Public History

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.

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.

The University's Recognition of Prior Learning Policy provides guidance on the assessment of experiential learning (RPEL). Please visit for more information.


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.

•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.


1 year FT

Teaching Times - mainly late afternoon

Careers or further progression

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.

Further enquiries

Dr Olwen Purdue, Lecturer History

School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics - Lecturer


Phone: +44 (0)28 9097 3985

Subjects taught

Autumn Semester

MHY7020 - 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 Semester

MHY7091 - 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.


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 Convener for further details.


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

Full-year:-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.


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 organisation

World Class Facilities

•Studying Public History in Belfast also offers a unique insight into many of the key issues relating to contested histories, cultural memory, commemoration, identity, and community history in a very real and meaningful way, and to gain first-hand understanding of the relationship between public history, heritage, policy, and the consumption of history at a local and national level.

Internationally Renowned Experts

•Internationally-taught classes

Student Experience

•Close involvement of practitioners from a wide range of organisations in many aspects of the course including practitioner-led workshops

•Field trips across Northern Ireland

•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.

Assessment method

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

Application date

How to Apply

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

Enrolment and start dates

Entry year 2020

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