MA Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Year of entry

The Taught MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Canterbury Christ Church University offers you the opportunity to study the Archaeology, Literature, History and Theology & Religion of these periods in a World Heritage site.

You will be able to choose from a range of modules taught by the leading experts in their field, design your own short courses, receive training in research skills, run your own reading group, undertake work placements, and complete a dissertation.

We will welcome you in to a vibrant and supportive postgraduate community, where you will be able to participate in and present at workshops, seminars, and conferences.

The MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies is aimed at anyone interested in studying the past in depth. Our students usually include recent graduates wishing to continue their studies, mature students returning to study after a longer or shorter time of pursuing other interests, and secondary-school teachers seeking professional development.

An MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies is increasingly regarded as a valuable extension of undergraduate study in that it:

  • offers you an anticipated edge in the professional job market
  • enhances applications for teacher training where advanced specialist knowledge can be an asset. The PGCE History team in the Education department at Canterbury Christ Church University strongly encourages students to gain an MA before applying for the PGCE
  • provides essential postgraduate experience for you if you intend to continue your study of Modern History at MPhil/PhD level
  • provides a period of study if you wish to take a career break


2019/20 tuition fees for this course

Full-time £7,700 £12,420
Part-time £3,850 N/A

Alumni of Canterbury Christ Church University are eligible for a 20% discount on this course, subject to terms and conditions.

Tuition fees for all courses which last more than one academic year are payable on an annual basis, except where stated.

There will be an annual inflationary increase in tuition fees for this course where the course lasts more than one academic year. For further information read the 2019/20 Tuition fee statements and continuing fee information.

Government loans of up to £10,906 are available for some postgraduate Master’s courses for students starting their course from 1 August 2018. Loans are subject to both personal and course eligibility criteria.

The rules around course eligibility mean that in some cases it may depend on how you are studying (full-time or part-time) as to whether you can apply for a postgraduate loan. To check whether your course is eligible, you can  email the Student Fees Team or call 01227 923 948.

Read more about  postgraduate masters student loans.

Students may self-fund their course or a sponsor may fund or part-fund. Bursaries, scholarships and fee discounts may also be available.

Further information

Additional course costs

Although we aim to minimise any additional costs to students over and above the course tuition fee, there will be some additional costs which students are expected to meet.

Costs applicable to all students

Text books Own purchase text books
Travel to other sites Where travel to other sites is required, this will be payable by the student
Library Fees and Fines Where students fail to return loaned items within the required time they will be responsible for the cost of any library fees and fines applicable
Printing & Photocopying The cost of printing and photocopying undertaken by students to support their individual learning are payable by the student
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire / photography are additional costs payable by the student

General principle policy

The University’s general principles policy for additional course fees are set out here

CategoryIncluded in the tuition feeAdditional cost to student
Field trips (including trips abroad and trips to museums, theatres, workshops etc) No, if the trip contributes to the course as an optional module. Yes if the trip is optional.
Travel and accommodation costs for placements  No

Travel and accommodation costs for professional placements within the Education and Health & Wellbeing Faculties.

Travel and accommodation costs for other work placements. 
Text books No Own purchase text books.
DBS / Health checks No Yes
Professional Body registration No Yes
Travel to other sites (e.g. travel to swimming pool for lessons) No Yes
Clothing / Kit Yes, where the clothing / kit is essential for Health & Safety reasons. Yes, where the clothing is kept by the student and not essential for health and safety reasons.
Learning materials Essential learning materials (excluding text books) in connection with the course. Additional materials beyond the standard provision essential for the course or where the costs are determined by the student’s area of interest and the outputs are retained by the student.
Library fees and fines No Yes
Printing and photocopying No Yes
Social events No, unless the event forms an essential part of the course. Yes, unless the event forms an essential part of the course.
Graduation ceremonies It is free for the student to attend the ceremony itself. Guest tickets and robe hire/ photography are additional costs payable by the student.

Compulsory modules

All students, both full time and year 1 part time take the following compulsory modules.

Semester 1: Themes and Sources in Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Semester 2: Critically Reading Medieval and Early Modern Studies


Optional modules: if you are doing the MA full time, choose two optional modules in each semester; if you are doing the MA part time, choose one optional module in each semester.

