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Sports History and Culture MA

This online distance learning course can develop your understanding of all aspects of the history of sport, taught by experts from the International Centre for Sports History and Culture, the only centre of its kind in the world.


Established in 1995, our Sports History and Culture MA will give you a firm grounding in modern sports development, from traditional forms to present day practices. This is a flexible and interactive programme that, thanks to its close links with the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), ensures your learning is at the cutting edge of research in this area. 

You will investigate the origins of modern sport, examine its cultural and global significance, discover how sport can help us understand society and different communities, as well as consider how historians of sport can use primary sources. The scope of the course is global, not only analysing how modern sport spread from its British origins, but also how other nations embraced sport within their own cultural contexts. 

The ICSHC has the foremost historians in the field on its staff who publish critically acclaimed books and articles, are editors of leading journals, organise international conferences, and work as consultants for a variety of projects, including the major BBC radio series Sport and the British. While you will study full-time or part-time via online lectures, you will also be invited to attend seminars and conferences organised by the ICSHC and partnership groups such as the British Society of Sports History and the European Committee for Sports History. These partnerships, coupled with our academic team’s expertise and real-world experience, will provide you with a challenging and rewarding intellectual experience. You will be encouraged to become part of our wider research community at the ICSHC, both in person and through social media.  

Alongside gaining a deep understanding of the history of sport, you will develop skills in independent research by producing a sustained piece of writing and primary source analysis. As a graduate, you will be ideally placed for a career in sports writing, sport development, management, the media, teaching or to undertake PhD research. 

As this course is delivered online by distance learning, you will need access to the internet and a computer with software capable of reading and writing Rich Text Format documents, such as Microsoft Word, Appleworks or StarOffice.

Key features

  • You will explore and examine the process of sports development through a number of themes and lenses, including social and cultural history and the relationship between sport and politics.
  • The ICSHC is widely acknowledged as the leading centre for the study of sport history in the world, organising international conferences, working with major media outlets such as the BBC and housing sport-themed archives of national significance in DMU’s Special Collections.
  • Benefit from the ICSHC’s extensive network of sporting and cultural partnerships with local, national and global sporting bodies, including the British Society of Sports History, Musée National du Sport in France, the National Football Museum in Manchester, Leicestershire County Cricket Club and Leicester City Football Club.
  • This online distance learning programme caters for both full-time and part-time students, enabling you to study at your own pace with ongoing support from our expert academic staff.
  • You will learn from an expert teaching team, who are renowned in the field of the history of sport and who maintain links with major sporting organisations, professional associations and academic partners, ensuring that your learning is at the cutting edge of research in this area.
  • The focus on individual research means this programme provides ideal preparation for progression to PhD study.

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At DMU, we are committed to helping our graduates enhance their careers and personal development through further study.

Postgraduate Alumni Scholarship
Up to 30 per cent of tuition fees offered to DMU alumni who wish to continue their studies at DMU by enrolling on a Postgraduate taught course. For more information visit our Postgraduate Alumni Scholarship page.

Sports Scholarship
Apply for the DMU Sports Scholarship, worth up to £6,000.

More courses like this:

Management, Law and Humanities of Sport MA
Business Management in Sport MSc

  • UK
  • EU/International

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time.

Location: Online/distance learning

Start date: September 2021

Fees and funding: 

2021/22 tuition fees for UK students: £8,350 (full-time) per year, part-time fees will be £695 per 15 credits.

Find out more about course fees and available funding.

Additional costs: Here at DMU we provide excellent learning resources, including the Kimberlin Library and specialist workshops and studios. However, you should be aware that sometimes you may incur additional costs for this programme.

Duration: One year full-time, two years part-time

Location: Online/distance learning

Start date: September 2021

Fees and funding international: 

2021/22 tuition fees for EU and international students: £14,600 (full-time) per year, £7,300 (part-time) per year, or £1,215 per 15 credit module.

Find out more about course fees and available funding.

Additional costs: Here at DMU we provide excellent learning resources, including the Kimberlin Library and specialist workshops and studios. However, you should be aware that sometimes you may incur additional costs for this programme.

Entry criteria

Typical entry requirements 

You should have the equivalent or above of a 2:2 UK bachelor’s honours degree in a relevant subject such as history, other humanities-based subjects, sports studies or sociology.  

We welcome applications from a wide sector and all non-standard applications will be carefully considered.


Non-standard applicants will be invited to attend an interview.

International students

If English is not your first language an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with 5.5 in each band, or equivalent when you start the course is essential. English Language tuition, delivered by our British Council accredited Centre for English Language Learning, is available both before and throughout the course if you need it.

