1 year full time, 2 years part time
Starts September 2017

Contemporary History

This innovative and thematically diverse MA focuses on key themes in the contemporary history of Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East. The roots of modern human rights, religious conflict and political resistance are studied historically.

You also take part in our world-leading work on contemporary Britain. Our approach places everyday experiences within their social, cultural, economic and political contexts.

You gain the skills necessary to conceptualise projects in contemporary history. You immerse yourself in the field’s literature and integrate the historical perspective with that of other social sciences. You leave equipped to undertake doctoral research of the highest quality and significance.

“You cover history from all over the world, and you see how the histories of major players on the world stage interact – getting the bigger picture.” Claire Chevalier-NashContemporary History MA

Key facts

How will I study?

Modules include training in specialist research techniques, including digital, cultural and transnational history. Specialist lectures, workshops and conferences give you access to the latest historical research and debate.

You are encouraged to use Sussex’s unique resources such as Observing the 80s, the Archive of Resistance Testimony and the Mass Observation Archive, located at The Keep. 

You are assessed by:

  • a portfolio consisting of a group submission
  • a research proposal
  • term papers.

You’ll also write a 20,000-word dissertation, supervised by an expert in the field.

Academic activities

History at Sussex has a thriving and animated research culture, with regular seminars, workshops and conferences on interdisciplinary research, and specific modules on research methods and skills. 

You’ll attend the Department of History’s weekly work-in-progress seminar throughout the academic year. 

Our postgraduate students run the well-established University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History, an innovative online journal of creative and interdisciplinary historical research. 

Full-time and part-time study

Choose to study this course full time or part time, to fit around your work and family life. Modules for the full-time course are listed below.

For details about the part-time course, contact us at

What will I study?

  • Module list

    Core modules

    Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

    • Historical Skills and Methods

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module enables you to design, execute, present and evaluate group research projects in order to develop skills used by practicing historians including archival research, critical analysis and presentation of findings. During the module you will produce a portfolio consisting of a written report on a group research project, an individual research proposal (which may form the basis of your dissertation which is written in the summer), and a short reflective essay.

    • Dissertation

      60 credits
      Summer Teaching, Year 1

      This course gives you the opportunity to undertake supervised work on a dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a topic of your choice agreed with your supervisor. If you are studying part-time, you will begin your background reading for the dissertation in the first summer term and vacation of their studies.


    Alongside your core modules, you can choose options to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

    • The People's Century: Britain 1900-2000

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module explores the development of Britain across the 20th century. For the last two generations, the study of British History at Sussex has been concerned with the lives and experience of ordinary people, and this course builds upon this longstanding tradition.

      Themes may include inequality, emotion, welfare, citizenship, warfare, and popular culture. You will study four themes during the module, depending on which of the four modern British social, economic and cultural historians are teaching.

    • Violence in Contemporary History

      30 credits
      Autumn Teaching, Year 1

      This module analyses the changing nature of violence in the 20th century. It considers the ways in which the logic of violent systems, such as concentration camps, represented a radical new departure in the practice and aims of violence.

      You will explicitly challenge essentialist notions that interpret certain regions or certain societies as inherently violent, or see history as one undifferentiated story of violence. The module focuses on the:

      • political, social, cultural and technological dynamics that led to new forms of mass killing in the 20th century
      • spaces where these new forms of killing took place – exploring violence in relation to geographical, physical and bodily space, and using the notion of imagined spaces to explore how violence was legitimised and represented in media (in particular photography, posters and films)
      • consequences of violence – how individuals and societies came to terms with these violent practices.
    • Empire, Science and the Environment

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The inter-relationship of Science and Empire has become a major field of historical research, involving such sub-disciplines or fields as as the natural sciences, technology, exploration, and race and ideology. Historians commonly address questions such as the utility of science to the practice and maintenance of empire, the diffusion of knowledge, the mutual influences of the metropole and the `periphery', and the role of umbrella organisations such as commonwealth universities, botanical gardens, the Royal Society, and the British Association.

      This module explores these key concerns, tailored to the researching strengths of the course tutor.

    • Religion in Contemporary History

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      Secularisation was supposed to be a one-way street – at least according to Marx, Durkheim and Weber. Around the globe, struggles for emancipation and visions of modernity and progress were generally harnessed to the secular. In this module you'll reconsider this perspective, asking to what extent – as these emancipation struggles began to out of steam – religion helped to re-establish a sense of community and belonging in increasingly fractured societies, providing a language for an alternative utopia.

      This module seeks to examine the ways that religion has been a consistent force in contemporary history by looking at key themes and moments across the globe:

      • the pitfalls of secularisation and the return of religion
      • the relationship between religion and the state – from the postcolonial promise to "Islamic State"
      • the practice and performances of everyday religion
      • the relationship between religion and globalisation (fundamentalism international).
    • Resistance and the Archive

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      Resistance is a concept that cuts across historical approaches and applies to a range of contexts. As a consistent thread tying human action and interaction across time and place, it has left a variety of historical and material traces.

      Drawing on the resources of the Archive of Resistance Testimony at The Keep in Falmer and other key digital archives, this module addresses various historic forms of resistance. It also looks at how archival traces can be analysed in imaginative, comparative and innovative ways, enhancing your understanding of that variety.

    • The China Dream: Intellectual Discourses of Modernity from the late Qing Dynasty to the Present

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

    • The Second World War and the World

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      This module encourages you to understand 1939–1945 in more holistic terms. We offer a trans-national and comparative approach to the relationship of the war to the re-fashioning of geopolitics and personal/collective identities.

      We attempt to transcend home/war-front binaries, and you'll study topics including:

      • race and Italy’s war aims
      • indigenous peoples and the Pacific war
      • American GIs and female sexuality in Britain and Australia
      • African-American responses to Japan’s war against the British empire.
    • Toleration and Persecution

      30 credits
      Spring Teaching, Year 1

      The main aim of this module is to provide you with sound knowledge of the most important turning points in early-modern controversies about the nature of toleration and persecution. The module will survey key texts in their historical context, and examine themes that organise our understanding of toleration and persecution from the fall of Rome to this day. At the end of the module, you will be conversant with the great thinkers in this field, will be able to identify historical trends, and to understand and contextualise current controversies.

      The centralised state and its "monopoly on violence", in Max Weber's famous phrase, is a recent historical development. For most of European history, popes, church councils, kings, emperors, princes, greater and lesser nobility, and autonomous city governments vied for the right to lay down the law and to punish transgressors. When these authorities collided, the debate over toleration and persecution acquired complex layers of meaning. What the Church persecuted, the secular authorities sometimes preferred to tolerate, and vice versa. Their confrontations, which shook the whole of Europe, alternated with periods of co-operation. The Church established ethical and some legal standards, but on the whole had to rely on secular power for enforcement. The history of the interplay between Church and political authority illuminates all debate about persecution and toleration, from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment.

      In order to understand these developments, special attention will be paid to the ideas of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Machiavelli, Luther, Calvin, Botero, Bodin, Beza, Thomas Munzer, Grotius, Hobbes, Milton, Locke and writers of the English, American and French revolutions. The themes that the module covers are The Two Kingdoms; Reason of State; the history of human rights; theories of just war; sects and heresies; docile minds and docile bodies; salons, refugees and publications. Focus will be on early modern Europe, but with an eye on extra-European events, such as the role of persecution and toleration in the rise and demise of colonial empires.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree or above in history or another humanities or social science subject.

English language requirements

Standard level (IELTS 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each section)

Find out about other English language qualifications we accept.

English language support

Don’t have the English language level for your course? Find out more about our pre-sessional courses.

Additional information for international students

We welcome applications from all over the world. Find out about international qualifications suitable for our Masters courses.

Visas and immigration

Find out how to apply for a student visa

Fees and scholarships

How much does it cost?


Home: £7,700 per year

EU: £7,700 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man: £7,700 per year

Overseas: £15,100 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

How can I fund my course?

Postgraduate Masters loans

Borrow up to £10,280 to contribute to your postgraduate study.

Find out more about Postgraduate Masters Loans


Our aim is to ensure that every student who wants to study with us is able to despite financial barriers, so that we continue to attract talented and unique individuals.

Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship (2017)

Open to students with a 1st class from a UK university or excellent grades from an EU university and offered a F/T place on a Sussex Masters in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Chancellor’s Masters Scholarship

Sussex Graduate Scholarship (2017)

Open to Sussex students who graduate with a first or upper second-class degree and offered a full-time place on a Sussex Masters course in 2017

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Graduate Scholarship

Sussex India Scholarships (2017)

Sussex India Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from India commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex India Scholarships

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Malaysia Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Malaysia commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Malaysia Scholarships

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Nigeria Scholarships are worth £3,500 or £5,000 and are for overseas fee paying students from Nigeria commencing a Masters in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Nigeria Scholarships

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships (2017)

Sussex Pakistan Scholarships are worth £3,500 and are for overseas fee paying students from Pakistan commencing Masters study in September 2017.

Application deadline:

1 August 2017

Find out more about the Sussex Pakistan Scholarships

How Masters scholarships make studying more affordable

Living costs

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex.


Meet the people teaching and supervising on your course.

  • Faculty profiles

    Dr Anne-Marie Angelo
    Lecturer In American History

    Research interests: African American history, African diasporas, American History, Archives, black British history, Black Power, Cultural History, history and theory, history of creativity, Memory, Middle East and North Africa, Migration, Photography History, Theory and Practice, Post-Colonial Studies, race and ethnicity in global perspective, Television History, Theory and Criticism, Transnational history

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    Dr Hester Barron
    Senior Lecturer in History

    Research interests: childhood, class, coal mining, Education, History, labour, parenting, Politics, Second World War, society, twentieth century

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    Prof Robert Cook
    Professor of American History

    Research interests: History, Political History

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    Dr Vinita Damodaran
    Professor of South Asian History

    Research interests: Climate change, Energy, environmental history, Global history, indigenous peoples, Mining, South Asian history

