• MPhil/PhD History
  • MPhil/PhD Cornish Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Maritime Historical Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Medical History
  • MPhil/PhD Medieval Studies
  • MA by Research History
Duration MPhil: Full time 2-3 years; Part time 4-5 years
PhD: Full time 3-4 years; Part time 6-7 years
MSc by Research: Full time 2 years; Part time 3 years
Distance Learning available
Split Site available
LocationCornwall (Penryn), Exeter (Streatham)
Start date September, January or April

Research overview

Staff in the History department research political, economic, social, cultural, religious, medical, environmental, maritime, naval, military and diplomatic history. We range in time from the early medieval period to the late 20th century. We have particular strengths in the history of Britain and continental Europe, but also focus on the history of the United States, Africa, and India.

A number of research centres are linked with the work of the Department and organise seminar series with regular meetings through the academic year which are an important meeting place for postgraduate students to hear, discuss and present research.

A summary of our main areas of research are listed below. The History Research webpages provide more comprehensive details about current research projects. Details on individual staff research interests and publications can be found on the History staff profiles pages.

Early modern studies

The Centre for Early Modern Studies fosters interdisciplinary links between colleagues working in the early Modern era both from the Department and across the University, and provides a home for the flourishing Early Modern Seminar, which combines papers from staff and research students and organises major conferences. Colleagues involved in the Centre are engaged in research on all aspects of the period between c.1500 and 1800 and expertise spreads from Britain and Europe to the Middle East and North America.

Key areas of activity include:

  • religious culture
  • social and economic relations
  • political and intellectual thought
  • gender and sexuality
  • space, landscape and national identities
  • the history of the book
  • theatre and performance.

Imperial and global history

The Centre for Imperial and Global History brings together the strong research expertise of the University's eminent imperial historians. It comprises of one of the largest groups of imperial and global historians currently working in the UK. 

Our strengths in comparing empires and the experiences of empire address a number of leading research themes:

  • globalisation's past and present
  • comparing empires, connecting empires
  • regions in a global context
  • humanitarianism, development and the discourse of rights
  • law and colonialism
  • political economy and the imperial state
  • Europe - decolonisation and the legacies of empire.

Maritime history

The Centre for Maritime Historical Studies seeks to promote research into economic, social, political, naval and environmental aspects of the British maritime past from the earliest times to the present day. This is the oldest established centre for this specialism in a British university.

  • British maritime history from the Middle Ages to today
  • Business history and maritime trade
  • Port cities and communities
  • Mariners' welfare and education
  • Naval history from the Middle Ages to the present day, in particular, the connections between naval, political, social, economic and other histories
  • Naval leadership from the late-seventeenth century to the mid-twentieth century
  • British naval administration and logistics
  • Mediterranean maritime history from the middle ages to the eighteenth century
  • African maritime history and African port cities.

The Centre holds termly research seminars (in conjunction with the Society for Nautical Research), an annual international Maritime History Conference and a twice-yearly Strategic Policy Studies Group symposium (with associated publication).

Medical history

The Centre for Medical History draws together scholars from a wide range of disciplines across the University to promote the study of medicine in a social and historical perspective. Centre staff are willing to provide supervision for an MPhil/PhD in Medical History in many areas of research, including:

  • English medical history, 1500–1800
  • environment and medicine in the modern period
  • gender and the family
  • occupational health and industrial diseases
  • history of psychiatry
  • history of sex and sexuality
  • history of stress.

War, state and society

The Centre for the Study of War, State and Society brings together a number of internationally renowned academics working in:

  • the social history of war
  • military advance and social change
  • conflicts of decolonisation
  • regimes of punishment and the treatment of prisoners of war and political detainees
  • and war in international politics.

It supports research and teaching on the effects of armed conflict on states, societies and cultures throughout history and on themes of warfare and societal transformation.

Medieval studies

Staff members of the Centre for Medieval Studies are engaged in a wide range of research projects, singly or in collaboration with scholars from other institutions. Listed below are our major funded projects currently in progress.

See also


The University library maintains extensive holdings in all our disciplines, extensive audio-visual collections and a number of medieval manuscripts in our Heritage Collections while Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives and the Devon Heritage Centre contain further significant medieval manuscripts, documents and early printed books. Thanks to the help of a substantial grant from the Leverhulme Trust, The Exeter Local Maritime Archives Project (ELMAP) has created a searchable online database of references to records with maritime and naval significance that are held in local record offices and other archives across England and Wales.

