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Graduate Admissions


The MPhil in Early Modern History is a nine-month full-time programme which combines elements of formal teaching with independent research. Students on the MPhil will join a group of researchers of all levels within the field of early modern history, allowing them to integrate into the research culture of early modern history at Cambridge.

The MPhil involves three assessed components:

  1. Core course (seven two-hour classes) worth 10 per cent of the overall mark
  2. Two option courses are chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (seven two-hour classes for each option) each worth 10 per cent of the overall mark
  3. Dissertation (15,000–20,000 words) worth 70 per cent of the overall mark

In addition, students are required to attend and participate in the weekly Early Modern History research seminars and workshops.

Students may also take optional skills modules in palaeography and languages. These are not assessed elements of the MPhil but will help students develop the skills needed for the MPhil in Early Modern History.

One to one supervision

All students admitted to the MPhil in Early Modern History will be assigned a supervisor to work with them throughout the course, but crucially on the dissertation.

Students will meet regularly with their supervisor for one-on-one supervisions throughout the course. Frequency of supervisions will vary depending on the time of year, and the onus is on students to organise these sessions, but students can expect at least one supervision session per term.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

All students will take the core module, Research Challenge in Early Modern History, which aims to develop research skills and is run with weekly seminars throughout the Michaelmas term. Examples of tasks students might be asked to complete could be to find out as much as possible about a historical person; to examine closely a particular kind of document; to assess problems of attributing authorship of anonymous texts; or to analyse a set of data.

The accent in this module is on process not product. It is important to think about skills acquisition, and, for instance, forming judgements about diminishing returns in time spent investigating a problem. What matters is not the achievement of a finished piece of work by the end of the day, but the research processes entailed. A particular feature of this module is that collaborative work is encouraged.

Students will also select two optional modules from a list of courses offered by the Faculty. Typically, students will select one module in Michaelmas term and one module in the Lent term. The courses offered each year may vary.

In recent years, the optional courses offered have included:

  • Visual and Material Culture
  • Absolutism, Monarchism, and the State Formation in Early Modern Britain
  • Global Early Modernity?
  • Approaches to the Long Eighteenth Century
  • Poverty, Disease and Medicine in Britain, 1500–1800
  • Space, Place and Landscape in Early Modern History

Students are also expected to attend the graduate research seminar which is most relevant to their field of study. These thriving research seminars meet weekly during term-time. Students are encouraged to ask questions and engage with speakers.


Although not compulsory, students are encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures relevant to their topic.


All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.


Students will receive regular constructive feedback throughout the MPhil.

Students can expect to receive:

  • regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports;
  • written feedback on essays and assessments;
  • oral feedback from peers during graduate workshops and seminars;
  • written and oral feedback on dissertation proposal essay to be discussed with their supervisor; and
  • formal written feedback from two examiners after examination of dissertation.



The dissertation is Part II of the MPhil in Early Modern History.

All students will submit a dissertation of 15,000–20,000 words, worth 70 per cent of the overall mark. 

At the discretion of the examiners, the examination may include an oral examination on the dissertation and on the general field of knowledge within which it falls.


Each of three modules in Michaelmas and Lent terms (one compulsory core, and two options) will require an essay of 3,000–4,000 words (or equivalent). 

Each will count toward 10 per cent of the final degree mark, for a total of 30 per cent. Taken together, these are Part I, and students must receive passing marks in order to move to Part II.

Students will also prepare a 2,000-word dissertation proposal essay due in the Lent term. This essay will be unassessed but students will meet with their supervisor to discuss the essay and get feedback in preparation for the dissertation.

Practical assessment

All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.

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Key Information

9 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Faculty of History


Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Michaelmas 2020

Applications open
Sept. 2, 2019
Application deadline
March 31, 2020
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2020

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 7, 2020
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 9, 2019

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