History Courses

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Postgraduate History courses require a greater degree of intellectual engagement than do their undergraduate precursors. This is because most programmes operate on the assumption that students are driven by a desire to deepen their historical knowledge as much as by the ambition to secure employment in a related field upon completing the course.

Why Study History?

Of course this is not to suggest that History courses are not of great practical utility – indeed, they encourage the development of numerous skills that are deemed to be invaluable by many employers: the ability to conduct complex independent research; to display well-developed powers of interpretation, deliberation, and critical analysis; and to articulate arguments and findings in a thorough and coherent way. There is also the sense of context and understanding that comes from studying the subject.

Moreover, much of the knowledge that a History course imparts can, in a sense, be converted into economic capital. After all, acknowledging our cultural and natural heritage is often the basis for future development, and preserving that heritage is essential not only so that we can establish a sense of personal and national context, but also because it acts as a major incentive for tourism in this country, which is an important source of employment here.

History Courses Available

One course that deals directly with the management of cultural heritage is Trinity College Dublin’s MPhil in Public History and Cultural Heritage (one-year full time, two years part-time). The programme examines the notion of ‘cultural heritage’: how it can be defined, shaped, and the policy consequences of its different definitions. The course is run in collaboration with several cultural institutions (i. e. libraries, museums, galleries) and so students will have the chance to undertake a short work placement with one of the participating bodies. While not strictly vocational in nature, the programme provides training in curatorial theory and in delivering web- and media-based projects in the field. Applicants should possess an upper-honours degree in a related subject (e. g. History, Philosophy, Language, Literature) or have relevant professional experience.

Maynooth University MA

Maynooth University’s Masters in European History (full time, one year) presents another interesting option. Students on this programme will examine the wider debates in European history and complete a minor research thesis in conjunction with taught modules. MA participants are also encouraged to collaborate with fellow postgraduates and departmental staff at social occasions, seminars, and conferences. There are limited opportunities for well-qualified candidates to act as a tutor in the undergraduate programme, enabling them to gain valuable teaching experience.

Other Options

More general History courses are available from colleges throughout the country (e. g. UCD, UCC, Mary Immaculate College etc. ), each with their own key areas of study. The revised MA in History at NUI Galway (one year full time), for instance, allows students to choose from among modules such Studies in Local History, Studies in Oral History and Conceptions of Wealth and Poverty in the Early Modern World; while module options on UL’s MA in History programme include History of the European Idea and American Foreign Relations.

Programmes dedicated to Medieval studies are provided by NUI Galway, UCD, Mary Immaculate College, Maynooth University and Trinity College. Latin and paleography (the ability to read and interpret ancient texts – two key skills for study of the Medieval and Renaissance ages) are normally included on such courses. Taught modules and research topics can vary hugely in a subject that spans from Iceland to the Crusader kingdoms of the Middle East, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the beginnings of Reformation. Many graduates of such courses go on to pursue MLitt or PhD degrees. However, completing a PhD is not a prerequisite for students interested in other careers such as archival, museum or heritage industry work, or traditional areas of graduate employment such as business, teaching and law.

Art History

The History of Art is very much a related area and an established discipline in its own right, with postgraduate courses available from UCD (one year full time), UL (one year full time) and UCC (one year full time or two years part-time). Students will examine works of art and architecture and explore their relationship with notions of identity. Potential careers for students include working in galleries, museums, academia, arts administration, as well as art journalism and managing art collections.

Archaeology is another branch of history that is well catered for at postgraduate level. Courses are available from UCD, NUI Galway, and UCC – with all three universities providing Higher Diploma entry for applicants without a primary degree in the subject. Courses include fieldwork and theoretical study as well as the option to choose from specialised modules such as Celtic Archaeology, ICT for Archaeologists and Art & Ritual in Prehistoric Europe. For those with a more advanced knowledge in the subject, there are taught and research master’s degrees available. Research courses allow students to investigate a highly specialised area (e. g. Bronze Age settlements in a particular geographic area), while taught masters provide the necessary professional skills (e. g. project management, GIS) for a career in archaeology.


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