Semester 1:

Please note: Modules and course structure are subject to change. The information presented here is intended to be indicative. Please contact the team if you have specific questions about course 

Module Descriptions

Themes and Sources in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (convenor Dr Leonie Hicks)

This module considers the foundations and nature of interdisciplinary study of the medieval and early modern period at level 7.It will introduce you to different themes, concepts and approaches drawn from Archaeology, English Literature, History and Theology. You will study a number of case studies based on staff specialisms which may include landscape, identity, royal power, belief, social status, diplomacy and warfare.

Assessment: seminar presentation (1200-word equivalent) 30%; comparative essay (2800 words) 70%

Latin (Dr Sean Gabb)

Using Cambridge University Press’s Reading Latin course or similar you will learn the fundamentals of Latin grammar in order to translate prepared texts as preparation for reading and researching Latin sources for your future research.

Assessment 2 class tests (1000-word equivalent 25% each); exam (2000-word equivalent 50%)

Critically Reading Medieval and Early Modern Studies (tbc)

Building on semester 1’s modules considering the interpretation of sources, this module will encourage you to take a similarly critical approach to the scholarly discourse in the constituent disciplines of your MA programme. You will have the opportunity to construct the syllabus alongside staff and your peers reflecting the different interests of the cohort. Themes for consideration might include: how to study emotion, representation, ecocriticism, identity, theory in archaeology, mysticism, and alterity. Both the compulsory modules will equip you with the necessary skills to tackle a dissertation at MA level with confidence. This module will be taught in a reading group format.

Assessment: reflection on practice (2000 words) 50%; detailed annotated bibliography relating to dissertation topic (2000 words) 50%

Palaeography and Manuscript Studies (Dr David Wright)

Students wanting to conduct original research on manuscripts before 1650 need to learn how to read the different types of handwriting and the shorthand employed by scribes in the period. This course will teach students how to read a range of hands, and will introduce them to common abbreviations and phrases found in government, legal and personal documents. The course will be based around seminars and workshops, in which students will be introduced to new types of sources each week.  Students will learn key letterforms and abbreviations in class, developing their skills through the transcription of documents in class and in private study.  By the end of the course students should be able to read scripts from different periods of medieval and early modern history. These may include Protogothic scripts; the Gothic system of scripts (including English cursive book and documentary scripts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries); the Humanist system of scripts; early modern court hands; and secretary hands.  They will also learn how to use a range original sources, such as English royal government records, accounts, charters, letters, manorial documents, wills and inventories. They will be aware of the institutions that generated different sources. Students will therefore have the necessary skills to carry out archival research.

Assessment two primary document transcription exercises, with a description of the source(s) and editorial notes on palaeographic choices (equivalent to 2,000 words each, 50% each)

Individually Negotiated Topic

The module allows students to negotiate a topic with a member of staff in place of one of their optional modules or to undertake a work-related placement comprising 50 hours. Topics derived from staff expertise may include: funerary archaeology, middle English literature urbanism, peasant society and rural settlement, gender and sexuality, early modern theatre, religious difference, court culture, poverty and social welfare, legal history marginality, medievalism, travel (real and imagined), satire, ideas of space, place and landscape. Placements will be organised with the advice of the School of Humanities’ director of employability and in line with School guidelines.

Assessment: 1x4,000-word essay OR reflective piece if undertaking a placement.

Classical Christian Mysticism (Dr Hilary Powell)

The study of Classical Christian Spirituality will examine questions of Biblical origins, Patristic development, and Scholastic consolidation. Works in translation will be selected from the following indicative list of Christian writers: Paul, Origen, Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich. Ongoing debate on their work will also be considered and related to modern perspectives on Christian Spirituality, including questions of the intellect, the body, and the community.

Assessment 2 2000-word essays (50% each)

Norman Conquests and Kingdoms (Dr Leonie Hicks)

This module considers the activities of the Normans outside of their Norman homeland. You will examine the significance of 1066 and whether the conquest of Britain was part of a larger Norman empire; the settlement of southern Italy and Sicily and creation of the Norman kingdom; the Normans on crusade; and how far they assimilated into the societies they conquered. You will also assess the validity of the idea of the Norman ‘myth’. This module will introduce you to, and encourage you to look in depth at Norman society in Europe as well as relations between the Normans and the different peoples they conquered or settled amongst through various primary sources. As well as administrative records and charters, the Normans generated a number of chronicles and literary sources. Alongside these documents, you will also consider architecture, art and archaeology as a means of understanding Norman society.

