Postgraduate Course

MA War, Culture and Society

MA War, Culture and Society


The details
War, Culture and Society
October 2021
1 year
Colchester Campus

What is the human experience – and cost – of war? Looking beyond the dates and battlefield details of typical military history, this MA raises urgent questions about why societies go to war. You will engage with diverse perspectives on violence and conflict in the modern period, and examine case studies from all over the world.

Drawing on our expertise across a variety of disciplines, including history, literature, law, sociology and psychoanalytic studies, you will consider the effects of war on different scales, from the individual to the global, and on different groups. Some of the key questions we will consider include:

  • What did it mean to be a woman in the First World War – as a worker, grieving mother, or a combatant?
  • How does psychological trauma and physical disability impact on veterans today?
  • How is wartime service remembered and commemorated, privately and politically?
  • Why are some groups excluded from popular representations of war – and how does the picture change once they are included?

In our Department of History you are taught by award-winning academics from all over the world: our corridors are truly cosmopolitan. We also provide you with opportunities to explore local history and have close ties with the Essex Record Office, one of the best county record offices in the UK.

Why we're great.
  • This unique course looks at the impact of war on humanity – and draws on a variety of disciplines of study to give a rounded view
  • This MA has real-world value: begin your training in conflict resolution and develop your psychoanalytical skills, while developing your academic abilities
  • Work alongside scholars at the cutting-edge of historical communication
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

Our expert staff

Our staff are among world leaders in their field, and our enthusiasm for our subject is infectious. Our flexible course is combined with a supportive structure which helps you to pursue the modules best-suited to your interests.

We take the time to get to know you as an individual, welcome you into our scholarly community, and value your views.

Specialist facilities

  • You have the option to take field trips to war memorial sites in London and Berlin
  • We have several Special Collections in history, including the Essex Society for Archaeology and History Library, the Harsnett Collection, the Hervey Benham Oral History Sound Archive, the Bensusan Collection, and the Colchester Medical Society Library
  • Access the UK Data Archive, a national service provider digital resources for historians, which is particularly strong in 19th and 20th-century economic and social history
  • Attend an exciting programme of events
  • Access a variety of textbooks and journals in our Albert Sloman Library which houses materials on Latin America, Russia and the US that are of national significance

Your future

We have excellent links with the research community, both in the UK and worldwide, so many of our students have gone on to teach in higher education institutions. Others have found employment in archives, research, managing research funds, other forms of educational provision, the Civil Service, the National Health Service, and management.

Within our Department of History, we offer supervision for PhD, MPhil and MA by Dissertation. Themes of particular research interest include:

  • Class, race and gender formation
  • Nationalism
  • Wars and revolutions
  • International relations and oil diplomacy
  • The history of medicine
  • The history of crime
  • Popular culture and consumption
  • Slave societies
  • The history of ideas and print culture
  • The history of the Roma and Sinti in Europe
  • Historical censuses and surveys

Our University is one of only 11 AHRC-accredited Doctoral Training Centres in the UK. This means that we offer funded PhD studentships which also provide a range of research and training opportunities.

We also work with our Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2.2 Degree in History or a related subject such as: Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Foreign Language with Literature content Law, Literature, Politics or Sociology.

Will consider applicants with an unrelated degree but relevant work experience in for example museums or libraries.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

The example structure below is representative of this course if taken full-time. If you choose to study part-time, the modules will be split across 2 years.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.


Your dissertation is the centrepiece of your Masters work. It gives you the opportunity to develop and to demonstrate your skills as an academic researcher and scholarly author, as you investigate and interpret a topic of your choosing.

View Dissertation on our Module Directory

Making History, Sharing History: Sources, Methods, and Audiences for Historical Research

This module provides you with a rigorous and practical preparation for undertaking historical research in Britain in the period since the 16th century. You will understand the structures of archival and library provision in the UK, have acquired practical skills of project management, and familiarised yourself with some of the key institutions and sources you will need to use in research. There will also be a visit to the Essex Record Office, UK Data Archive and Albert Sloman Library Special Collections.

View Making History, Sharing History: Sources, Methods, and Audiences for Historical Research on our Module Directory

Approaches to War, Culture and Society

What is at stake when we study war, culture and society? This module equips students with different disciplinary perspectives on the human experience of war in different times and places. It introduces students to major historical debates on the social effects of war in the modern era, human rights in conflict zones, and the psychological causes and consequences of war experience. Alongside approaches to these debates, students will consider diverse ways of 'framing' the study of war – whether this means thinking through gender, looking at the local or the global, or considering how individuals and societies come to terms with death rather than focusing on fighting. Finally, the module introduces students to a range of primary sources for studying war and its effects on culture and society, including personal testimony, legal sources, medical texts, and film. The module therefore exposes students to theoretical and methodological perspectives that will inform their study across this MA programme.

