School of Society and Culture

MA Maritime History

What is maritime history and why does it matter? Study for our MA Maritime History at the University of Plymouth and you will have the opportunity to grapple with these and other key debates in history. Plymouth’s long and storied relationship with the sea makes it the perfect location to explore five centuries of maritime history from the Spanish Armada of 1588 through to questions around the continued importance of sea power and navies in the modern world.

Careers with this subject

Graduate destinations for our recent MA students include funded PhDs, PGCE teacher training, NHS graduate management training, public sector heritage business management, and account executive with an image library. Postgraduate study opens up many other careers in museums, heritage, archives and records.
Where could your history degree take you?

Key features

  • Study Maritime History in Britain’s Ocean City and explore more than five centuries of fascinating maritime history.
  • Work with world leading experts in maritime history from 1500 to the present day to develop your interests and research.
  • Be part of a community of maritime historians who are shaping the future of the field with cutting edge research and publications.
  • Develop your analytical skills with our exciting range of maritime and naval history modules.
  • Showcase your research skills with a dissertation on a maritime history topic of your choice.
  • Make the most of our excellent maritime history resources and partners in the University Library, The Box and wider city of Plymouth and region.
  • Work with local and national maritime organisations; enjoy a wide range of field trips to sites of interest.
  • Our MA is designed for a range of applicants including recent graduates and those with a broad interest in maritime history.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • You can study MA Maritime History full time over one year or part time split across two years. Your studies consist of four modules, two of which are core: key debates and research methods in history – an assessment of current trends and methodologies in the discipline of history, and public history – an examination of the theory and practice of how the past is presented to public audiences. 
    You supplement these with two option modules, where you select the areas of history that interest you the most as you choose from the research specialisms of the history team.* 
    The programme culminates in an independently researched MA History dissertation.

    Core modules

    • Key Debates and Research Methods in History (MAHI700)

      This module will provide students both with an understanding of current debates about approaches, theories and methodologies in History and a grounding in research skills such as locating and using primary source material and making effective use of library and database resources.

    • MA History Dissertation (MAHI702)

      In this module students complete a dissertation on an aspect of history of their own choosing. The topic is negotiated between students and teaching staff, who provide tutorial support and advice about all aspects of the project from initiation to completion.

    • All at Sea: Research Skills for Maritime History (MAHI730)

      This module will provide students with an understanding of current debates about approaches, theories and methodologies in Maritime History and a grounding in core maritime history research skills such as locating and using primary source material and making effective use of library and database resources.

    Optional modules

    • Piracy and Privateering, 1560-1816 (MAHI704)

      This module explores piracy and privateering activity in the seas around the British Isles and further afield from the reign of Queen Elizabeth to the end of the second Barbary War in 1816. This course focuses on the social history of piracy and privateering, the organisation of pirate society, and the economic impact of piracy and privateering.

    • Independent Research Project in History (MAHI718)

      A research project leading to an essay (8000 words), devised with tutorial supervision, in a field not offered in the History module options, or where the student has previously studied the topic within a module at BA level 6 and is consequently not permitted to take the MA option version (also, in exceptional circumstances where the module option timetable means that a student is unable to choose an option).

    • Anglo-American Relations in Maritime Perspective (MAHI727)

      This module introduces Masters students to the major themes of the history of British and American maritime strategy, naval competition, and international co-operation between 1775 and 1991. It challenges students to rethink the so-called ‘special relationship’ through a maritime lens, while providing an exploration of naval history and international relations since the beginning of the American Revolution.

    • Maritime Explorations and Encounters (MAHI728)

      This module challenges students to rethink their ideas about the use of navies in exploration, leading explorers such as Sir Francis Drake, Captain James Cook and Charles Darwin, the place of Plymouth in maritime exploration and the nature of encounters with native peoples.

    • Sea Power in History (MAHI729)

      This module examines the major concepts and themes of Sea Power. Exploring the role of sea power in war and peace from the ancient world to the 20th century, it challenges students to rethink ideas about the use of navies, the wider meaning of sea power, its place in politics and society, and ultimately to move beyond the primacy of battle in conventional narratives of the course of naval history.

    • Coastal Cultures: Marine Anthropology in the Age of Climate Change and Mass Extinction (MAEH703)

      Using a range of anthropological theoretical frameworks, this module analyses how coastal communities use the sea - not only as a source of livelihood, but as a key ingredient in the construction of their identity and place in world. Drawing on a range of ethnographic case study from around the world, we study how coastal communities are responding to climate change, climate change scepticism, sea level rise, pollution, and extinction. Through such debates, we examine how anthropology in general and marine ethnography specifically can contribute to the protection and management of endangered human and non-human life-worlds.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Maritime History programme specification 6922

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

An honours degree in history or a related subject, or a professional qualification recognised as being equivalent to a degree. 
Other qualifications accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field may also be considered. Non-standard applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.
Graduates from other disciplines will be considered on an individual basis. References from previous university, employer or similar.
Accreditation of Prior Learning will be considered, where appropriate, on a case-by-case basis and in line with the University’s Academic Regulations. 
International students: IELTS score of 6.5 or equivalent. English language requirements.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary. 

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,700
International £16,500 £17,600
Part time (Home) £510 £540
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Find out more about your eligibility for a postgraduate loan

You may now be eligible for a government loan of over £11,000 to help towards the cost of your masters degree.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students 
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Armed forces discount

 We are pleased to offer a 10% discount on home fees to serving and former personnel of the armed forces to study on our MA Maritime History.*
*Only one discount may be applied against fees for this programme.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance. 
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page). 
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Plymouth, a city steeped in maritime history

Find out how Plymouth played a role in history from 1588 until the present day.


The School of Society and Culture is home to around 40 researchers working across a number of disciplines: history, art history, anthropology, English, creative writing, music, computer music, theatre and performance. 
Pile of old books lying on a park bench

Dr Elaine Murphy

Dr Elaine Murphy, Associate Professor of Maritime and Naval History, talks about her research into the British Civil Wars in the 1640s and 1650 and the role of women in naval history.

Dr Harry Bennett

Dr Harry Bennett, Associate Professor of History, talks about his research into second world war coastal convoys.

More pirate than patriot?

Examining Sir Francis Drake's legacy of exploration
Beloved by Queen Elizabeth I, but nicknamed the dragon by the Spanish, Drake is a divisive figure with a rich history steeped in fact and legend. Figures such as Drake are not simplistic characters; they can be different things, at different points of time, to different people. 
"This is part of the fun of studying history – unpacking the ambiguities of complex characters like Drake and their actions and trying to find the truths in the tales."
Engraving from 1834 featuring the British Captain, Sir Francis Drake.

The Box: Plymouth's heritage hub

Postgraduate history students will be able to benefit from the new flagship heritage centre in Plymouth, called The Box. This will bring together the Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, South West Film and Television Archive and South West Image Bank, in one exciting heritage hub.

The Box - image courtesy of Plymouth City Council
The Box - image courtesy of Plymouth City Council

MA Maritime History team