Postgraduate Students

Programme description

The rigorously taught MSc in Intellectual History studies the ideas and intellectual backgrounds of a wide range of societies and cultures.


Ideas and patterns of thought always have been, and continue to be, subject to historical change. Ideas alone do not make history, but they shape the ways in which humans think, feel and act. They enable actions as much as they can prevent them. Few of them are timeless but some of them have very long (and multiple) lives. In many cases, the study of ideas brings us closer to the biographies of single historical actors, or groups; ideas can be linked to the most important events in history or silently sleep between book pages before being awakened decades or centuries later. They are key for the understanding of political systems and the cultural patterns of civilisations. The ways in which they change, and the reasons why they do so, make for fascinating study and intellectual history is now one of the most exciting and dynamic areas of historical enquiry.

In this comprehensive programme you will be introduced to a wide range of methodologies which may include the ‘Cambridge School’ and the emerging methodology of ‘global intellectual history’. Courses at the School - which can be complemented by a limited number of courses from other departments – can range from medieval patterns of thought to political analysts of 20th century totalitarianism. You will also explore significant episodes and themes in intellectual history. Our courses can change from year to year but in previous years our courses included areas such as the Enlightenment, medieval debates about marriage, and modern African political culture.

Breadth of expertise

The School of History, Classics and Archaeology has particular strengths in the intellectual history of classical Greece and Rome, Early Modern Europe and the Enlightenment, and the modern intellectual history of Europe, America, Asia and Africa. The range of expertise available in the School and in the wider University gives this Intellectual History programme a rare combination of geographical as well as chronological breadth and depth. Students also benefit from the ability to take courses offered by other Schools and Departments in the University, notably Philosophy, Politics, Science Studies, Geography, Divinity and Law.

International reputation

Studying in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, you will benefit from small group seminars and individual supervision from nationally and internationally renowned historians.