Assessment: An oral presentation (equivalent to 1,000 words - 25%); an extended essay (3,000 words - 75%)

King Henry I the Lion of Justice (Dr Paul Dalton)

This module examines major themes and developments in the reign of William the Conqueror’s youngest son, King Henry I (1100-35). These will include a selection from the following: the methods used by Henry to acquire and consolidate his royal power; his relations and conflict with his older brother, Robert Curthose; his interaction with and management and control of the secular aristocracy; his relations with leading churchmen and the papacy; the nature of and reasons for the developments in royal administration and justice that appear to have occurred between 1100 and 1135; Henry’s characteristics and abilities as a ruler, and contemporary perceptions of them; his involvement in Wales, Scotland, Normandy, and relations with Louis VI of France and other French rulers; and his role as a patron of religion. Deeper examination of the chosen themes will be promoted by case studies of particular debates, methodologies, and individuals.

Assessment 3,000 word research essay (75%); 1,000 word seminar paper written response (25%)

Kingship, Rebellion and Conquest: England under Henry III and Edward I (Prof. Louise Wilkinson)

Students on this module will look in detail at the ways in which Magna Carta (the Great Charter) became embedded in English politics and society under King Henry III (r. 1216-1272) and King Edward I (r. 1272-1307). The reign of Henry III was of tremendous significance in English history. It was a time of mounting grievances against the king that saw both the emergence of parliament and England’s first political revolution. In the years 1258-65 Henry III was reduced to a cipher and a baronial council, led by Henry III’s brother-in-law, Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, pushed through legal and administrative reforms far more radical and wide ranging than those envisaged in Magna Carta. The years 1265-72 were characterised by the re-establishment of royal authority in England after de Montfort’s death at the battle of Evesham and the final suppression of the baronial rebels. Edward I’s reign (1272-1307) was no less momentous, as this king attempted to assert his mastery not only over English affairs, but also over the other peoples of Britain. Edward I’s Welsh wars culminated in the defeat of the last native princes and in the colonisation of Wales. Edward’s intervention in the Scottish succession crisis, known as ‘the Great Cause’, led to further conflict for the control of the throne in Scotland. In England, Edward’s reign was remembered for his formal expulsion of the Jews (a persecuted minority) from the realm in 1290, and for the pressure that his wars placed on his subjects, which culminated in a constitutional crisis in 1297-8. This module examines the politics and personalities that shaped life in thirteenth-century England by considering themes emerging from the study of primary sources, such as: the crown and the emergence of parliament; foreign influences; the baronial movement of reform and rebellion; the crisis of 1297-8; warfare with France, Scotland and Wales; the aristocracy; the church; and court culture and chivalry.

Assessment: An oral presentation (equivalent to 1,000 words - 25%); an extended essay (3,000 words - 75%)

From the Richard II to the Wars of the Roses (Dr David Grummitt)

The fifteenth century was one of immense upheaval and change in England. Culturally, it witnessed the flourishing of the English language in poetry and prose and adoption of the new fashions and intellectual tastes of the Italian Renaissance; religiously, it saw challenges to the established church and new patterns of devotion which prefigured, to some extent, the sixteenth-century Reformation; economically and socially, England experienced plague, famine and economic hardship on a scale not seen since the Black Death of the 1340s. Yet it is in the field of politics and kingship that the fifteenth century witnessed the greatest break with the past. In 1399 the Lancastrian Henry Bolingbroke seized the throne violently from his cousin Richard II, eventually murdering his rival in Pontefract Castle. This revolution, as Tudor chroniclers and playwrights observed, marked the beginning of a series of political crises which culminated in the Wars of the Roses. The Wars challenged the political and cultural status quo and decimated the nobility. They allowed new styles of kingship and government to emerge, leading to the usurpation of Richard III and, in 1485, the accession of the first Tudor king, Henry VII. By 1509, when Henry VII passed the throne intact to his son Henry VIII, England was a very different place both politically and culturally. The fifteenth century saw the end of the Middle Ages in England and the flowering of a new Renaissance culture.

