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MA History part 1

This module aims to provide a foundation for studying local and regional history at an advanced level. You'll cover the key issues in the practice of local history within each of the four distinct ‘nations’ of the United Kingdom: England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The module then explores six key local history themes - poverty, crime and policing, the family, urban history, religion and industrialisation. Underpinning all of this is the development of your research skills. You will be shown how to begin a research project and how to find relevant sources using the growing number of online historical databases.

Vocational relevance

The module will contribute to enhancing your prospects in careers such as: teaching, libraries, archives, museums, heritage and tourism industries, as well as providing content relevant to the continuing professional development of employees in public-facing roles (e.g. police, education, social and health services etc.).


A825 is a compulsory module for:

A825 is an optional module in our:


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

The purpose of this masters-level module is to equip you to undertake higher-level study in British and Irish local and regional history. Part 1 covers key theoretical and methodological issues and develops analytical skills through the close study of influential books, followed by three thematic studies (from a choice of six themed units, outlined below), using set books and associated materials.

It offers a distinctive approach by bringing together ‘old’ and ‘new’ histories, and by covering, as appropriate, developments in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. By successfully completing this module, it will enable you to carry out supported independent study and provides progression to a research project and the preparation of a dissertation in MA History part 2 (A826).

You will learn that local and regional history has contributed to a better historical understanding of what was happening not only in localities at different points in time, but also nationally; thereby providing a greater understanding of national trends or developments, in the broader political, social, economic or cultural history of the nation (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales). The module will explore sources for local history, providing a review of the resources on which historians draw, and an introduction to the types of primary and secondary sources that are available, including: published books and articles; local and regional history libraries; archives/record offices; other repositories; and online resources. For each, it deals with the best ways that these sources can be accessed and used.

You will also study a choice of three out of the following six units:

Crime and policing
In the last quarter of the twentieth century, crime, policing and penal policy became major areas of interest for social and cultural historians. This unit will introduce you to crime and policing, using set books to review the topic and examine current debates. It will then look at the research agenda and suggest potential subjects for research projects and the kinds of sources available.

Urban history
The theme of this unit is the study of what has been called the ‘Urban Renaissance’: the way that between about 1700 and about 1850, towns in the British Isles changed the way that they fitted into the local and national economy. These changes expressed themselves in both the social and the built environments. As well as considering the relevance of this concept, the unit will also introduce methodologies and debates that will enable you to cover later developments in urban development up to c.1900.

This unit will explain the importance of understanding the major ideas and debates about industrialisation nationally, so that you can better understand what was happening in localities and regions at different times. It will outline how historians have described the broad developments in the period, including some of the ideas and debates about the origins, progress and outcomes of industrialisation.

Poverty and welfare
The purpose of this unit is twofold - to introduce you to the changing nature of welfare provision during the period c.1750-1914 (and to some of the historiographical debates this has engendered), and also to consider the poor themselves, the nature of poverty and how far it is possible to unearth the authentic voices of the poor from the past.

This unit focuses on families as central to notions of belonging and security. It draws attention to the way governments consider family relationships to be key formal means by which citizenship is legally conferred. It points to the fact that for individuals, families are a key experience through which they are identified, and self-identify, as belonging to particular local, national, religious or other communities.

This theme surveys the major developments in the religious history of Britain and Ireland from approximately 1740 to 1960. Using local and regional examples, it will survey the various approaches that historians of religion have adopted to interrogate their field. You'll also consider the main historiographical debates in which historians have engaged, in particular secularisation and the notion of religious decline.

If you are considering progressing to MA History part 2 (A826), normally you must have completed this module.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. The module will be taught by means of real time online tutorials and online forums.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

MA History part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2020. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2021.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    You must hold a UK honours degree (or equivalent), preferably with at least a 2:1 classification. Although your degree does not need to be in History, you will need some knowledge of the subject as this module assumes all candidates have the knowledge and skills usually acquired by pursuing the subject at undergraduate level.

    If your degree or background is not in history or a closely related subject, you are strongly recommended to undertake the preparatory work indicated below prior to studying this module. If you’re in any doubt about the suitability of your qualifications or previous experience, please contact us before you enrol.

    Outside the UK

    Although this module is available to students’ resident outside the UK and Ireland, you will need physical access to historical records (such as those held in libraries, archives or record offices) within Britain or Ireland to successfully complete this module. If you are resident outside these areas, please ensure you can meet this requirement before enrolling on this module.

    Preparatory work

    You are encouraged to read the main set book (see the 'Study materials' tab for details) before beginning the MA and to locate any potentially useful research libraries in your local area.

    If your degree or experience is not in History or a closely related subject, you are strongly recommended to study the Advanced Diploma in Local History (Online), offered in collaboration with Oxford University Department of Continuing Education, which should provide you with suitable preparation prior to studying this module. For more information, including how to apply for this course, please refer to our Collaborative Schemes website.


    Start End Fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Jan 2023 Not yet available

    Registration closes 16/09/21 (places subject to availability)

    October 2021 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    MA History part 1 starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2020. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2021.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

    You'll be provided with a range of study materials which includes:

    • a module guide
    • an interactive week-by-week study planner
    • study guides to introduce you to the essential resources and important issues relevant to each block of study
    • a Reader of critical and theoretical extracts
    • assessment guide
    • the MHRA Style Guide, with information on the use of scholarly conventions in literary study.
    • electronic resources for studying of history, and training in their use, via The Open University library.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    • A desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows
    • The screen must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    Materials to buy

    Set books

    • Hudson, P. *The Industrial Revolution: Reading History Bloomsbury £25.99 - ISBN 9780713165319 This book is Print on Demand, please allow at least 3 weeks for receipt following order.
    • Reay, B. Microhistories: Demography, Society and Culture in Rural England, 1800-1930 Cambridge University Press £48.99 - ISBN 9780521892223 All students need to buy this book. This book is Print on Demand, please allow at least 2 weeks for receipt following order.
    • Godfrey, B. & Lawrence, P. *Crime and Justice since 1750 (2nd edn) Routledge £42.99 - ISBN 9780415708562
    • Borsay, P. *The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town, 1660-1770 Clarendon Press (Oxford University Press) £48.99 - ISBN 9780198202554 This book is Print on Demand, please allow plenty of time when ordering.
    • Lees, L.H. *The Solidarities of Strangers: The English Poor Laws and the People 1700-1948 Cambridge University Press £38.99 - ISBN 9780521030663 This book is Print on Demand, please allow at least 2 weeks for receipt following order.
    • Hempton, D. *Religion and Political Culture in Britain and Ireland: From the Glorious Revolution to the Decline of Empire Cambridge University Press £32.99 - ISBN 9780521479257 This book is Print on Demand, please allow at least 2 weeks for receipt following order.
    • Emsley, C. *Crime, Police and Penal Policy: European Experiences 1750-1940 Oxford University Press £32.49 - ISBN 9780199669479 This book is Print on Demand, please allow plenty of time when ordering.

    Note: All students need to buy 'Microhistories: Demography, Society and Culture in Rural England, 1800-1930'. The remainder of the books, marked with an *, are only needed for certain themes, which students will choose to study after the start of the module.

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components and electronic journals may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader; this applies in particular to historical records that may have been scanned for use online. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

    During this module you may need to use primary historical data sources (such as local archives) which may not yet be available as online resources; in which case, you may need to arrange physical access to their location (such as a library or other public record office).

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.