Course: MSc Historical Archaeology

Course details

  • Location

    Cultural Heritage Institute @ RAU Swindon
  • Duration

    1 year (full time) or 2+ years (part time) (Full time / Part time)
  • Academic Year

    September 2020 start

The Archaeology of the Historical period covers some of the most significant global changes affecting humankind including the rise of the maritime world empires, the industrial revolution and the development of mass conflict.

Course overview 

This MSc in Historical Archaeology explores the period from c.1500 to 2000 and offers an exciting research-informed programme that critically considers contemporary issues, challenges and developments. It will provide you with a robust philosophical, theoretical and ethical framework for exploring the remains of the recent past. You will gain a solid grounding in an increasingly coherent and confident discipline which is international in perspective and reach. 

The programme begins with a short field course which will introduce to you the core theory, practice and controversies of historical archaeology through the preliminary investigation of an historic environment. It is also a great opportunity to connect with your fellow students and the lead tutors. The programme then uses a series of detailed case studies to look at how archaeology can throw light on the emergence of the modern world system in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Far East and North America. 

The course goes on to explore the analysis and interpretation of the remains of the recent past at three scales – the artefact, the building and the landscape. Students then apply these principles to, two specific areas of historic archaeology selected from; The Archaeology of Pioneer Colonies The Archaeology of the First & Second World Wars and The Archaeology of Industry.

Learning is underpinned throughout by engagement with real objects, sites and landscapes coupled to the skills and tools needed to explore and evaluate the material remains of the modern period. A focus on current theoretical and professional issues in the design and management of historic environment research provides the foundations and frameworks for the original research undertaken in the dissertation.

Through the programme you will prepare for, or further develop, a career or further research in historical archaeology through reflective practice, the growth of intellectual skills and an ethos of life-long learning. You will be able to demonstrate self-direction, adaptability, initiative and originality alongside accountability, integrity and ethical judgement.   

Careers and enterprise 

Career prospects include:

  • Archaeological, heritage & environmental consultancy
  • Heritage interpretation consultancy
  • Governmental heritage agencies such as Historic England, Historic Scotland and Cadw
  • Charitable trusts such as the National Trust, English Heritage and the Canal & River Trust
  • Heritage tourism
  • Teaching and education


This programme can be taken full-time in one year, part-time in two years or by credit accumulation over a maximum period of four years. Our aim is to provide very flexible learning that can be integrated into busy working lives.

The programme is delivered by blended learning using intensive tuition days interspersed with guided and independent online learning with group-work, seminars, tutorials and mentoring.  

Our approach to learning is hands-on and collaborative; we encourage and enable you to contribute to knowledge generation. The goal is to grow confidence and support your transition to a professional role or further research.

The Programme Tutors are all heritage professionals with considerable experience in Historical Archaeology and have specialist interests in the archaeology of colonialism, conflict and industry. Students may also have opportunity to undertake dissertation research with our Professional Fellows who are embedded in historic environment organisations.

Course Structure

The programme consists of eight taught modules and a dissertation. Six of the taught modules form a compulsory core to which are added a further two option-modules from a slate of three available courses. Module assessments are very varied but all involve different forms of course work.

In addition to the taught modules you will produce an academic dissertation focusing on a particular research topic of interest to you. This allows you to showcase the skills acquired and can provide a springboard to further research or employment.

The programme involves extensive collaboration with governmental, charitable and commercial organisations working in Historical Archaeology. This includes guided visits to case study locations, guest lectures, seminars and workshops, research projects and professional contributions such as mentoring. The input from heritage professionals will be invaluable in helping you develop a grounded, reflective, approach to your career. 

Indicative modules

The programme is built around six core modules and a dissertation or professional product:

  • Historical Archaeology in Theory and Practice: Fieldschool
  • The Emergence of the Modern World System
  • Historic Environment Research: Design, Methodology & Management
  • Exploring Artefacts and Materialities
  • Recording and Analysis of Historic Buildings
  • Post Mediaeval and Industrial Landscapes
  • Dissertation or Professional Product

To that students will add a further two modules selected from the following:

  • Archaeology of Pioneer Colonies
  • Archaeology of the First & Second World Wars
  • Archaeology of Industry 

* Optional additions to the course will incur additional charges

Industry endorsement

The programme is undertaken in partnership with Wessex Archaeology 

Wessex Archaeology have been closely involved in the design of the programme and several of their staff are CHI Professional Fellows.

Disclaimer information

The University has established various rules and regulations that you must agree to and follow if you accept an offer to study with us. View our full disclaimer notice.

Entry requirements 

Applicants should usually possess a degree in subject areas related to heritage, archaeology, history, land management, planning or geography at Lower Second (2.2) or higher. If you have no formal qualifications it may be possible to join the programme based on extensive relevant work experience corresponding in level to an undergraduate honours degree. In all cases entry is subject to a satisfactory interview either in person or via Skype/Zoom or similar platforms.


Tuition fees cover the cost of a student’s academic studies. This usually includes teaching costs, registration and examination fees (not repeat or trailing module fees, re-sit fees or dissertation extensions).

2020/21 Applicants

For the academic year 2020/21 the tuition fees for this course are:  

Full-time£8,160 per year £12,240 per year
Part-timeFees are calculated on a pro-rata basis depending on the number of modules taken. Please refer to Tuition Fees webpageFees are calculated on a pro-rata basis depending on the number of modules taken. Please refer to Tuition Fees webpage

**Please note: International students can study on a part-time basis only if they are in the UK with a different type of visa (other than Tier 4 Child/General) that allows them to undertake part-time study and their visa does not expire prior to the end date of the proposed course of study.

Please contact before you apply to confirm your egibility.

Tuition fees may be subject to an inflationary increase each year as set out in our Access and Participation Plan 2019/20.

For full details, please visit the fees and funding webpage.

Residential blocks full-board costs 2019/20**

Full-time student, full-board basis£900*
Part-time student, full-board basis£450*

*Costs are subject to an increase in 2020/21.

**For part-time study residential block fees are quoted per year.


The University offers a range of generous fee waivers and bursaries. To find out more about the scholarships, awards and bursaries available, please visit the scholarships webpage.

Ready to take the plunge? Apply now

Applications to study for postgraduate degrees need to be made directly through the University. 

You can now apply via our website, using the online application form. 

Alternatively, if you are unable access the online form you can call Admissions on +44 (0)1285 889 912, or email

We recommend that you keep a copy of the completed form for your records.

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