Assessment: 4000-word research essay

Late Medieval and Early Modern Canterbury (Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh)

In order to understand the continuities and changes between the late medieval and the early modern city, the first half of the module will explore thematically late medieval Canterbury (c.1350–c.1540). The topics studied will include topography, parish churches and lay piety, houses and shops, pilgrimage, and urban defences. The second half of the module will explore Tudor Canterbury (c.1540–c.1600) using comparable themes. These will include civic government, the parish church, family and household, manufacturing and shops, and education and recreation. Where appropriate, the module will include a guided tour of the city and study in the Cathedral Archives.

Assessment: 4000-word research essay

Imagining England: Landscape and Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Literature (Dr Claire Bartram)

This module examines the ways in which British medieval and early modern writers creatively re-imagined the past to fashion identity in response to the political and social pressures of the present. The first half of the module will focus on works that were either central to, or are reflective of, the formation and development of Englishness and the idea of England in the early and later medieval period. A range of texts will be considered, including histories and legendary histories recounting Britain’s prehistoric, Roman, and Christian inheritance, and poetry and prose works of the Arthurian tradition in relation to their Celtic and Continental precursors. In examining sixteenth and seventeenth century literature the second half of the module provides strong continuity with early seminars by revisiting key authors such as Chaucer, genres such as Romance and the Pastoral, and periods such as the Anglo-Saxon to explore how these important precedents create new vocabularies for legitimizing types of English-ness. Using prose, poetry and drama these seminars consider the resurgence of particular discourses in response to challenges to religious practice during the Reformation in the sixteenth century or conflicting ideas of ‘English-ness’ during the Civil War years of the Seventeenth Century. Critical analyses will be grounded in the investigation of cultural, historical, stylistic, thematic, and critical issues.

Assessment: 4000-word research essay

Case Studies in Early Modern Literature (Dr Astrid Stilma)

The module will be constructed around a single case study, such as a genre (e.g. historiography, closet tragedy, romance, life writing etc.), a theme (e.g. cross-cultural encounters, early modern republicanism, etc.), or the work of a particular author. A sample case study is the playwright Christopher Marlowe. By studying a selection of Marlowe’s poetry and drama, the module will draw attention to wider issues such as the development of the English Renaissance theatre, the uses of classical and contemporary European material in English Renaissance literature, the portrayal of the racial or cultural ‘Other’, notions of masculinity in early modern culture, discourses of liberty and identity, etc. Students will be invited to engage critically with Marlowe’s traditional reputation as a subversive and his role in the development of Elizabethan drama, and also with recent studies on e.g. collaborative playwriting and issues of authorship (including the mutual influences between Marlowe and Shakespeare), and  Marlowe’s role in the development of 1590s literary republicanism.

Assessment: 4000-word research essay

Poverty, Prostitution and Plague (Dr David Hitchcock)

This module is designed to juxtapose the historical context as it was lived with the contemporary cultural assumptions about paupers, prostitutes, and plague victims themselves. It will be structured around three key words already mentioned: poverty, prostitution, and plague. Paired Lectures and seminars alternate for the bulk of the course: for instance, student might attend a lecture on vagrancy and subsistence migration, and then participate in a seminar centred on Thomas Harman’s Caveat for Common Cursetors, a famous example of ‘rogue literature’. This approach encourages students to apply the knowledge of poverty and the social conditions of early modern England to a given cultural source, and encourages them to map general context onto specific exempla.

Assessment: 4000-word research essay

The research and writing skills you'll gain, together with the specialist disciplinary knowledge developed during the course and work placements undertaken, will enhance your employability and help you find a career in education, the civil service, journalism, finance, the law, politics, and heritage. The MA also provides you with the skills needed to pursue a Ph.D. in Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

Teaching on the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies will largely be through seminars, in which you will engage critically with a range of evidence and scholarly debates. Seminars will help you establish a network of peers and build meaningful connections with teaching staff. Lectures will be used as appropriate, for delivering key contextual information.

