About the course
Economic and social history is the study of economic activities and social organization in the historical past. This two-year specialist programme offers a unique framework for research training in economic and social history.
The MPhil in Economic and Social History offers a wide range of options and allows you to specialise in economic and/or social history, or historical demography, although the boundaries between these areas are deliberately permeable. It is intended to introduce you to the wide variety of methods used in the study of economic and social history, as well as to the subject itself.
If you wish to apply for the DPhil following the MPhil, you will be encouraged to develop your doctoral proposal during the first few months of the second year of the course, so that you will be well placed to make doctoral applications.
The course comprises core courses, option courses, and a research project. The core qualifying papers provide an opportunity to evaluate a range of different qualitative and quantitative methodological approaches; they impart a common language, and create a close and friendly community, in which ideas are shared, and strong personal ties are forged, developing a community that provides a base from which to venture out and experience the intellectual, social and cultural rewards of Oxford.
Core course: What happened and why
An introduction to themes and approaches in economic and social history' focuses on social sciences methodologies and approaches and taught through a series of lectures and parallel classes during Michaelmas term.
Core course: Quantitative methods
You can take either the standard or advanced course in quantitative methods, depending on your previous statistical and/or econometric training.
The standard course in quantitative methods and computer applications for economic and social history is a simple and very informal introduction to elementary quantitative methods covering some of the techniques most widely used in research in the historical and social sciences and emphasizing the relevance of the historical issues. No prior knowledge of mathematics or statistical theory is expected.
The advanced course in quantitative methods is intended for students who have already been introduced to some form of quantitative methods, with the first few sessions serving as a refresher course in elementary quantitative methods. The course aims to ensure that you are aware of the range of quantitative techniques available for analysing problems in economic and social history.
You will be taught how to use a number of popular statistical and econometric packages. Teaching sessions will involve computer classwork. Under certain circumstances, very accomplished students may undertake a more advanced statistics paper from elsewhere in the University, such as the MPhil in Economics.
You will take four advanced option papers usually taught in small classes, mostly during Hilary and/or Trinity terms of both years.
More information on advanced paper options and core courses, can be found on the faculty's website. Please note that not every option listed may be on offer every year, depending in part on levels of student demand.
An original research project on a topic of your choice, approved by your supervisor. You will agree the title with your supervisor in Michaelmas term of year one, and work on it throughout the whole of first year, and Michaelmas and Hilary terms of year two.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of History and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Offers will only be made if appropriate supervision is available.
It is usual practice that MPhil students have one supervisor, but a co-supervisor will be appointed if additional specialist knowledge is required. For degrees in Economic and Social History, a supervisor from outside the Faculty of History may be appointed.
Your supervisor(s) is there to provide advice, guidance, and support throughout your MPhil. You should meet your supervisor(s) early in your first term to establish a clear framework for your research and writing, and identify any skills training needed to undertake your research. There is no set timetable for the frequency of future meetings, but it is recommended that you meet your supervisor several times a term in both years, to discuss progress of your research and writing. You should also agree a timetable for the submission and return of drafts of your dissertation.
Please note that if you have contacted a potential supervisor prior to submitting your application, any indication made by an academic that they may be willing to supervise a potential project, is not a guarantee that you will be offered a place, or that the supervisor in question has capacity to supervise you in that particular year.
The first core course, What happened and Why, is evaluated by an essay submitted in Hilary term of year one.
The second core course. Quantitative Methods, is evaluated by assignment, submitted in Hilary term of year one.
Assessment of the four advanced papers varies, but is usually by timed examination, or by submitted extended essay.
The research project is examined by a 30,000-word dissertation, submitted at the beginning of Trinity term in the second year of the course.
All MSc students and first-year MPhil students in Economic and Social History are required to make a presentation of their dissertation research at the Annual Graduate Workshop in Economic and Social History held in the first week of the Trinity term.
About a quarter of master’s students proceed to doctoral work at Oxford; others continue academic study at other institutions. Other career destinations are as diverse as, but broadly in line with, undergraduate history career destinations: law, finance, management consultancy, civil service etc.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
The requirements described below are specific to this course and apply only in the year of entry that is shown. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
Please be aware that any studentships that are linked to this course may have different or additional requirements and you should read any studentship information carefully before applying.
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (a minimum of 68% overall and 68% for the dissertation) in a relevant discipline in the humanities or social sciences.
- For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.75 out of 4.0.
Applicants are normally expected to have a previous degree in history, economic history or economics, but for master's applications a number of candidates may be accepted with a degree in a different subject area. You will need to ensure that you link your proposed dissertation topic with your previous expertise when you present it in your research proposal, or that you explain why you want to switch to study history, and to show that you have already done some background research into it. Your submitted written work should show your writing and research skills in their best light, as it will be important to show that you have the necessary skills required for historical research.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- In the case of mature students/intended career changes professional experience in cognate areas may compensate for shortcomings in the formal academic record.
- Publications are not required.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Minimum overall score
|Minimum score per component
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Assessors may get in touch with an applicant by email in case of any queries, but this is very rare.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements described under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
Intellectual life and community
The explicitly interdisciplinary nature of this MPhil means that the Faculty of History collaborates with other divisions and departments within the University. The MPhil in Economic and Social History is a joint enterprise involving both the Faculty of History and the Department of Economics.
More generally, working as an Oxford graduate student is an exhilarating experience. History at Oxford stretches from around c. 300 to the present and embraces an exceptionally broad geographical range. It comprises an active research community of up to 800 academics and graduate students.
The faculty’s research is organised around historical periods, research centres, or in collaborative and individual research projects, and graduates are key participants in the wide range of seminars, workshops and conferences run by the Faculty of History.
Further opportunities for exchange are provided by the interdisciplinary communities fostered within individual colleges, which also offer dedicated support for graduates by means of personal advisors. The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities (TORCH) offers a stimulating range of interdisciplinary activities. You are also encouraged to join the Oxford History Graduate Network (OHGN), which fosters friendships, conversations and collaboration.
The Oxford environment provides a unique opportunity to develop intellectual curiosity whilst remaining focused on your own work without becoming blinkered - an integral part of a successful graduate career.
Libraries and archives
Graduates in Oxford are fortunate in having access to over a hundred libraries. The University's core research resource in the humanities are the Bodleian Libraries, whose combined collections contain more than 11 million printed items, in addition to more than 50,000 e-journals and a vast quantity of manuscripts, maps, music and other materials.
The Bodleian has been a library of legal deposit for 400 years. The Bodleian Libraries’ Special Collections Department attracts scholars from all over the world. Further strengths include the countless databases and digital resources currently offered by the Bodleian and being developed through Oxford’s Digital Humanities programme.
You are also able to draw on the specialist resources offered by the Bodleian History Faculty Library which provides dedicated support and training courses for all graduates. They also have access to the many college libraries and to college archives which can house significant collections of personal papers as well as institutional records dating back to the middle ages.
Departments offering this course
This course is offered jointly by the following departments:
Faculty of History
History in Oxford stretches from c 300 to the present, and embraces in addition to its British and European heritage an exceptionally broad range of World history. It comprises an active research community of up to 800 senior academics and graduate students, all contributing to a range of research seminars, lectures, academic societies, and personal contacts.
Research in the faculty is organised around historical periods and research centres, or in collaborative and individual research projects, and you will always be welcome at seminars, workshops and conferences across all periods and themes.
You will be encouraged to make use of these opportunities as widely as possible without endangering your own degree work. Striking the right balance between intellectual curiosity and temptation and intellectual discipline, and remaining focused without becoming blinkered, should be an integral part of a successful graduate career. The Oxford environment provides all the ingredients for this.
Department of Economics
Oxford's Department of Economics is one of Europe's leading research departments and its members include some of the world's most distinguished academic economists.
The department offers its community of around 300 graduate students a rigorous and relevant training in economics, providing a setting in which debate and research can flourish. The department’s graduate courses prepare students for a wide range of careers in academia, government and business.
The department is committed to excellence in teaching and the MPhil and DPhil in Economics are internationally recognised for the quality of the training provided. The University of Oxford is ranked 2nd in Europe in the most recent Tilburg University ranking of Economics departments, based on research contribution for the period between 2016-2020. In the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise, that evaluated research output of UK Universities, Oxford was first for overall research strength in Economics and Econometrics, with more research ranked as ‘world-leading’ than any other participating institution.
In a submission of 84 FTE academics, which was the largest number of researchers submitted in the Economics and Econometrics Unit of Assessment, 94% of the department's research output was assessed as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’ (3* or 4*). The scale and breadth of the Department’s research is a product of a vibrant and well-connected community, with particular attention on supporting early career researchers. The Department maintains world-class expertise in the core discipline areas of microeconomics, macroeconomics and econometrics, while building clusters of research strength in more specialist subfields – notably applied microeconomics; behavioural economics and game theory; the economics of climate change and sustainability; machine learning; economic history; development economics.
Oxford has one of the strongest, largest, and most varied groups of economists in the world. Our objective is to engage in innovative research that extends the frontiers of the discipline, deepening our understanding of the operation of modern economies. Research spans almost all the major sub-fields of economics with particular strengths in microeconomic theory, including behavioural economics; econometrics, both micro-econometrics and time series; economic history and development and international economics. Research activity is focused within smaller, specialised groups, with each group holding regular workshops at which research by faculty and graduate students is presented and discussed. Many distinguished researchers from outside Oxford also visit to present their work at seminars.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the the faculty websites:
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Economic and Social History:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. You can use our interactive tool to help you evaluate whether your application is likely to be competitive.
If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
You do not need to contact anyone in the faculty before you apply. You are not responsible for finding your own supervisor. However, you are strongly encouraged to familiarise yourself with the research expertise within the faculty when preparing your research proposal, to make sure that there is a supervisor available in the same area as your proposed project. Offers will only be made if appropriate supervision is available. The faculty determines supervision arrangements, taking due account of the workload and commitments of its academics. If you are made an offer, a supervisor will be assigned to you, and identified in the offer letter.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
For this course, the application form will include questions that collect information that would usually be included in a CV/résumé. You should not upload a separate document. If a separate CV/résumé is uploaded, it will be removed from your application.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
It is not necessary for you to identify a potential supervisor in your application.
However, please check that a supervisor with expertise in your proposed area of research is available before applying. Details can be found on the faculty website. You are free to consult a specialist in your field for advice on your project, if you think that would be helpful.
Three overall, academic preferred
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
References should generally be academic, though if you are returning to study after extended periods of non-academic employment then you are welcome to nominate professional referees where it would be impractical to call on your previous university tutors.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, ability to work in both a group environment and sustained individual and self-motivated investigation.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
Statement of purpose and research proposal:
A minimum of 500 to a maximum of 1,000 words in total
The statement of purpose and research proposal should be written as one combined piece.
You should convince the faculty that you have the right intellectual qualities, academic knowledge and skills to undertake the course, focusing on how you see the course as building upon your previous study.
You should discuss what kinds of problems and issues you hope to engage with; what the current state of your knowledge and understanding of these is, and how you hope to advance that.
You should include a preliminary research proposal and title for your intended dissertation. This should supply a research question identifying the central issue or problem with which you intend to grapple, some account of the current state of scholarship in this area and an indication of the kinds of sources you hope to use.
You may also include what you hope to do with the qualification you gain.
Your statement and research proposal must be written in English. A bibliography may also be provided and is not included in the word count, though any footnotes should be included.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
It is anticipated that your ideas will change and develop once you have begun the programme and have been exposed to new approaches, sources and methods. However, students applying to this course are expected to have a clear sense of the kind of research they wish to undertake.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- the coherence of the proposal, the ability to present a reasoned case in English
- commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree programme
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace.
One academic writing sample of no more than 4,000 words in total
Written work should be from your most recent completed qualification, but does not need to relate closely to your proposed area of study. Extracts from a longer piece of work are welcome, but please include a preface which puts the work in context.
The work will be assessed for your:
- understanding of problems in the area
- ability to construct and defend an argument
- powers of analysis
- powers of expression.
It must be submitted in English (if this work has been translated, you must indicate if the translations are your own, or what assistance you had in producing the English text).
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document. Any footnotes should be included in the word count. A bibliography may also be provided and is not included in the word count.