MA in Medieval Studies

Please note our taught programme will not be running in 2014/15.

Our MA in Medieval Studies is a truly inter-disciplinary one year Masters programme. Drawing on the expertise of members of the Centre for Medieval Studies, you will be able to tailor yourself a programme of study from the following disciplines:

  • Archaeology
  • Drama
  • English
  • European Language and Literature
  • History
  • History of Art
  • Late Antiquity
  • Latin
  • Music
  • Theology and Religious Studies

Each taught unit is managed by research-active Medievalists, and the dissertation component of the MA will allow you to specialise in a subject and discipline of your choice, engaging with primary sources under the supervision of a dedicated academic adviser.

Pathways in other taught degrees

It is also possible to focus on Medieval Studies as part of other taught postgraduate degrees across the Faculty of Arts.

Bristol's MA in Medieval Studies gives you an opportunity to spend a year (two years for part-time students) immersed in the study of the medieval period, within a community of world-renowned medievalists.


You will be supported throughout your MA by our core teaching team, medievalists from across the faculty. Most of the units comprising the taught element of the course are delivered through weekly seminars, led by one or more tutors. You may be expected to prepare short presentations for some of these seminars and/or a commentary on a principal primary or secondary work. You will be expected to participate fully in discussion.

You will also learn how to engage with primary sources, using the teaching collection in the Arts and Social Sciences library, and documents and artifacts in the archives of Hereford and Wells Cathedral.  Bristol City Record Office has five miles of civic records going back to 1150, all housed in the exciting and accessible space provided by a recently refurbished warehouse.

Bridging teaching and research, a unique feature of the Bristol course is the Medieval Research Seminar unit. Every fortnight during the Autumn and Spring terms, you will take part in a seminar, where eminent medievalists from Bristol and far beyond will introduce you to a range of texts, images and concepts central to the study of the European Middle Ages. You will be encouraged to participate fully, and to reflect on each speaker's paper through a series of supporting tutorials with the programme director.


The dissertation is the single most important and demanding part of the course. All the units you take during the year lead up to it. It is produced independently, and is a piece of original research, which must involve the use of primary sources. You will work closely with a carefully selected adviser, but the dissertation has to be your work, reflecting your intellectual capacities and research skills.

Studying for the MA is a chance to become part of thriving academic community, with a sizeable and close-knit student body and a lively programme of research and social events. 

The University of Bristol hosts the longest-running international medieval postgraduate conference in the UK. Each year the postgraduate medievalists from across the Faculty organise the conference,  offering postgraduates across the world the opportunity to present their research, discuss ideas, and foster links bridging disciplinary and geographical boundaries. In 2013 the conference will be in its 19th year, and we are inviting proposals for papers from postgraduates and early career scholars on the theme of ‘Mind and Body’.

The Centre for Medieval Studies' own postgraduate reading group meets fortnightly, and provides a forum for postgraduates to present their research informally and discuss it amongst their peers. Social events and excursions are regularly organised.

For further information on the academic content of the course, please contact the MA Programme Director, Marianne Ailes.

Structure overview

The MA starts in October each year, and runs for 12 months for full-time students, and 24 months for part-time students. For full-time students, the taught component comprises six units which are taught over two Teaching Blocks. The research component, the dissertation, is written over the Summer and submitted in September. The timetable for a full-time student would look like this.

Teaching Block 1 (Autumn) Teaching Block 2 (Spring) Summer
Research Seminar Research Seminar (continued) Dissertation
Core unit - Research Skills Optional unit
Optional unit Optional unit

Part-time students generally stagger their units across the two years, and write the dissertation over their final Summer.

We try to ensure that the majority of teaching takes place on Mondays and Thursdays.

Core units

All students must take three core units:

Optional units

Every year, we offer a wide range of units to choose from. Here are some examples of current and recent options. In future years, new units will be offered. The range of units offered is determined by the interests of those applying, and by the interests of academic members of staff. You must choose three optional units:

If you have a particular interest which is not catered for, you may elect to undertake a supervised individual study unit.


Towards the end of Teaching Block 2, you will start to discuss possible topics for your dissertation with your tutors. You are encouraged to devise your topic as a research question, or series of questions, you would like to investigate, rather than as a descriptive narrative. After the Easter vacation you will submit a written proposal, and once your topic, and your chosen adviser, have been agreed and approved, you will start to drive the process yourself. You will be able to meet with your adviser over the summer months, for supervision, but the dissertation is an original piece of research, and will reflect your own skills and interests. 

The dissertation is submitted in the middle of September.

Further details, key facts and application information is available on our online prospectus pages for this course.

Course prospectus

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