Structure and assessment

Please note, as this is a distance-learning course, the above COVID-19 message does not apply.


Course modules

Teaching and assessments




The course comprises of four taught modules, plus a 15,000 word dissertation on a subject of your choice selected in consultation with your tutor. 

Social and Cultural Themes of Sport
This module examines the development of sport and physical culture in Britain and continental Europe from the 1850s. This includes the emergence of amateurism and the on-going tension between the amateur ethos and the commercialisation of sport as well as the codification, modernisation and globalisation of sporting practices. Particular reference is made to the importance of social divisions, such as class, gender and race.

Sport, Politics and Policy
This module examines the relationship between sport and international politics, and looks at how government public policies have impacted on sport and explores identity politics in sport. The module is based around the history of mega-events such as the Olympic Games and also global sporting institutions like the International Olympic Committee and FIFA. In addition, sport in the Cold War is also examined.

Investigating Sports History: Research Methods
The primary aim of this module is to prepare students for their dissertation. It comprises two mandatory essays a Primary Source Analysis and a Dissertation Plan for which you will receive expert guidance, concerning historiography and methodology.

In addition, to help you specialise, you will choose one from the following:

Sport, Writing and History 
The module considers written social and cultural aspects of the representation of sport in Britain and in an international context. The central aim is to promote appreciation of an historical approach to imaginative literature and non-fiction including autobiography, sports journalism and popular writing. This will enable students better to identify and explain long-term changes in the representation of sport and recreation and its transmission to a wide range of readers and audiences. 

Football: Past and Present
This module explores the history of the game, from its origins, and its development from both domestic and international perspectives. It is arranged both thematically and chronologically and includes: the origins of football; the early professionalization and commercialisation of the game; the emergence of international football; football and the media; the football manager; football fans; the modernisation of football and global actors, such as FIFA. 

The History of Rugby
This module examines the social history of rugby, starting in the mid-19 century and the popularisation of the sport through Tom Brown’s Schooldays to the 1995 professionalisation of rugby union. Using film, oral history and primary sources, the module examines the development of the sport through the perspectives of class, gender and national identity. At each stage the history of the sport is related to the broader history of British society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Note: All modules are subject to change in order to keep content current.


The Sports History and Culture MA allows you to study at your own pace. Study materials for your coursework are accessed via Blackboard. For each module there is a weekly lecture plus on-line reading, in addition to the resources available via the DMU Library. There are module leaders for each module and they will provide input regarding your coursework. Module leaders will be available each week by email, phone or Skype. Alongside set assignments, you are encouraged to suggest your own proposals in preparation for writing your dissertation. 

For most modules, there are two types of assessments: a Critical Analysis Assignment and an Essay. The length of the Essay is 5,000 words; Critical Analysis Assignments are 2,500 words in length. For the module, Investigating Sport: Research Methods, you will write a Primary Source Analysis (3,000 words) and a Dissertation Plan (3,000 words). Deadlines will be set for each assessment.

Contact hours
This is a distance learning programme. Full-time students are expected to commit 35 hours a week of study to this programme, which will include reading lectures and secondary sources; writing assessments (critical analysis assignments or essays where appropriate for first three modules); engaging with research methods and historiography; undertaking primary source research and writing of dissertation.

We offer a flexible programme of study for part-time students.




Our staff are renowned in the field of the history of sport. Each one is personally involved in the teaching and supervision of MA students and can easily be contacted directly during your studies. The team, and some of their publications, include:

  • Professor Martin Polley: Moving the Goalposts: A History of Sport and Society since 1945; The British Olympics: Britain’s Olympic Heritage 1612–2012
  • Dr Neil Carter: The Football Manager: A History; Medicine, Sport and the Body: A Historical Perspective
  • Dr Heather Dicther: Heather L. Dichter and Andrew Johns, eds. Diplomatic Games: Sport, Statecraft and International Relations since 1945; Heather L. Dichter and Bruce Kidd, eds. Olympic Reform Ten Years Later.
  • Professor Matthew Taylor: The Leaguers: The Making of Professional Football in England, 1900–1939; The Association Game: A History of British Football

Facilities and features

Library and learning zones

On campus, the main Kimberlin Library offers a space where you can work, study and access a vast range of print materials, with computer stations, laptops, plasma screens and assistive technology also available. 

As well as providing a physical space in which to work, we offer online tools to support your studies, and our extensive online collection of resources accessible from our Library website, e-books, specialised databases and electronic journals and films which can be remotely accessed from anywhere you choose. 