An innovative aspects of the MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies is the Reading Group module. The Reading Group is your opportunity to help shape a module to the interests of your particular cohort as you select readings for discussion.

You will be expected to spend sufficient time in independent study to contribute fully and to get the most out of face-to-face contact time. It is at the heart of the dissertation in which you will be assigned a supervisor to oversee your progress through one-to-one tutorials as you complete a substantial and original piece of written work. Opportunities to develop a smaller research project or undertake a work-related placement are provided by the Individually Negotiated Topic module.

A taught MA comprises 180 credits.

Compulsory modules:

  • Themes and Sources in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (semester 1) 20 credits
  • Critically Reading Medieval and Early Modern Studies (semester 2) 20 credits
  • Dissertation (completed over the summer) 60 credits

In addition you will take four optional 20-credit modules over the course of your MA, whether full time or part time. Potential modules (not all run each year) include:

  • Latin
  • Palaeography and Manuscript Studies
  • Classical Christian Mysticism
  • Norman Conquests and Kingdoms
  • King Henry I: Lion of Justice
  • Kingship, Rebellion and Conquest: England under Henry II and Edward I
  • From Richard II to the Wars of the Roses: Politics and Society, 1377-1509
  • Late Medieval and Tudor Canterbury, c.1350-c.1600
  • Imagining England: Landscape and Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Literature
  • Case Studies in Early Modern Literature
  • Dynastic Court Culture in Early Modern Europe
  • Poverty, Prostitution, Plague: the Problems of English Society 1066-1800

You can replace up to two optional modules (one in each semester) with an individually negotiated topic covering a specific interest or placement subject to staff availability.

Assessment is mainly by a range of written coursework including essays and a 15,000-word dissertation. There are some exams for certain modules, e.g. Latin.

Applications for this course can be completed online.

For further information, please  read our guidance on how to apply online .

Further information about the application process and what you will need to do to prepare.

Applicants must complete an application form and the Supplementary Form for MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies and arrange for an academic reference to be submitted. Decisions on applications are normally based on these submitted documents, but you may also be called for interview and/or asked to submit a writing sample.

Please contact for further details about the application process.

Criteria used in selection include:

  • strength of undergraduate degree/predicted degree results in History or a cognate subject
  • aptitude for advanced study of History
  • potential to engage in a concentrated programme of MA-level work
  • aptitude for scholarly and critical thinking
  • skills in written English

Dr Claire Bartram, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature (tel: 01227 923358; email:

Dr Paul Dalton, Principal Lecturer in Medieval History (tel: 01227 923617; email:

Dr Maria Diemling, Reader in Anglo-Jewish Relations (tel: 01227 923236; email:

Professor Jackie Eales, Professor in Early Modern History (tel: 01227 921660; email:

Dr David Grummitt, Head of the School of Humanities (tel: 01227 782529; email:

Dr Leonie Hicks, Senior Lecturer in Medieval History (tel: 01227 921665; email:

Dr David Hitchcock , Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History (tel: 01227 923753; email:

Dr Peter Merchant, Principal Lecturer in English Literature (tel: 01227 922330; email:

Dr Ralph Norman, Principal Lecturer in Theology (tel: 01227 922910; email:

Dr Andy Seaman, Senior Lecturer in Medieval Archaeology (tel: 01227 921666; email:

Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Principal Research Fellow (tel: 01227 921690; email:

Dr Astrid Stilma, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Literature (tel: 01227 923828; email:

Dr Ellie Williams, Lecturer in Archaeology (tel: 01227 922451; email:

Professor Louise Wilkinson, Professor of Medieval History (tel: 01227 921668; email:

Dr Sara Wolfson, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History (tel: 01227 923752; email:

Fact file

UCAS institution code

  • C10


  • 1 year full-time

    2 years part-time


  • September 2018

Entry requirements

  • A 2:2 honours degree in History or a relevant discipline is required. Holders of other qualifications will be considered individually.

    International students whose first language is not English require an IELTS overall score of 7 with a 7 in reading and writing. International students can also be accepted if they have completed an English-medium degree with a significant research element.



Last edited 18/06/2019 13:42:00

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Last edited: 18/06/2019 13:42:00