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Military History MA

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Study mode

1-year full-time; 2 or 2.5-years part-time

PG code


Start date


Study location

Brunel University London campus



We regularly host online webinars to give you the chance to find out more about our courses and what studying at Brunel is like.  For a playback of our recent MA Military History webinar, click here.

Postgraduate Loans: From 1 August 2018 , students who live in England will be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan in academic year 2018/19 of up to £10,609. Find out more

Not all options * for this course are eligible for the Postgraduate loan. (* distance learning /January start or part-time option). If you are unsure you can contact the Student Centre, +44 (0) 1895 268268, email us: student.centre@brunel.ac.uk

About the course

This Military History MA offers an in-depth study of warfare on land, sea and air across a range of periods and continents, from the Classical Age to the present.

The core modules on the course examine:

  • the Royal Navy in the twentieth century.
  • warfare in ancient and medieval times.
  • the impact of the French and Industrial Revolutions on warfare in the age of 'total war'.

Optional modules give students the opportunity to study the Second World War, and, additionally, the programme draws on Brunel’s expertise in intelligence studies. Students have the chance to take an optional module in this area with Brunel's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS).

Students will also complete a 15,000 dissertation on any military history topic, drawing on the wide expertise of staff in the department.


  • The MA in Military History will provide students with a systematic understanding and critical awareness of debates and interpretations of military history.
  • Students will gain a comprehensive and practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in specific subject areas.
  • Students will be encouraged to extend and develop their analytical, evaluative and critical capacities, and increase their ability to reflect on their own learning and intellectual development.
  • The MA in Military History will give students transferable skills in writing, discussion, analysis, and independent judgement.
  • Students will also work independently, thus demonstrating initiative and the ability to organise their time and work through their research project (a dissertation) of 15,000 words.


Contact our Enquiries team.
Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1895 265599 (before you submit an application)
Admissions Office: +44 (0)1895 265265 (after you submit an application)

Course content

The MA consists of both compulsory and optional modules, a typical selection can be found below. Modules can vary from year to year, but these offer a good idea of what we teach.



War in History, 1789 to present

Includes: Limited war and the period before 1789; the French revolution and the birth of the modern style of warfare; the impact of the industrial revolution on warfare; Jomini and Clausewitz; the idea of 'absolute war'; warfare in the 19th century: on the road to 'total war'; the First World War; changes in warfare in the inter-war period: Blitzkrieg and 'deep battle'; the Second World War; the nature of warfare after 1945; Korea, Vietnam and the Arab-Israeli conflicts; counter-insurgency; low-intensity conflicts; warfare in the 21st Century.

The Royal Navy in the Twentieth Century

examines a turbulent period in British naval history. At the start of the twentieth century The Royal Navy was the largest and most powerful maritime power projection force in the world, with more ships and more bases than any other. However, it faced dangerous enemies. Initially focused on the ‘traditional’ threat posed by France and Russia, it soon had to adjust to the menace of a rising and hegemonic Germany. Subsequently, it would also find itself facing the resurgent might of Italy and Japan. As such, the Royal Navy faced the need to be everywhere and combat everyone, a daunting proposition in overstretch. The need to win out in several arms races, to fight two global wars and then prepare to face the prospect of a third posed challenges in the military, economic, social, technological, geographical and ideological realms. How the British state and its navy addressed and surmounted these challenges is a matter of considerable dispute among historians. This module will navigate these debates and in so doing chart the rise and decline of British sea power.

European Warfare in the Age of Muscle.

introduces students to the study of European warfare from the Classical era to the age of gunpowder in an historical and social context and it will provide them with a critical introduction to the impact of warfare on politics and society in Europe from ancient times to 1453. It will introduce the methods of historical research as applied to military studies and will also achieve the following: introduce students to applied problems in military planning and operations via ancient examples; teach students to develop a practical insight into why certain operations succeed and fail; illuminate significant areas of military operational, logistical, and intelligence activities in order to arrive at an objective and neutral evaluation of the possibilities, limitations and perils of warfare.


