Postgraduate study

Contemporary History MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Contemporary History

Has the end of the Cold War created a new world order? Has the fall of the Berlin Wall inaugurated a new Europe? Has 9/11 changed our world and the character of our democracies forever? Are we facing a ‘clash of cultures’ in the Middle East? Is American power declining and being replaced by new players on the world stage?

This MSc allows you to explore such questions critically and analytically while discovering how the recent past shaped the modern world. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the increasingly global experience of humankind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. A specialised methodological and historiographical course will help you appreciate the distinctiveness of contemporary history; its use of radio, television, film, and internet-based sources such as Wikileaks; and its methodology. This rigorous skills training will be supplemented by a variety of topical, specialised options, covering virtually every distinctive approach to history (e.g. political, social and economic) and every region on the globe, underlining the increasing globalisation of our recent past.

The MSc makes use of Edinburgh’s unique archival and bibliographical resources – the National Archives of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland, the University’s library and archives – and is enriched by the city’s key role in current British politics. Additionally, with our close association to the Centre for the Study of Modern and Contemporary History, Edinburgh is a wonderful environment for contemporary scholarship.

The programme combines methodological and substantive courses with intensive student participation. The analysis of diverse primary source material is essential, as is situating research findings within an established historiographical tradition. You will complete three compulsory courses and select a further three options from a wide range on offer. You will also complete a dissertation.

The compulsory courses are:

  • Historical Methodology
  • Historical Research: Skills and Sources
  • Introduction to Contemporary History

Option courses previously offered include those listed below. Option courses change from year to year and those available when you start your studies may be different from those shown in the list:

  • Conservatism in the United States, c.1930-c.1990
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Themes in American Historiography
  • The United States and the Cold War
  • War and Identities in Twentieth Century Britain and Ireland
  • History as Romance, Profession, Critique: Theory and Scholarship in the West, 1835 to 1985
  • Cinema and Society in South Asia, 1947-Present
  • Genocide in Contemporary History
  • Thinking the 20th Century - Hannah Arendt and the breakdown of European Civilization
  • Citizens and Subjects: concepts of citizenship in modern African intellectual history
  • The Germans and the East: Myth, Migration and Empire 1795 - 1970
  • The British Empire in Political Thought
  • Revolutions in Modern Europe
  • Gender, Crime and Deviancy: Britain c. 1860-1960

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScContemporary History1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScContemporary History2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

This is an advanced qualification, valued and respected by employers and also suitable as preparation for a PhD and a long-term academic career. The combination of skills training, specialised seminars, and independent research provides you with transferable skills that will be beneficial whatever path you choose.

Graduates work in related areas such as museums, policy think-tanks, national and international civil services, non-governmental organisations, galleries, libraries and historic trusts. Others enter business, media, public administration or marketing.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, US GPA 3.4 or other international equivalent in a subject related to this programme

Relevant experience, or professional or other qualifications will also be considered.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScContemporary History1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScContemporary History2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG
Programme start date Application deadline
9 September 2019 31 July 2019

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Please read the application guidance for more information:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG