School of Society and Culture

PhD History

Take the opportunity to pursue an individual research project of your choosing full-time or part-time, with expert guidance and personal supervision from a member of our history team.

Our academics have an established tradition of internationally recognised research excellence in the fields of social and cultural history, political and diplomatic history, and military, maritime and naval history. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, 97.6% of the History team’s research outputs (primarily books and journal articles) were considered to be internationally recognised in terms of significance, originality and rigour.

Course details
  • Overview

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees – for instance, our ResM History (which enables a transfer directly into the PhD programme if you are making excellent progress), or else an MPhil degree. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (approximately 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

    Core modules

    • Research Skills in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (DRTS800)

      This module provides research students the opportunity to explore the creation and interpretation of new knowledge within their field; develop the students’ ability to conceptualise, design and present their theses to merit publication; advance the students’ academic enquiry skills and techniques; and to generate and share the new knowledge within their academic discipline and professional practice.

  • Year 2

  • Core modules

    • Research History (GSRHIST4)

  • Year 3

  • Core modules

    • Research History (GSRHIST5)

  • Year 4

  • Core modules

    • Research History (GSRHIST6)

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.
PhD on the Basis of Prior Published Works in History
PhD on the Basis of Prior Published Works enables candidates who have been research active to submit a collection of previously published works for consideration for the award of a PhD. The submission must evidence that you have personally made a systematic study; that you have shown independent, critical and original powers; and that you have made a distinct contribution to knowledge. The submission as a whole must be framed as a single coherent research project.
Entry requirements

Masters degree or equivalent from a UK higher education institution in a relevant subject.  

 If you do not have a masters level qualification, we recommend you consider applying for our ResM History. Students who are making exceptional progress in a ResM programme, may progress directly into our PhD programme without having to complete the masters.

Applicants normally have to supply a research proposal, personal statement, and occasionally evidence that they are prepared to undertake the proposed project. This may include a portfolio, or a sample of critical writing, depending on their area of study.

Other UK or overseas qualifications may also be accepted – with academic reference

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. This course is in Band 2 for fees purposes.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal of no more than 1000 words in total. Your research proposal should outline your general topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, your proposed methodology, key definitions/thinkers/discourses/practitioners you are drawing upon and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

You will also need to submit a sample of your critical writing (3000 words maximum) and, if relevant, evidence of your ability to undertake the practice-led research you are proposing (e.g. a DVD, portfolio, links to website, reviews, catalogue, etc.). It should take no longer than 30 minutes to view all the visual material that you provide.

Submitting your application

Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.

Questions on the application process?

We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.

You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.

If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.

International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.

Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.

Our research community
History at Plymouth has an established tradition of internationally recognised research excellence in the fields of social and cultural history – which broadly defined encompasses expertise in early modern religion, gender and sexuality, Victorian and twentieth-century British society, politics, crime and law; modern labour history, popular politics, modern US politics and civil rights – as well as in modern political, maritime, military and diplomatic history, the British Empire and modern China and Japan. We also have research strengths in Heritage, Public History and Oral History, Eighteenth-Century Architectural History, Maritime History, and Archives and Digital Humanities.
Discover more about our research and researchers in history and art history.
We particularly welcome doctoral research in the following areas:
  • Early modern British and French history
  • British maritime, naval and military history
  • British and Irish social, cultural and political history
  • Twentieth-century political history of the USA
  • Modern world history especially Japanese history
  • Gender history
  • Material history
  • Heritage and history
We also welcome interdisciplinary doctoral research with colleagues in Art History and English and in the School of Society and Culture.

People

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Current and recent PhDs

Ken Brown – PhD in History
‘The role of the anti-war movement on the Washington Naval Treaty negotiations’
2021 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Lee Jane Giles
‘When Reputation is at Stake: Honour, Masculinity and Militarism in the Courts Martial Records Pertaining to the Marine Corps, 1755-1779’
2020 to Present
Director of Studies: Elaine Murphy
Richard Marshall – PhD in History
'Trial by Jury and English Political Radicalism c.1792 – 1825'
2018 to Present
Director of Studies: Claire Fitzpatrick 
Austen Birchall – PhD in History
‘Did the Corps have the Regimental Spirt – Military Cultures in the Support Arms of the British Army during its National Service Era’
2020 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett 
John Sykes – PhD in History
'Particularism or Patriotism? The political and personal networks of the Cornish gentry in the Age of Revolution, c.1783-c.1825.'
Director of Studies: James Gregory  
James Bartle – PhD in History
‘Communication and Sea Power: A Study of Plymouth Command’
2019 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Tom Coombe – PhD in History
‘Building to Belong: Self-Fashioning Identity through Material Culture in the Eighteenth-Century’
2019 to Present
Director of Studies: Daniel Maudlin
Alex Halls – PhD in History
‘Sowing the Wind for the “Terrorflieger”: The influence of British Public Opinion on RAF Bomber Command and the Strategic Bombing of Germany and Occupied Europe’
2020 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Elliott Clark – PhD in History
‘My Dear Papa: Winston Churchill and Fatherhood’
2020 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Emma Barrett-Brown – PhD in History
'A Delicate Matter: The Private Asylums of the South West of England, 1770-1851'
Director of Studies: Dr James Gregory
Clare Gilbert – PhD in History
‘How has post-reunification Germany come to terms with the built legacy of the National Socialist era?: A case study of the Norbert Wollheim Memorial at the IG Farben-Haus in Frankfurt am Main'
2020 to Present
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Gareth Michael Jones
‘The Development of Nuclear Propulsion in the Royal Navy, 1946-1975
Awarded: 2019
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Now published by Palgrave in 2022 
Douglas Watson – PhD in History
‘“The Road to Learning”: Re-evaluating the Mechanics’ Institute Movement’
Awarded: 2018
Director of Studies: Gregory, James
Amy Robson – PhD in History
‘Dogs and Domesticity Reading the Dog in Victorian British Visual Culture’
Awarded 2017
Director of Studies: Dr James Gregory
David Goode – PhD in History
‘Boy work: from education to employment, 1901 – 1930’
Awarded: 2019
Director of Studies: Dr James Gregory
Jennifer Fraser – PhD in History
‘A Strategy of Distinction: Cultural Identity and the Carews of Antony’
Awarded: 2017
Director of Studies: Professor Daniel Maudlin
Barbara A. Bond – PhD in History
‘MI9’s Escape and Evasion Mapping Programme 1939 – 1945’
Awarded: 2014
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Jacqueline Bryon – PhD in History
‘Authority and Crime, 1835 – 1860: A Comparison between Exmouth and Torquay’ 
Awarded: 2013
Director of Studies: Professor Kevin Jefferys
Ian D. Cooper – PhD in History
‘Networks, News and Communication: Political Elites and Community Relations in Elizabethan Devon, 1588 – 1603’ 
Awarded: 2012
Director of Studies: Professor James Daybell
Neal Dando – PhD in History
‘The Impact of Terrain on British Operations and Doctrine in North Africa 1940 – 1943’
Awarded: 2014
Published as From Tobruk to Tunis: The impact of terrain on British operations and doctrine in North Africa, 1940 – 1943 (Solihull: Helion, 2016)
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Louis P. Devine – PhD in History
‘The British Way of War in North West Europe 1944 – 45: A Study of Two Infantry Divisions’ 
Awarded: 2013
Published as The British Way of War in Northwest Europe, 1944 – 5: A Study of Two Infantry Divisions (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015)
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Rebecca J. Emmett – PhD in History
‘Networks of Print, Patronage and Religion in England and Scotland 1580 – 1604: The Career of Robert Waldegrave’ 
Awarded: 2013
Director of Studies: Professor E.M. Tingle 
Edward P. J. Gosling – PhD in History
‘Tommy Atkins, War Office Reform and the Social and Cultural Presence of the Late-Victorian Army in Britain, c.1868 – 1899’ 
Awarded: 2015
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Bruna Gushurst-Moore -– PhD in History
‘A Garden in Her Cups: Botanical Medicines of the Anglo-American Home, c.1580 – 1800’ 
Awarded: 2012
Director of Studies: Professor James Daybell
Andrew Holborn – PhD in History
‘56th Infantry Brigade and D-Day: An Independent Infantry Brigade and the Campaign in North West Europe 1944 – 1945’ 
Awarded: 2009
Published as 56th Infantry Brigade and D-Day: An Independent Infantry Brigade and the Campaign in North West Europe 1944-1945 (London: Continuum Studies in Military History, 2010)
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Khairul Ismail – PhD in History
‘Pudu Jail's Graffiti: Beyond the Prison Cells’ 
Awarded: 2014
Director of Studies: Professor Dan Maudlin 
Tom E. Keene – PhD in History
‘Beset by Secrecy and Beleaguered by Rivals: The Special Operations Executive and Military Operations in Western Europe 1940 – 1942 with Special Reference to Operation Frankton’ 
Awarded: 2011
Published as Cloak of Enemies: Churchill's SOE, Enemies at Home and the Cockleshell Heroes (History Press, 2012)
Director of Studies: Dr Harry Bennett
Bernd Raeke – PhD in History
‘German-German Relationships in the Fields of Sport with Particular Reference to the Olympic Games 1952 – 1972’ 
Awarded: 2014
Director of Studies: Professor Kevin Jefferys 
Susan M. Skinner – PhD in History
‘A History of the Cornish Male Voice Choir: The Relationship between Music, Place and Culture’ 
Awarded: 2013
Director of Studies: Professor Kevin Jefferys