MA in Garden and Landscape History

Learn how to acquire knowledge from a range of sources including history, horticulture, architecture, garden archaeology and other subjects, to develop an appreciation of the study of garden history as a cultural discipline.

Course details

The MA in Garden and Landscape History introduces students to key historical approaches, sources and methods relevant to the study of gardens and landscapes throughout history. You will learn how to acquire knowledge from a range of sources, including history, horticulture, architecture and garden archaeology, in order to develop an appreciation of the study of garden history as a cultural discipline. You will be able to appreciate differences in garden-making over time and in different countries, from the sixteenth century to the present day in Britain, Europe and America. The emphasis will be on design and management, ownership and the culture from which these examples have evolved.

This degree will also provide an academically rigorous environment in which students will learn a range of academic research and writing skills. Students will be encouraged to attend and take part in the IHR seminars on the History of Gardens and Landscapes, which are held on some Thursdays at 6pm. Students may also attend any of the IHR’s short training courses free of charge.

Course structure

The course is run on a full-time (one year) basis. For all students, core teaching (Modules 1 and 2) takes place on Wednesdays from 10am to 4pm during the autumn and spring terms of the first year. The summer term will be dedicated to dissertation research and writing (Module 3). Students also attend 7 additional sessions for dissertation preparation on Wednesdays 4-5.30pm at the end of the autumn term and the beginning of the spring term. Please get in touch if you would like to see the full timetable.

Students must complete Modules 1, 2 and 3 to be awarded the full MA. However, there are options available for flexible study:   

  • Module 1 can be undertaken as a standalone unit leading to a Certificate in Garden and Landscape History.
  • Modules 1 and 2 can be taken leading to a Diploma in Garden and Landscape History.
  • Please enquire for further details.


Module 1: Theory and Practice in Garden and Landscape History (60 credits)

The first term will showcase the huge variety of resources available to study garden and landscape history from archaeology, architecture, cartography, horticulture, manuscripts, paintings and other works of art, from the medieval period to the present day. A key aspect of Module 1 is the opportunity to consider in detail theoretical concepts underpinning garden history and their practical application.

Sessions include:

  • What is garden history?    
  • Picturesque theory
  • Conservation theory and practice
  • Politics and gardens
  • Italian Renaissance philosophy and garden design
  • Arts and crafts philosophy and garden design


  • One 2,000-word essay on a conceptual issue eg. picturesque theory, politics, conservation theory.
  • One 5,000-word report on a garden's history to assess the student's report writing ability and application of research skills.

Module 2: Culture and Politics of Gardens (60 credits)

This module will look at historiography, theory, the connection between culture and politics in landscape-making and the expansion of the skills of module 1 across regional boundaries.

For instance, the influence in Britain of the Italian Renaissance’s new ideas on garden making, including architecture, sculpture and hydraulic engineering; iconography in gardens and landscapes; formality in garden-making as an indicator of the power of the owner, from the sixteenth century onwards, as in France; different aspects of the ‘natural’ garden from the eighteenth century onwards; conflict between the ‘natural’ and the formal in the nineteenth century between William Robinson and Reginald Blomfield in Britain; gender and garden making; and shifting boundaries between architect, landscape architect and plantsman relating to the status of those designing gardens and landscapes in the 21st century.

These sessions aim to:

  • Develop students’ knowledge and understanding of gardens and landscapes in different countries
  • Develop students’ critical analysis and judgement
  • Demonstrate the importance of context and the relationship of garden and landscape history to other disciplines such as literature, social history, film and visual media and the history of ideas

Students will choose one unit from each group:

Group A

  • Evolution of gardens in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • Nineteenth-century gardens

Group B

  • Eighteenth-century gardens
  • Gardens of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries

    Please note: Optional units are subject to change. Please consider this a guide only.


    • One 5,000-word essay (for option A or B).
    • One Powerpoint file and 500-word handout (for option A or B).
    • One 2,500-word dissertation proposal.

    Module 3: Dissertation (60 credits), 15,000 words

    The MA dissertation provides the opportunity to design and implement a small research project drawing on the skills and methods learnt during the course, or to undertake an investigative project which offers new light on an aspect of garden history.

    MA in Garden & Landscape History Handbook 2019-20

    MAGLH Handbook 2019-20 PDF 945.37 KB