Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: History

Why choose History at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're one of the largest history departments in the UK, which ensures you'll have a wide range of courses to choose from to shape the programme that you study. We cover an enormous range of subjects: from Charlemagne to Stalin, from the Industrial Revolution to the Chinese economic miracle, from political radicalism to the history of natural disasters.

  • You'll be taught by some of the world's leading historians who have won a range of international prizes, produced award-winning publications and are often quoted in the media as experts on a wide range of issues. This ensures you'll have the skills and knowledge to graduate with a more nuanced view of the world and to pursue a broad range of career paths.

  • Edinburgh is a historic city where the earliest human habitation is traced back to a Mesolithic campsite dated to c.8500 BCE. It’s therefore the perfect place in which to study the past. As a student here, you will walk through cobbled streets that have been home to some of the most famous figures of our past and present, including Mary Queen of Scots, Adam Smith, Alexander Graham Bell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and more recently, JK Rowling.

  • As well as having its own rich history, Edinburgh is home to some of the best facilities in the UK for studying and researching history, including the National Library of Scotland and the National Records of Scotland. These resources and archives feature prominently in our teaching, allowing you to get acquainted with the city and to use the events that have happened here to enhance your general understanding of history.

  • A history programme at Edinburgh is not just about studying the past. Its about combining academic study with employability to develop the skills you need, both to become a successful historian and to excel in any career after you graduate. We offer skills courses in each year of study to support your successful progress and to help you hone the transferable skills that employers value.

Study abroad

The combination of old buildings, unique customs and cutting-edge research makes the University a dynamic and exciting place to study.

Thomas Wrench 3rd year MA (Hons) History & Politics
Thomas Wrench 3rd year MA (Hons) History & Politics

History enables us to understand how the world has developed and become what it is today. Studying events and issues from the past also affects the way we see the present and future.

At Edinburgh our courses cover a wide range of different periods, from early medieval history to the contemporary world. Geographically, we explore Britain, Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia.

We’ll also give you the opportunity to choose from a broad range of historical themes, including political history, cultural history, economic and social history, environmental history and gender history.

Whichever path you choose, you’ll be able to deepen your exploration of subject areas that you have studied previously and will have the opportunity to explore something completely new.

Year 1

History courses you take in Year 1 are broad survey courses that will emphasise processes and patterns within broad chronological and geographical frameworks, designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.

You will also take a skills course that engages with broader questions about the nature of history as an academic discipline and the methods and skills required for historical research. The chronology, geography and themes you cover will depend on the programme you study.

Year 2

You will continue to study a range of histories, deepening your knowledge of particular geographical regions, chronological periods, and themes.

Year 2 history courses currently cover various periods and themes in American, Asian, African, European, British, and Scottish history, although what you will study will vary depending on your chosen programme.

You will also study a further skills course and choose from a wide range of option courses.

Year 3

You will study additional skills courses that reflect on history as a discipline and introduce you to the practice of historical research.

You will also choose from a range of specialist courses, allowing you either to focus on a specific aspect of history or to continue with a broad curriculum.

The courses on offer are diverse and vary each year but current courses cover subjects as broad as the French Revolution, the Third Reich, gender in the Middle Ages, the American Civil War, and Chinese economic history since the Opium War.

Year 4

You will study further specialist courses. One or more of these, depending on your programme, will be a special subject studied across the year.

Again, courses available do change each year but current subjects include the Italian Renaissance, the Vietnam War, the Scottish Enlightenment, and Gandhi.

You will also engage in independent research to produce a dissertation on a topic substantially of your own devising.

Are there additional costs?

Your choice of dissertation topic may require fieldwork. Some additional costs may be associated with this fieldwork.

Our facilities

The School of History, Classics & Archaeology is located in the heart of the city, within the University's Central Area.

Here you’ll have access to a range of study spaces, our Student Research Room, research collections and an undergraduate common room.

You’ll also have access to the University’s libraries and computing facilities.

You’ll be taught in a range of lecture theatres and seminar rooms within the School and across the University’s Central Area.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad through the Erasmus scheme and through the University's international exchange programme.

How will I learn?

In Years 1 and 2 you will be taught by lectures and tutorials. Years 3 and 4 involve more seminars and independent study, with individual supervision of the final year dissertation.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by exams, coursework and, in some courses, your participation in tutorials.

You will gain the intellectual and transferable skills that employers are looking for. You will learn to develop intellectually rigorous arguments, based on sound independent research and analysis. You will be able to compile and critically evaluate large amounts of complex and conflicting evidence, and to formulate and present your views coherently, both orally and in writing.

The research and analytical skills history students develop can be used in any research-based career.

They can also be applied to careers including journalism, museum and heritage work, public relations, the diplomatic service or teaching.

Previous graduates have gone on to pursue a wide variety of careers, in the media, politics, civil service, heritage, law, business, and finance, to name just a few.