We will support you to confidently use a huge range of learning technologies, including Blackboard, Collaborate Ultra, DMU Replay, MS Teams, Turnitin and more. Alongside this, you can access LinkedIn Learning and learn how to use Microsoft 365, and study support software such as mind mapping and note-taking through our new Digital Student Skills Hub. 

The library staff offer additional support to students, including help with academic writing, research strategies, literature searching, reference management and assistive technology. There is also a ‘Just Ask’ service for help and advice, live LibChat, online workshops, tutorials and drop-ins available from our Learning Services, and weekly library live chat sessions that give you the chance to ask the library teams for help.

More flexible ways to learn

We offer an equitable and inclusive approach to learning and teaching for all our students. Known as the Universal Design for Learning (UDL), our teaching approach has been recognised as sector leading. UDL means we offer a wide variety of support, facilities and technology to all students, including those with disabilities and specific learning differences.

Just one of the ways we do this is by using ‘DMU Replay’ – a technology providing all students with anytime access to audio and/or visual material of lectures. This means students can revise taught material in a way that suits them best, whether it's replaying a recording of a class or adapting written material shared in class using specialist software.


Campus Centre

The home of  De Montfort Students' Union, (DSU) our Campus Centre offers a welcoming and lively hub for student life. Conveniently located at the heart of campus, it includes a convenience store, a Subway and a Starbucks. Here you can find the DSU-owned charitable accommodation service Sulets and DSU’s shop, SUpplies, selling art supplies, stationery and clothing, and printing and binding services. The building is also home to the DSU officer team. 


Opportunities and careers

Winner: Best University Careers and Employability Service
NUE Awards, 2021
Learn more

DMU Global

This is our innovative international experience programme which aims to enrich your studies and expand your cultural horizons – helping you to become a global graduate, equipped to meet the needs of employers across the world.

Through DMU Global, we offer a wide range of opportunities including on-campus and UK activities, overseas study, internships, faculty-led field trips and volunteering, as well as Erasmus+ and international exchanges.

While overseas DMU Global opportunities are not currently possible, DMU will continue to review government advice and if travel is permitted, we hope to offer a small number of extra-curricular opportunities in the summer of 2021. 


Graduate careers

Many of our students have used their studies to develop careers in sports writing, sport development, management, the media and teaching. Others have gone on to undertake PhD research, pursue academic careers or publish their own work. A number of our students have undertaken a six-month paid internship with the history management team at the Adidas headquarters in Germany.

Graduate Katie, who is a PhD student at the ICSHC, said: “The MA strengthened my passion for research, and the support from the staff within the ICSHC gave me confidence in my ability to conduct this level of work. My MA dissertation work on the history of women playing American football demonstrated that there was an unknown history waiting to be discovered and I have continued this work through to my current doctoral studies.”

Student, Samantha Finch, hopes to pursue a career as a sports historian with a PhD at the ICSHC. She said: “The opportunity to attend conferences and events has allowed me to network with other sports historians and expand my knowledge in different areas of sports history. The support and advice I have received from the tutors, who are experts in their field, has been invaluable.”

DMU Open events

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Postgraduate events


Our dedicated Postgraduate Alumni Scholarship provides DMU graduates with a tuition fee discount of up to 30 per cent. The discount is available on selected full-time and part-time postgraduate taught courses running across multiple start dates in the 2021/22 academic session, with the first intake in September 2021.

The scholarship, based on academic achievement and merit, applies automatically to all DMU UK, EU and international students who are graduating in 2021.



The best way to find out more about DMU is to attend one of our postgraduate events to find out how our courses can enhance your knowledge and benefit your career path.

These events are a chance to learn more about our extensive careers and employability support, as well as fees and funding opportunities such as scholarships. They're also an opportunity to speak with current students and academics to really get a feel for studying your course. You can also take a tour of our beautiful campus and facilities from the comfort of home via our Virtual Open Day.


International Centre for Sports History and Culture

The International Centre for Sports History and Culture was established at DMU in 1996 and is today widely acknowledged as the leading centre for the study of sport history in the world, with the foremost historians in the field on its staff. Find out more.

Leicester City Football Club's Shinji Okazaki, Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy

Sports History academic enjoying Premier League success with Leicester City

Dr. Neil Carter, senior research fellow of the International Centre for Sports History and Culture (ICSHC), is now into his third season contributing to LCFC’s match day magazine. For each home league game, Neil writes a historically themed article within the magazine’s heritage section. Find out more