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MA Folklore Studies

Why choose Herts?

  • Excellent Reputation: We are the only provider of academic Folklore Studies in England and Wales.
  • Teaching Excellence: You will be taught by experts in their field, including Professor Owen Davies, the current President of the Folklore Society.
  • Work-Related Learning: Benefit from our strong connections with the Folklore Society, heritage organisations including Hertfordshire Archives, Local Studies, and the Museum of London Archaeology.

About the course

Why do we carve pumpkins, blow out birthday candles or leave ‘love-locks’ on bridges? When and where did these customs start? From urban myths to local legends, the stories we tell and the traditions we follow are part of our folklore, the shared beliefs and oral traditions that are handed down through generations.

The University of Hertfordshire’s MA Folklore Studies explores legend, ritual, belief and tradition in British society, providing students with a thorough grounding in the history of the discipline of Folklore Studies and examining current work in the field.

This distinctive MA, which will run for the first time in 2019-2020, is the only such programme offered in England.

Aimed at recent graduates in related subjects such as literature, history, archaeology, anthropology or religion, who have perhaps touched on folklore in their dissertations and want to develop this further, this MA also offers opportunities for mature students looking to turn their interest in local folklore into an academic qualification.

Drawing on the research specialisms of academics in the University’s History Group, the MA will offer modules on contemporary customs and rituals, the lore of the British landscape, and migratory beliefs and traditions. You will also explore folklore in comparative international contexts and consider its global importance as an aspect of UNESCO’s definition of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Under expert supervision, you’ll also write a 15,000-word dissertation, giving you the opportunity to research your own area of interest, from witchcraft and magic to local folklore.

A module on Contemporary Ritual and Tradition led by Folklore and History Lecturer Ceri Houlbrook will draw on her research into the heritage of contemporary British folklore and the material culture of ritual practices and popular beliefs. She has published on the customs of coin-trees and love-locks in the journals Folklore and History Workshop Journal.

Professor of Social History Owen Davies will lead a module on Folklore of Landscape in Britain, examining how changes in the landscape are tied in with legends, and how artificial objects and urban geography contribute to folklore in contemporary society. He has published widely on magic and witchcraft in Folklore. Professor Davies is the President of the Folklore Society and Dr Houlbrook is the editor of the Folklore Society's Newsletter.

Lecturer Dr Leanne Calvert’s module Migratory Beliefs and Traditions will investigate how beliefs and stories brought to Britain by different communities are adapted to reflect the new culture. She has published widely on women and family life in Ireland.

The MA also includes two Folklorist’s Craft modules focusing on methodologies in Folklore Studies and on the skills needed to disseminate research and prepare your dissertation. Sessions will include workshops on collecting oral histories, interviewing and presentation techniques, ethics and using objects as primary sources.

Why choose this course?

Top reasons to study the MA Folklore Studies at the University of Hertfordshire

2nd for history in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES, Advance HE, 2023)

We give you:

  • The only MA in Folklore Studies offered in England
  • An exceptional academic team of lecturers and supervisors, conducting world-leading folklore research
  • The opportunity to write a dissertation on a folklore topic about which you are passionate

Is this course for me?

Our MA Folklore Studies will be of interest to:

  • Anyone curious about the traditions we follow, the customs we practice, and the legends we tell
  • Graduates who have just finished their BA degree in a range of subjects
  • People looking for intellectual fulfilment or a new challenge on retirement
  • People looking to develop their interest in local folklore and turn this into a qualification
  • People wanting to study part-time while working

What will I study?

Teaching will be in small group workshops on weekday early evenings, led by members of the Folklore Studies team in the History Group. Discussions and group work will encourage students to share their experience and knowledge of aspects of folklore and learn from each other. We may also offer some Saturday sessions for the Folklorist’s Craft methodology module.  

The MA Folklore Studies has the full support of the world-renowned Folklore Society, which is offering membership and use of its library to our MA Folklore students during their course. MA Folklore students will have the opportunity to form part of a student panel at the Society’s annual conference and will also be eligible for the Folklore Society’s annual President’s Prize for Young Scholars.

As one of our MA students you will benefit from being part of a diverse and active academic community. We see our postgraduate students as fellow researchers, and we place a great deal of importance on sharing and developing skills. Our ‘History café’ offers an informal get together with other Humanities postgraduates before classes, while each year the History Group arranges an off-campus staff-student weekend conference. 

Please note: MA Folklore Studies is not currently offered online. 

  • Level 7
    Contemporary Ritual and Tradition30 CreditsCompulsory
    The Folklorist's Craft 1: Skills, Debates and Methodologies15 CreditsCompulsory
    The Folklorist's Craft 2: Approaches, Dissertation and Dissemination15 CreditsCompulsory
    Folklore of Landscape in Britain30 CreditsCompulsory
    Migration of Beliefs and Traditions30 CreditsCompulsory
    Folklore Studies Dissertation60 CreditsCompulsory
  • Key staff

    Dr Owen Davies
    Professor of Social History
    Find out more about Dr Owen Davies

    Further course information

    Course fact sheets
    MA Folklore Studies Download
    MA Folklore Studies Download
    Programme specifications
    MA Folklore Studies Download
    MA Folklore Studies Download
    Additional information

    Sandwich placement or study abroad year


    Applications open to international and EU students


    Student experience

    At the University of Hertfordshire, we want to make sure your time studying with us is as stress-free and rewarding as possible. We offer a range of support services including; student wellbeing, academic support, accommodation and childcare to ensure that you make the most of your time at Herts and can focus on studying and having fun.

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