Intelligence History: Failure and Success

takes students through the history of the practice of intelligence from "Plato to NATO", or ancient times to the modern days, linking political, social and technological factors into a greater understanding of the profession. The second term is largely student-led, individual students presenting case studies, improving their own historical understanding while developing their skills at formal presentations in front of critical audiences.

The Second World War

explores the military, political and socio-economic events and developments of the Second World War; focuses on the historiography and cultural significance of the war up to the present day; and adopts an "international history" approach by building its analysis around the interaction of states and peoples in this global conflict. Seminar discussions will focus around the interpretation of various controversial aspects of the Second World War.

War and the Military in Modern African History

explores the role of warfare and the military in the course of modern Africa’s history, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. The module will combine broad themes as well as specific case studies, and it will explore the ways in which violence and conflict have influenced economy, society and polity in the modern era. The module aims to encourage students to consider the enduring imagery and stereotyping around African warfare in the West, and to think of warfare in constructive as well as destructive terms. Key topics for study will include the growth of identities based on violence and militarism, for example the development of the Zulu state; the relationship between military and political administration; the economics of African war; anti-colonial insurgency and guerrilla wars of the late twentieth century, and recent developments in ‘warlordism’, interstate and proxy conflict.

International Security

this module will introduce you to the changing nature of war, conflict and insecurity. In the first semester you will critically analyse traditional and contemporary Theories in Security Studies. In the second semester, you will be asked to systematically apply these theories to major security issues and policies, such as the arms trade and proliferation, ethnic conflict and humanitarian interventions, pandemics and biopolitics.

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.


The MA in Military History provides solid transferable skills in evidence gathering, analysis, problem solving, drafting and communications, skills whose applicability cuts across a wide range of public and private pursuits.

In addition, it provides detailed engagement with issues relating to defence, security, intelligence and strategy that are germane to a troubled world and can be used by anyone employed in fields related to such matters.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Entry criteria 2019/20

  • A 2:2 (or above) UK Honours degree,  in a Social Sciences or Humanities related subject,  or equivalent internationally recognised qualification.
  • Applicants with a 2.2 or above from a non-related discipline will be considered on an individual basis by the Admissions Tutor.


Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU entry requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason.

We offer our own BrunELT English Test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options at the Brunel Language Centre.

Special features

  • Taught by internationally recognised academics in the field of Military History, Naval History, War Studies, Intelligence History and Security/Intelligence Studies.
  • Situated in London, the MA Military History has established links to world-renowned archives and libraries based in and close to London including the Caird Library (National Maritime Museum), The National Archives and the Imperial War Museum, among others.
  • Students on the MA Military History can automatically receive membership to the Royal Institute for International Affairs.
  • Students have access to the Specialist Angus Boulton Military History library held at Brunel University.
  • The MA in Military History regularly invites guest speakers to lecture on specialist subjects. Previous speakers have included, Professor Ilan Pappe (University of Exeter), Emeritus Professor Avi Shlaim (Oxford University), Sir Tony Brenton (Cambridge University), and Professor Brian Holden-Reid (KCL).

Staff profiles

Professor Matthew Hughes

Professor Matthew Hughes is the former Maj-Gen Matthew C Horner Distinguished Chair in Military Theory at the US Marine Corps University. Professor Hughes works on the British Army in the modern period. He has a PhD from King's College London, which he completed under the supervision of Professors Brian Bond and Brian Holden Reid, and has he held visiting fellowships in Egypt, Lebanon and Israel. Furthermore Professor Hughes is on the Council of the Army Records Society, is a former editor of the 'Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research' and a former judge for the 'Templer Medal' awarded by the Society for Army Historical Research.

Professor Matthew Seligmann

Professor Matthew Seligmann completed his doctorate at Sussex under the supervision of Professor John Röhl, the world's foremost authority on Kaiser Wilhelm II. His current research focuses on the Anglo-German antagonism before the First World War with specific emphasis on the naval and intelligence aspects of the rivalry between the two countries. Professor Seligmann's study of the origins and creation of the Home Fleet in 1902, won the Julian Corbett Prize, the UK's principal award for excellence in Naval History in 1997. Furthermore Professor Seligmann sits on the Council of both the Army and Navy Records Societies.