The Queen’s Building (Streatham Campus) and the Peter Lanyon Building (Penryn Campus) offer dedicated postgraduate common rooms with computer facilities and a number of study carrels available for research students.

Students at both campuses have access to a wealth of online information including: over 400 online journal titles; the extensive Gale Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) research archive; search tools such as FirstSearch; the digital archive JSTOR; and other similar databases providing access to full text articles.


We are committed to ensuring you receive high quality research supervision to maximise your potential and prepare you for a rewarding career.

Postgraduate students have access to the wide range of support offered by our Career Zone. In addition, postgraduate research students can access our Postgraduate Researchers' Programme, which covers a range of topics to help you to succeed during your research degree and to act as a springboard for your research career.

Graduate destinations

Below are some examples of initial jobs undertaken by History postgraduates who studied with us in 2011/12.

Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titlesOrganisations
Bid Project Manager
Business Development Intern
Chief Operations Officer
Customer Communications Coordinator
Data Analyst
Freelance Journalist
Graduate Teaching Assistant
Information Analyst
Learning Development Specialist
Library Facilitator
Marketing Assistant
Parliamentary Assistant to MP
Project Officer
Research Assistant
Cormorant Media
Cornwall Council
Green Gaia Films
Kaplan University
Kent County Council
Leeds City College
News Associates
Romax Marketing and Distribution
Somerset County Council
Strode College
University of Aberystwyth
University of Exeter
University of York
WhipTail Technologies

Entry requirements 2018

Students applying to enter directly into the MPhil/PhD programme would normally be expected to have a Masters degree with Merit or equivalent in History or a related subject, or other relevant qualifications such as a doctorate in another subject.

Students applying to enter into the MA by Research will require a minimum 2.1 Honours degree in History or a related degree, with a minimum 2.1 grade in the undergraduate dissertation. Students with degrees in related subjects will be considered on an individual basis.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in the writing component and all other sections no less than 6.0.


Overall score 100 with minimum scores of 25 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

65 with no less than 58 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £16,400 full-time

Current available funding

Contact us

College of Humanities
Postgraduate Administrator
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725306
Web: Enquire online

PhD titles

Here are some examples of PhD theses undertaken by students in History at the University of Exeter.

