing package, email and internet browser such as Firefox or Google Chrome.

The computer you use should meet our recommended minimum computer specification.

Please also read Computing Facilities Required.

Recommended reading list

The books listed here are all on the course reading list. They provide a good introduction to local history and to the kind of reading recommended for the course.

  • Kate Tiller, English Local History: an Introduction (Boydell & Brewer paperback, 3rd edn 2020, ISBN 9781783275243). The standard introduction to English local history, from Anglo-Saxons to the 20th century.
  • John Tosh, The Pursuit of History (Longman paperback, 6th edn 2015, ISBN 9781317542001). This widely used textbook is recommended for its coverage and for its approachable style.
  • Tracy Loughran (ed.), A Practical Guide to Studying History: Skills and Approaches (Bloomsbury Academic, paperback, 2016)
  • Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath (Yale paperback, 2003, ISBN 0300098251). A fascinating study of the Reformation in a tiny Tudor village.
  • Sonja Cameron & Sarah Richardson, Using Computers in History (Palgrave paperback, 2005, ISBN 1403934169). A jargon-free guide to computing skills for anyone interested in history.
  • Pat Hudson and Mina Ishizu, History by Numbers (Bloomsbury paperback, 2000, 2nd edn 2016, ISBN 9781849665377). Introducing some of the ways historians use quantitative information, which is one of the themes of this course.
  • Anyone returning to study after a period of time away will find it helpful to look at Andrew Northedge, The Good Study Guide (Open University paperback, 2005 or earlier editions, ISBN 0749259744).

Teaching staff

The Course Director is Dr Sylvia Pinches.

Sylvia Pinches is a part-time tutor at the Department and Course Director for the Advanced Diploma in Local History. She taught for the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) for a number of years and her teaching and lecturing is based on her local and social history research. Sylvia has a degree in Historical Studies from the University of Warwick, and gained both her Master’s and Doctorate from the Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester. While studying at Leicester she worked part-time at Warwick Castle as a guide and the focus of her doctoral thesis was Warwickshire charities. From 2002-2005 she was Curator of 78 Derngate, the Charles Rennie Mackintosh-designed house in Northampton, and she worked for the Victoria County History Trust in Hereford for over ten years – during which time she wrote a history of the market town of Ledbury and contributed to a number of parish histories.

The ready availability of a tutor has always been a feature of study at Oxford University, a tradition which is continued in this online learning course. You will be assigned to a tutorial group of about 15 students, led by a tutor with whom you can communicate via email or the online conferencing system for general advice and for assistance with any problems. Your tutor will also mark your assignments and provide feedback on your progress. An experienced IT help team is available to advise on any technical problems.

Contact information

For general guidance and advice, credit transfer, special needs provision and sources of funding: +44 (0)1865 280355 student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk

For information about Study Skills courses: +44 (0)1865 280892 studyskills@conted.ox.ac.uk

How to apply

Please click on the ‘Apply’ button which will automatically notify us that you want a link to the online application form. We will email you that link together with a code to waive the application fee, and guidance on completing and submitting your application.

You will need to upload the following documents as part of your application:

  • A written statement of 300-400 words stating why you wish to study Local History at this level.
  • Details of your computing experience and computer system 
  • Proof of your English language ability if you are a non-native English-speaker (see below for more information).

You will also need to provide contact details for two referees. If possible, your referees should be people who can comment on your academic ability and background, but where this is not appropriate, please choose referees who can vouch for your motivation, commitment and potential. References from family members are not acceptable.

Applications will be considered after the deadline following receipt. If you appear to be suitable for the course, we will send you instructions by email for the second stage of the application process where you will be asked to write a short commentary on a given local history text and to return your work to us as an email attachment. We will normally inform you within three weeks of receipt of your written commentary and both references whether we are offering you a place on the course. Places are offered on a first-come, first-served basis to suitable applicants as they complete the application process.

Your application will be treated in accordance with the University's Equality Policy. We fully endorse the Equality Policy and our admissions procedures are kept under regular review to ensure compliance with this policy.

The final decision on admission to the course rests with the Department.

Award and credit transfer

Successful students will be awarded an Oxford University Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Local History. Outstanding performance will qualify for a Distinction. You will be invited to receive your Advanced Diploma at the annual awards ceremony of the Department for Continuing Education, held at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. This happy occasion provides an opportunity to meet your tutor and fellow students in person.

The Advanced Diploma carries a Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) rating of 60 points at FHEQ Level 6. You may be able to transfer these credit points to other HE institutions. If you are considering taking advantage of transferring credit, you are recommended to consult our Student Support Officer (email: student.support@conted.ox.ac.uk or tel: +44 (0)1865 280355).

The Open University recommends this course as preparation for its MA in History, especially if you have an undergraduate degree without honours or in a subject other than History. Further information is available from the OU Regional Centres, the Credit Transfer Centre or the OU website: www.open.ac.uk.


The course fees for 2021-2022 will be £2,938 (Home, Islands, and Republic of Ireland students) or £5,031 (Overseas students). An option to pay the fee in instalments may be available.

Following an announcement by the Universities Minister on 23 June 2020, EU fee status students starting a course in 2021/22 will no longer be eligible to pay fees at the ‘Home’ rate and will instead be charged the higher ‘Overseas’ rate. This change will not apply to Irish nationals living in the UK or Ireland, who will continue to be charged fees at the ‘Home’ rate for the duration of their course. 

Information on financial support can be found on our website here.


The Department for Continuing Education offers history day and weekend courses, weekly classesonline short courses and summer schools. In the Undergraduate programme we offer the Foundation Certificate in History, the Certificate of Higher Education, the Diploma in English Social and Local History and the Advanced Diploma in Local History. At Postgraduate level we offer a Postgraduate Certificate in Architectural HistoryPostgraduate Certificate in Historical StudiesMSt in Historical StudiesMSt in the History of DesignMSt in Literature and Arts, and MSc in English Local History along with the DPhil in Architectural HistoryDPhil in English Local History and DPhil in Literature and Arts.

You may also be interested in studying History of Art.

If you are planning on embarking on a new career as a result of your studies, or hope to progress in your current field, you can access help and advice through the University Careers Service.

English language requirements

Check information on the specific English language requirements for this course.

Applicants are required to have the Higher level scores.