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MA | Postgraduate Taught

Public History

Entry year
Entry requirements
2.1 Honours
1 year (Full Time)
Places available
Please note, the start date of this course may have changed. Check for latest updates.
  • Overview

    The MA in Public History at Queen’s University Belfast offers an opportunity to study how historical knowledge is produced, mediated, represented and consumed in public spaces, in a region where the past continues to resonate powerfully. The close relationship Queen’s enjoys with a broad range of partners across the country, from national cultural institutions, heritage organisations and media through to community-led initiatives, provides an unparalleled opportunity for first-hand experience of how history works and is put to work in many different ways. The close involvement of partner organisations in the delivery of the course through practitioner workshops, guest lectures, field trips and events, as well as the 30-day placement, provides first-hand, practical experience of the wide range of issues, challenges and opportunities faced by the public historian.

    This course approaches public history from many perspectives ranging from the local to the global. The city of Belfast offers an exciting opportunity to engage with key issues surrounding contested histories, national narratives, memory, commemoration and community history in a very real and meaningful way, and to gain first-hand understanding of the relationship between history, heritage and public audiences at a local and national level. A global understanding of public history is encouraged through taught modules on difficult public history in a range of national contexts, collaborative teaching with public history programmes in other countries, and the possibility of international field trips and placements.

    Students will carry out 30-day placements in one of a wide range of museums, archives, heritage sites or visitor experiences across the country.

    The course combines academic training in historical theory and research methods with specialised topics relating to history in the public sphere, such as negotiating contested pasts, oral history, heritage and tourism, or digital curation, thus linking the analytical and critical approaches of traditional academic history with innovative ways of creating and disseminating histories for a diverse variety of public audiences.

    Public History highlights

    History at Queen’s is ranked in the top 150 History Schools worldwide (according to the QS World University Rankings 2017) and our international reputation is enhanced by the work of our prominent leading academics.

    Industry Links

    • We work closely with a range of cultural institutions heritage organisations, media, local government bodies and community initiatives to students are regularly meeting, engaging with, and working alongside professionals and those with first-hand experience of the field.

    Career Development

    • Guaranteed work placement with a cultural institution or heritage organisations. Internships have taken place with the following organisations: Ulster Museum, Armagh Public Library, Special Collections at Queen’s, Titanic Belfast, HMS Caroline, Ulster-American Folk Park, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, BBC, Doubleband Media, Belfast City Council, Hillsborough Castle (Historic Royal Palaces), Mount Stewart and Castle Ward (National Trust), Newry and Mourne Museum, Ulster Rugby Musuem, Museum of Free Derry. The course develops a range of skills such as research methods, archival work, oral history, digital curation, and museum collections.
    • Many of our graduates have gone on to PhD programmes both here at Queen’s as well as at some of the best universities in the world, Other go into a wide variety of employment including careers in museums, archives or libraries; journalism or media related work; teaching; private and public administration' economic development and the voluntary sector.

    World Class Facilities

    • All students have full use of the award winning McClay Library, which blends the best features of a traditional library with the latest technology. The library provides access to a vast book and journal collections along with computing and media services, IT training rooms, quiet study and group work areas, a cafe, and a Language Centre. Students on this course have access to Queen’s Graduate School, an exclusive postgraduate hub which connects students and researchers across fields and disciplines and provides high-quality, transdisciplinary training and development programmes. Based in the beautifully restored and remodelled Victorian Lynn library, this space offers modern, hi-tech meeting and group study rooms, a silent study area and social spaces creating a vibrant hub for intellectual exchange and collaboration.

    Internationally Renowned Experts

    • The School is a world-leading centre for innovative and dynamic historical research. In the 2014 UK assessment of research (REF), History at Queen’s was ranked in the top 20 departments for research.
    • Research-led teaching by world leading experts who have secured grants by UK and EU funding bodies for research on a range of subjects relating to public history

    Student Experience

    • Close involvement of practitioners from a wide range of organisations in many aspects of the course including practitioner-led workshops.
    • Field trips to public history sites in European cities and across Northern Ireland, including a residential field trip to Derry-Londonderry.
    • The School has a rich research culture and postgraduate community. Postgraduate students host regular graduate-led seminars, colloquia and conferences.
    • Close involvement of practitioners from a wide range of organisations in many aspects of the course including practitioner-led workshops
    • The Centre for Public History, with its seminar series, annual lecture, and regular conferences and symposia, provides an exciting interdisciplinary and collaborative environment in which to study public uses and understanding of the past.

    Brexit Advice

    Information on the implications of Brexit for prospective students.

  • Course content

    Course Structure

    The programme consists of a number of taught modules and a placement module related to Public History.

    Autumn SemesterMHY7020 - Becoming a Historian
    Course Content The module will examine the purpose of historical research and writing, the main genres of historical writing, techniques of bibliographical research, footnoting, the handling of quantitative and non-quantitative evidence, and practical writing skills. An ancient history strand will include study of specialised methodologies relating to ancient writers and epigraphy.

    MHY7092 - History and its Audiences
    An in-depth examination of key concepts of public history and their methodological application across a range of case studies. The module will cover a range of issues regarding the ways in which the past is presented to, and consumed by, public audiences. Students will be asked to engage theoretically with core historiographical themes including collective memory, oral history, materiality and visual cultures and will also work with Special Collections to explore issues relating to the use of textual and visual material for public consumption (IPR, copyright etc). These sessions will be accompanied by case studies drawn from the locale and beyond that will enable students to develop their understanding in relation to practical examples. The module will thus provide students with a strong historiographical grounding in both theories and concepts of public history whilst at the same time allow for an understanding of these issues in relation to ‘real life’ scenarios that will prepare them for the remainder of their studies.