View Approaches to War, Culture and Society on our Module Directory

The Cold War and the Remaking of British Citizenship, 1945-89 (optional)
War and Medicine (optional)

Both medicine and the military are social phenomena. From the middle of the 19th century, medicine came to play an increasingly central role in the emergence of modern mass and industrialised warfare. In addition to the maintenance of discipline and morale, medicine also provided administrative and technical support to what became known as the 'total' wars in the 20th century. This module examines the relationship between medicine and the military in the 'modernisation' of societies during the 19th century and 20th century. It asks to what extent medicine contributed to the 'rationalisation' of military management?

View War and Medicine (optional) on our Module Directory

War on the Mind: Historical Perspectives on Trauma (optional)
Human Rights, Social Justice and Social Change (optional)

Until very recently, it was frequently claimed that human rights were the dominant moral instruments for regulating global politics and law. Indeed, many went so far as to claim that we were living in an age of human rights. Is this still true today? Human rights are increasingly challenged from a variety of perspectives. Indeed, an increasing number of people describe the global human rights project to be in a state of real crisis. With human rights increasingly challenged, it is vitally important that we are able to understand the basis and extent of this challenge, in order to overcome the challenge. This module provides an opportunity to do just that. We will situate the theory and the practice of human rights within the broader moral and political contexts within which contemporary human rights unfolds. We will also connect theory with practice in order to examine key spheres in which the challenge to human rights occurs.

View Human Rights, Social Justice and Social Change (optional) on our Module Directory

War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past (optional)

The memories surrounding war and conflict are defining features of cultures and societies around the world. Wars are remembered in a variety of ways: through commemoration, in in individual and family stories, within popular culture, and within political narratives. These memories often tell us more about the present (or rather the time in which they are remembered) than about the wars and conflicts themselves. In fact, analysing how war is remembered today is often one of the best ways to understand how all types of history can be deployed to serve different purposes in the present. Memories of war are often highly politicised and controversial, becoming bedrocks of national myths. To challenge these memories, and these myths, is often to challenge the fundamental ideas that national cultures are based on. This module looks at the construction, circulation and contestation of war memory in a variety of national contexts, and at different points in the past. It focuses on three broad themes: commemoration, popular culture, and the politics of remembering the past. We will discuss topics including the symbolism of the ‘poppy’ in commemorating the First World War, the depiction of the Second World War in film, the memory of the Vietnam War in the United States, and the different ways societies have remembered the bombing of civilians throughout the twentieth century.

View War and Memory: Remembering, Commemorating, and Contesting the Past (optional) on our Module Directory

War and Slavery in the Atlantic World (optional)

In the Atlantic World, war and slavery were intimately entwined. In Africa, warfare created slaves, while slavery spawned warfare. In the Americas, armies consisting of slaves and free blacks fought alternately for and against slaveholders through the eighteenth century, while in the nineteenth century, war figured prominently in the destruction of slavery. This M.A. module examines the complex relationship between war and slavery in the Atlantic World between ca. 1450 and 1850. It will begin with an examination of the role of warfare in the process of enslavement before exploring the many ways in which enslaved and freed people participated in warfare in the Americas. Topics will include: European and West African ideologies of warfare and enslavement; the 'predatory state' thesis; gender, warfare, and enslavement in Africa; the "gun-slave cycle"; free black militias in the Iberian colonies; the employment of black soldiers, free and enslaved, in the wars of the long eighteenth century; ex-soldiers and slave rebellion in the Americas; and the role of warfare in ending slavery. Students will be required to complete a historiographic essay on a topic of their choosing. This will be a reading-intensive module. Students are expected to read an entire book every second week, along with substantial reading in between. Each student is expected to contribute to seminar discussions on a regular basis and to run the seminar (as part of a group) at least once.

View War and Slavery in the Atlantic World (optional) on our Module Directory

Transitional Justice (optional)

Broadly speaking transitional justice refers to the belief that any State where mass atrocities have taken place should engage with a set of judicial and non-judicial processes in order to achieve a successful transition from conflict to peace or repression to democracy. You’ll receive an overview of the history, theory, legal background and dilemmas of transitional justice, followed by in-depth discussions of the four pillars of transitional justice – truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, and of their interrelatedness.

View Transitional Justice (optional) on our Module Directory

Contexts of Refugee Experience (optional)

What are the relevant contexts of refugee experiences? How can academic disciplines help us understand refugee experiences in a deeper way? How can we grasp the multidimensional aspects of the refugee phenomena? Study the multidisciplinary nature of Refugee Care from a unique combination of both academic and professional perspectives.

View Contexts of Refugee Experience (optional) on our Module Directory


  • Core modules can be combined with optional modules to enable you to gain either in-depth specialisation or a breadth of understanding across several topics
  • You study five taught modules and prepare a 20,000 word dissertation
  • You can attend all departmental and research group seminars


  • You must submit one 5,000 word essay for each assessed module


  • Receive expert supervision as you develop a 20,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choice

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we’ll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

Home to 15,000 students from more than 130 countries, our Colchester Campus is the largest of our three sites, making us one of the most internationally diverse campuses on the planet - we like to think of ourselves as the world in one place.

The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.


Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


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At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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