Dr Kristian Gustafson

Dr Gustafson, formerly an officer of the Canadian Army, is the deputy Director of BCISS and completed his PhD at Downing College, Cambridge. As a military officer, he has been deployed operationally to the Balkans and to Afghanistan. Prior to coming to Brunel Dr Gustafson was Senior Lecturer in War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. His research focuses on the history and practice of Intelligence. One of his early articles, published in Studies in Intelligence, won in 2003, the CIA's Walter L Pforzheimer Award for outstanding contribution to the history of intelligence. Furthermore, Dr Gustafson appears regularly in military history programmes for the History Channel and the Smithsonian Channel in the US, as well as BBC News and Sky News as a commentator on current military and intelligence topics.

Dr Hannah Whittaker

Dr Hannah Whittaker, completed her MA in Imperial History at Durham University in 2006 after which she went on to work as a Graduate Attaché at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. Dr Whittaker completed her PhD in African History at SOAS in June 2011. Her doctoral research was funded by the AHRC, and she was also awarded the Martin Lynn Scholarship by the Royal Historical Society. Her research focuses on African social history, particularly in relation to border conflicts in twentieth century East and North East Africa.

Dr Martin Folly

Dr Martin Folly, Senior Lecturer in Politics and History, studied for his PhD under Donald Cameron Watt and Antony Best at the London School of Economics. Dr Folly’s research focuses on the perceptions and attitudes that shaped relations between the United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain during and immediately after the Second World War.

Professor Elke Krahmann

Professor Elke Krahmann joined the Department as Professor of Security Studies in 2011. She completed her PhD at the London School of Economics and held post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and Birmingham University. Professor Krahmann has been awarded numerous research grants from the United States Institute of Peace, the Humboldt Foundation and the Economic and Social Research Council, and holds advisory board positions at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy Hamburg (IFSH) and the Development and Peace Foundation (SEF).

Professor Philip H J Davies

Professor Philip Davies completed his PhD at Reading University. Upon joining Brunel he co-founded the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS) and developed the MA in Intelligence and Security Studies. In 2008 he took over as Director of BCISS. Professor Davies' specialises in institution-building and organisational design of intelligence agencies and communities.

Research at Brunel

The Isambard Centre for Historical Research

The Isambard Centre for Historical Research brings together scholars at Brunel whose work examines the tensions inherent in the transnational connections that have shaped the modern world. The Centre takes its title from the University’s namesake, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. During the nineteenth century, the dockyards, steamships and railways that he built, revolutionised transportation and communication, helping to create the infrastructure that underpinned increasing global trade. People, products, ideas and cultural artefacts were all transmitted along these routes, producing transnational exchanges that stretched across traditional political, cultural and geographic divides. But such processes helped to make borders as well as transcend them. They stimulated anxieties that led to new efforts to control, define and regulate ownership, identity and exchange. Attending to these dual impulses is crucial if we are to understand the social, cultural and political landscapes of the modern world.

Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies

Brunel's Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (BCISS) is a University Inter-Disciplinary Research Centre, taking in members from the School of Engineering and Design, School of Law, and from the Department of Economics and Finance from the School of Social Sciences, as well as core members from the Department of Politics and History. BCISS is the first academic Centre established in the UK to deal specifically with intelligence issues, policy and institutions. Established in November 2003 the Centre aims to promote and develop social science and policy-oriented approaches to intelligence.

For further information on the Department of Politics and History and a full list of staff profiles and research interests, visit our dedicated web pages.

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019/20 entry

UK/EU students: £8,000 full-time; £4,000 part-time

International students: £16,850 full-time; £8,425 part-time

Some courses incur additional course related costs. You can also check our on-campus accommodation costs for more information on living expenses.

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).

Fees quoted are per year and may be subject to an annual increase. Home/EU undergraduate student fees are regulated and are currently capped at £9,250 per year; any changes will be subject to changes in government policy. International and postgraduate fees will increase annually in line with RPI, or 5%, whichever is the lesser.

There is a range of financial support available to help you fund your studies. Find out about postgraduate student funding options.