• MPhil/PhD History
  • MPhil/PhD Cornish Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Maritime Historical Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Medical History
  • MPhil/PhD Medieval Studies
  • MA by Research History
Degree typesTypes of research degrees explained
DurationDegree duration details
LocationCornwall (Penryn), Exeter (Streatham)
Study modesFull time and part time
Distance-based and Split-site research available Study mode details
Start date September, January or April

Research overview

Staff in the History department research political, economic, social, cultural, religious, medical, maritime, military, humanitarian, environmental and international 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, India, China and Latin America. Our PhD programmes are taught at both Streatham and Penryn, and supervision can be offered across both campuses.

Our research centres are focal points of our research environment for both staff and PGR students, organising seminar series, workshops and research events throughout the academic year where postgraduate students meet with staff and peers to learn, 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.

Our PhD students are funded by organisations including the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Wellcome Trust, Commonwealth Scholarships, University of Exeter Global Excellence Scholars China Scholarship Council, and doctoral scholarships attached to major research grants.

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:

  • Writing Postcolonial Histories: Methods and Approaches
  • (De-)Colonizing Bodies and Minds
  • Race, Ethnicity and Migration
  • (Post-) Colonial Violence: Law, Rights and Repression
  • Global Humanitarianism, Human Rights and Development
  • Imperial, Anti-Imperial and Global Political Economies
  • Networks and Negotiations · Globalising Socialism

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
  • history of global public health and family planning

Violence Studies

The Centre for Histories of Violence and Conflict brings together a number of internationally renowned academics working on:

  • political violence and its social consequences
  • changing ideas of permissible violence - in conflicts, between combatants and non-combatants, among social groups.
  • regimes of punishment and the treatment of prisoners of war and political detainees
  • concepts of 'everyday violence'
  • violence, social protest and rights
  • violence and emotions
  • violence and memory
  • insurgencies and civil wars
  • 'terrorism' and 'weapons of the weak'
  • conflicts of decolonization
  • evidence of violence in archaeology and landscapes
  • violence and environmental destruction
  • violence as an instrument of global politics.

Inter-disciplinary in approach, the Centre supports research and teaching on the effects of armed conflict and punitive violence on societies, social groups, and cultures throughout history.

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 College of Humanities has undergone a £3.2 million HEFCE-funded refurbishment in recent years, providing new state-of-the-art facilities for all subjects.

The Digital Humanities Lab is a state of the art facility offering unique spaces, equipment and training for staff and students. A specialist team conducts and supports innovative Digital Humanities research, offers training and teaching, and undertakes the digital preservation and display of historic material and artefacts using advanced technologies.

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.

Our postgraduates go on to successful careers, both within and beyond academia. Recent graduates have won major ESRC and UKRI Future Leader research grants, Leverhulme and international postdoctoral awards, and gone straight into permanent lectureships. Others have applied skills gained through their PhDs to move into careers in education, business, marketing, publishing and other fields.

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 recent years.

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

Job titlesOrganisations
Curriculum Area Manager
Senior consultant developer
Research and Development Officer
Historian writer

Boydell and Brewer
Bristol University
Duchy College
Fox Historical
Green Gaia Films
Spinger Nature
Thales e-Security
The History Press
University of Bristol
University of Exeter


Entry requirements

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.

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 2023/24

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Tuition fees per year 2022/23

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Current available funding

Contact us

College of Humanities
Postgraduate Administrator
Phone: 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers)
+44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers)
Web: Enquire online



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 to develop, investigate and write-up a project at the cutting edge of historical research. 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 theological research


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.

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Why study a History PhD at Exeter?

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

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