    Plus a further optional module from those offered across the AHSS Faculty OR an individually-negotiated topic
    Spring SemesterMHY7091 - Public History Internship (double weighted - 40 credits) Students will hold an internship in an institution such a museum, heritage site, library or archive. They will organise the placement themselves and establish a programme of work to be carried out, in consultation with and subject to the approval of the School’s internship co-ordinator. The assessment will reflect on the practical aspects of the internship and the theoretical debates around Public History.

    MHY7089 - Case Studies in History
    Through a variety of primary sources, students will investigate at least three specialist topics in depth. The mini-modules with focus on research strands available on the MA History programme: American history, Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern History, British history, Public History and Religion, Conflict and Identity. When available, students will also take part in a one-day field trip.

    MHY7010 - Dissertation
    A dissertation (not exceeding 20,000 words) on a topic to be agreed in advance with the subject adviser.
    The Public History strand consists of six taught modules and a dissertation.CORE MODULES
    MHY7092 - History and its Audiences – Semester 1
    MHY7091 – Public History Internship (Pub) – Semester 2 (double weighted)
    MHY7089 – Case Studies in History – Semester 2
    MHY7020 – Becoming an Historian – Semester 1
    MHY7010 – Dissertation – (triple weighted)

    Students are required to take TWO CORE modules: MHY7020 and MHY7092 and ONE further optional module from below:
    MHY7011 OR A further optional module from those offered across the AHSS Faculty, please consult your Programme Convenor for further details.

Students are required to take TWO CORE modules MHY7091 (Double-weighted 40 credit module) and MHY7089.

Students are required to take MHY7010 (Full-year dissertation module).

Students will be notified each academic year of the optional modules being offered in the following academic year. Students are advised that not all optional modules will necessarily be offered in each academic year. Also, the delivery of a module may be subject to a minimum number of enrolments as well as unforeseen circumstances (e.g. illness of a member of staff). The range and content of optional modules will change over time as degree programmes develop and students’ choice of optional modules may also be limited due to timetabling constraints.

    People teaching you

    Dr Olwen Purdue

    Email: Dr Purdue's research interests have focused on the social history of nineteenth and twentieth-century Ireland, especially issues of poverty, welfare and public health. She is author of The big house in the north of Ireland: land, power and social elites and editor of Belfast: the emerging city 1850-1914. She has a strong interest in the practice and experience of Public History, is international editor of The Public Historian, and is currently engaged in a project on community, heritage, and well-being in the city.

    Teaching Times

    mainly late afternoon

    Career Prospects

    The Public History MA can be regarded either as an end in itself, culminating in the distinction of having obtained a postgraduate degree and enhanced your employability skills as a researcher, or as a stepping stone to the higher research degree of PhD. Many graduates have gone on to PhD programmes both at Queen’s and other world-leading Universities. Others go into a wide variety of employment including careers in museums, archives or libraries; journalism or media related work; teaching; private and public administration; economic development and the voluntary sector.

    The MA in Public History provides you with the essential skills and in-depth knowledge of history and its public audiences for career development at any stage – from students straight from an undergraduate degree with limited to no priori professional experience to those seeking continued professional development. The programme enables you to broaden your horizons, providing you with a competitive edge in a global graduate market in a wide variety of areas, such as museums, archives, heritage, culture and tourism, or media.

    Learning and Teaching

    Learning and Teaching

    Knowledge and Understanding

    Critically evaluate the communication of historical knowledge and understanding by bodies outside the academy. Understand how the content and communication of knowledge can be adapted to meet the needs of a range of audiences. Understand the challenges presented in conveying contested historical narratives to public audiences.

    Learning Outcomes

    Recognise and use appropriate theories, concepts and principles from history and relevant cognate disciplines. Understand and communicate complex ideas and concepts to both academic and public audiences. Critically evaluate the theory and practice of history in academic and public spheres.

    Learning and Teaching

    Learning and teaching takes place through seminars, practitioner workshops, field trips and placements.

    Subject Specific Skills

    Demonstrate an ability to use effectively relevant archives, finding aids and online resources in completing a major personal research project. Undertake a public history project in the workplace both individually and as part of a team and to reflect critically on their practice. Handle, catalogue, describe and organise historical sources and artefacts. Develop skills relating to the assessment and analysis of sources.

    Transferable Skills

    Communicate complex ideas effectively to a range of audiences.

Manage time and resources and work effectively as part a team. Demonstrate an ability to conceptualise, plan and see through to completion a major personal research project to a high standard of historical professionalism. Demonstrate competency and a professional approach to undertaking research and the presentation of project work


    Assessments associated with the course are outlined below:

    Assessment is by coursework:
    • essays
    • projects
    • critical commentaries on primary sources;
    • portfolio and reflective essay
    • blogs and placement related assessment
    • power point presentations
    • practical work on documents or placement related assessment
    • and a dissertation

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    Normally a minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a Humanities or Arts subject or an acceptable cognate discipline.

    Applicants who hold a 2.2 Honours degree in one of the disciplines specified above or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University, who can demonstrate relevant professional experience will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

    Further criteria may be applied as placements are limited. This will include ranking applications on the basis of academic performance and/or an interview.

    International Students

    For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be offering Academic English and Pre-sessional courses online only from June to September 2020.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) £6,140
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) £6,900
    Other (non-UK) EU £6,140
    International £16,900

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2020-21. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

    Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

    Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

    If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

    Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

    There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

    Public History costs

    There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

    A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

    More information on funding options and financial assistance.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Apply now

    Terms and Conditions

    The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
    Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

    Download a prospectus