  • Islamic coins in Europe in the eighth and ninth centuries
  • Tucker's Hall
  • Attitudes to race in medieval Arabic literature
  • Agricultural landholding in Devon
  • Assess the contribution made by the development of target marking techniques to the prosecution of the bomber offensive during WW2
  • People on the move in Devon, c.1572/1598 to c.1800
  • The Legitimation League in the late nineteenth century
  • Centre-Right Politics in the Spanish Province of Valencia 1931-1936
  • Accessing illness: Perceptions of illness as construct, commodity and pretence in British literature and society, 1730-1810
  • Bankruptcy in eighteenth century England:  A social account
  • History of the French Mandate in Syria, specifically regarding state building
  • Trade unions and the political culture if the British Labour party, 1931-1940
  • Technophilia in Victorian Britain and the machine gun in imperial culture
  • British Race Relations 1958-81
  • A local study of the presence, belief and understanding of the supernatural in the South West of England in the Early Morning period
  • The role of youth voluntary action in 1960s Britain: assumptions of community in a restless decade
  • A comparative analysis of the exploration, collection, classification and publication of the scientific work done on British and French naval expeditions to the antipodes 1766 - 1842
  • The role and development of the Air Ministry, 1932-1949
  • Lies, spies and subterfuge; espionage, counter-espionage and intelligence gathering in the Medieval Mediterranean c.1050-1300
  • Air logistics in the Second World War
  • Elite British Women travelling on the continent in the long eighteenth century, 1783-1836
  • Research the connection between the Ku Klux and the Freemasons in 1920's America
  • The Colonisation of Gender and Femininity in South West Nigeria (1980-1960)
  • A social history of the impact of World War One on the rural life of the West Country
  • Politics of air power in US-China relations, 1928-1942
  • From history to heritage: representations of mining histories in Wales and Cornwall
  • The Development of the Public Sphere in Slovakia
  • Liberal Words? Liberalism, Rhetoric and British Politics 1939-1970
  • State intervention in scientific research in Britain 1914-45
  • Understanding the end of time: decoding the Ethical Apocalyptic trend at the turn of the first millennium
  • France and the Displaced Persons problem in Occupied Germany and Austria 1945-55
  • The transfer of knowledge in Anglo-Saxon England
  • The Political Mobilization of the Acholi Identity 1950-1986
  • The role of the Navy During the English Civil War
  • Death and the Dead in Eighteenth-Century Britain
  • Disease, moral contamination and the houseless poor: responses to vagrancy in South Western England, 1870-1914
  • Exeter c.1602: Illuminating the 'chorus of shadows'
  • Orderic Vitalis and the Islamic world
  • The 'Cronicas Anonimas De Sahagun'
  • The French Revolution and changing uses of military force in international relations
  • Alfred of Beverley: His life and historical writing
  • On the (de)construction of supranational Yugoslav identities 1986-1993
  • Muslim Minorities in the Kingdom of Castile, c.1085-1300
  • The dissemination of vision narratives in 13th century England
  • Anglo Ottoman relations, 1874-1885
  • An oral history of the power struggle between Poles and Ukrainians during and after the Second World War
  • The port of Bristol in the second half of the eighteenth century: An examination of the organisational structure of the port pertaining to the management & operation of its shipping with special reference to ships trading with the West Indies & America
  • Development of Maltese harbour area during the 16th century.  A social and economic study based on notarial and court records
  • The commercial impact of three cruising voyages of the early 19th century
  • The sick and hurt board:The health and welfare of seamen in the British
  • The development of British foreign dockyards during the Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars, 1793 - 1815
  • Career management of Royal Navy Executive (Seaman) Branch Officers 1918-1945
  • Social History of Piracy
  • Technological innovation and the Royal Mary 1890-1918
  • Officer Careers in Interwar Royal Navy
  • The Activities Of The East India Company In The South-West Of England In The 18th Century
  • Clandestine British submarine operations in World War Two
  • The English long-bow as a naval weapon
  • Auxiliary Fleet: Merchant shipping in combat roles (British, twentieth century)
  • US Civil War the ironclad CSS MISSISSIPPI
  • The business of smuggling in SE Scotland c.1740-1796
  • The impact of financial cutbacks and restrictions upon the ability of the Royal Navy to realign itself, during the 1920's, to meet the challenges of the early Interwar period
  • Minority language policy and planning in the context of sustainable socio-economic development, with particular reference to the case of Cornish
  • Cornish identity since the war
  • 19th C migration from Cornwall as experienced by the wives who remained at home
  • Party strategy and Lib. Dem. dominance in Cornwall
  • History of banking in Cornwall
  • Civil Society in Cornwall
  • Physiology and morality: medical perspectives of sexual consent 1850-1914
  • The history of surgery in early modern England
  • Negotiating Intimacy: Sexuality and the Body in the History of Physiotherapy 1890-1994
  • Courtly contacts between England and France in the late 14 century
  • Monastic Wellbeing and Healthcare in 13th and 14th Century England: analysis of patients, spaces used and care available
  • Rural Piety: Medieval Religious Houses and the cura animarum in Parochial Somerset


Lecturer in South Asian History Dr Gajendra Singh tells us what it's like to study at a postgraduate level at Exeter.


History PhD student Miguel Hernandez tells us about his research and why he loves his PhD.

Supervision and support


All students have a primary and a secondary supervisor who provide regular, high quality advice, support and direction in their academic endeavours. You will work closely with your supervisors over three to four years (full time PhD) or six to seven (part-time PhD) to develop, investigate and write-up a project at the cutting edge of historical research.

Visit our staff profiles for more information about individual research interests.


Each student will also be assigned a mentor who will take on a pastoral role and mediate on any problems that arise during the period of study. Your mentor will keep in regular contact and will provide background stability and support.

Graduate School Office

The College of Humanities has a dedicated Graduate School Office that supports our postgraduate research students during their study with us. The Office promotes intellectual and social contact between research students in all our disciplines to foster a vibrant research community within the College.