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    Dr Tom Davies
    Lecturer in American History

    Research interests: 'race' and class, African American history, American History, American Studies, History

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    Dr Jim Endersby
    Reader In The History Of Science

    Research interests: charles darwin, darwinism, history and sociology of experimental organisms, history of botany, history of evolution, history of genetics, History of Science/Medicine/Technology, history of taxonomy and classification, History of the 19th and 20th-century life sciences, Hugo de Vries, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Oenothera Lamarckiana, science fiction, The Mutation Theory

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    Prof Martin Evans
    Professor Of Modern European History

    Research interests: European history

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    Prof Richard Follett
    Professor Of American History

    Research interests: American History, Atlantic History, Brazilian Football, Caribbean History, Emancipation, Historical Demography, Latin America, Plantation Societies, Public Health (Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries), Race Relations, Slavery, Sugar

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    Prof Martin Francis
    Professor of War and History

    Research interests: Comparative History, Empire, Feature Film, gender, Male and Female Fashion, Modern British history, Second World War

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    Prof Ian Gazeley
    Professor of Economic History

    Research interests: Food Consumption, Household Budgets, Living Standards, Nutrition, Poverty and inequality, Skill Differentials, Wages

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    Prof Tim Hitchcock
    Professor Of Digital History

    Research interests: Cultural History, Digital history, Digital Humanities, Economic And Social History, Gender and Sexuality, History of London, oral history, Social exclusion

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    Dr Hilary Kalmbach
    Lecturer in Middle East History

    Research interests: Cosmopolitanism, Cross-cultural interactions, Cultural History, Digital history, Egypt, Gender and Sexuality, Global history, Global Islam, History, History of Gender, Islam, Islamic Studies, Middle East and African history, Middle Eastern and African Studies, Religious History, Syria

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    Prof Claire Langhamer
    Professor Of Modern British History

    Research interests: history of emotion, history of love, Modern British history, social and cultural history

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    Dr Maurizio Marinelli
    Senior Lecturer In East Asian History

    Research interests: Beijing, Chinese History, Chinese Politics, ecological civilisation, Europe and China relations, Global history, Hong Kong, Intellectual History, Tianjin, Urban China, Urban geography

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    Dr Iain McDaniel
    Senior Lecturer In Intellectual History

    Research interests: Caesarism, democracy, Eighteenth-Century History, History of Political Thought, Intellectual History, Nineteenth-Century History, Republicanism, Scottish Enlightenment

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    Dr Jacob Norris
    Lecturer in Middle East History

    Research interests: Global history, Imperial/Colonial History, Middle East and African history, migration studies, palestinian history

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    Dr Gideon Reuveni
    Reader in History/Director of the Centrefor German Jewish Studies

    Research interests: Judaism

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    Dr Katharina Rietzler
    Lecturer in American History

    Research interests: 20th C history, American History, charity & philanthropy, Diplomacy & International Relations, History of international law, history of the social sciences, history of think tanks and expertise, International History, International Organization, International theory, Liberal internationalism, Postcolonial/Decolonial theory, Transnational history

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    Prof Lucy Robinson
    Professor in Collaborative History

    Research interests: Alternative Spiritualities/New Religious Movements, British party politics, Cultural History, Digital history, Economic And Social History, Gender and Sexuality, Memory, pedagogy, Popular Music, Social identities, Trauma, War and the media, War Studies, Youth

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    Dr Darrow Schecter
    Professor of Critical Theory and Modern European History

    Research interests: Critical Theory, critique of instrumental reason, Foucault, Gramsci, legitimacy, Libertarian socialism, Pasolini, systems theory

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    Mr Gerardo Serra
    Lecturer in Economic History

    Research interests: African Economic HIstory, History of Economic Thought

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    Dr Claudia Siebrecht
    Senior Lecturer in History

    Research interests: History

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    Prof David Tal
    Yossi Harel Chair In Modern Israel Studies

    Research interests: arms control, disarmament, Israel-Palestine, Political History

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    Dr Christopher Warne
    Senior Lecturer

    Research interests: Cultural History, European history, Everyday Life, Youth

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    Prof Clive Webb
    Professor Of Modern American History

    Research interests: Anglo-American relations, Political violence, race and ethnicity

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    Dr Gerhard Wolf
    Senior Lecturer In History

    Research interests: German history, Migration, War and violence in international politics

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Studying for a Contemporary History MA at Sussex will develop your skills in attention to detail, research, written communication and teamwork. Many of our graduates have gone on to careers in areas such as:

  • teaching, research and publishing
  • law and the Civil Service,
  • museums, libraries and archives.

Others have gone on to further study.

Graduate destinations

92% of students from the Department of History were in work or further study six months after graduating. Our students have gone on to roles including:

  • visitor services, Harewood House Trust
  • data analyst, Deloitte
  • management consultant, InterConnect Communications.

(EPI, Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015 for postgraduates)

Working while you study

Our Careers and Employability Centre can help you find part-time work while you study. Find out more about career development and part-time work