Postgraduate study

History PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: History

Research interests within History are extremely wide-ranging and include medieval culture, religion, gender, and law; historical theory; early modern witchcraft and the occult; the Italian Renaissance; North America from the colonial era; intellectual history from Machiavelli to Marx; genocide; Nazi and post-war Germany; Russia and the Soviet Union; the Cold War; and political, social, and cultural aspects of the history of China, Japan, Africa, India, Latin America and the Caribbean in the modern era.

In particular, we host expertise in:

  • Pre-modern and early-modern history: our research interests lie in the social, political, religious and cultural history of Europe – from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, with particular emphasis on England, France and Italy.
  • Modern British and Irish history: we have particular interests in early modern religion, belief and intellectual history (including the Scottish Enlightenment); social and political history; relations between Britain and Ireland; Irish migration; and international relations and warfare.
  • Modern European history: specialisms include 18th-century political and intellectual history; genocide; France; Germany; Russia and the Soviet Union; and Spain.
  • American history: our expertise includes revolutionary and early national America; the Civil War; US diplomatic history in the 19th and 20th centuries; politics in the 20th century; African-American history and the civil rights movement.
  • Global and Transnational history: we research African history; Caribbean and Latin American history; the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth; modern India, Pakistan, and China and Japan from the early modern period to the contemporary world, and the history of global connections and the movement of people, objects, images and ideas

You will be assigned two supervisors who will provide expert academic guidance on your chosen research topic. You will meet regularly to discuss your progress and research plans, as well as drafts of your thesis/dissertation chapters, conference papers and potential articles.

In addition to individual supervision, all our PhD students pursue an individually tailored programme of research and professional skills training agreed with their supervisors.

Our building offers you exceptional, modern facilities, resources and study spaces, in a stunning location.

Our postgraduate students have access to:

  • A dedicated study and computing lab with printing, copying and scanning facilities, overlooking the Meadows, one of the city’s best-loved green spaces.
  • Two research rooms, shared with undergraduates, housing some of our impressive book collections and a small selection of computing facilities.
  • A large common room overlooking the Meadows, shared by students and staff.
  • Our PhD study room. Subject to available desk space, you may apply after semester one of your first year.
  • A number of small-scale teaching rooms, well-equipped with facilities such as data projection and smart boards.
  • Exhibition areas, filled with artefacts and artwork from our collections.

All of our facilities are in addition to the multiple libraries and computer labs provided across the University’s estate. Many of our rooms overlook the Meadows.

Our location, right in the heart of Edinburgh, means you will be based close to the city’s cultural attractions and facilities, including a wealth of libraries, archives, museums and galleries, which provide uniquely rich support for the disciplines we teach.

Our PhD students develop a highly valued set of research and professional skills which enable them to go on to a wide variety of careers.

Many of our PhD students wish to pursue an academic career, and we have an excellent record of helping our students obtain research and teaching posts in universities in the UK and overseas.

PhD students also develop a portfolio of skills which are highly desirable across a wide range of sectors, from museums and heritage to the civil service, banking and the law.

A UK 2:1 honours degree in a relevant discipline and a relevant masters degree with an overall mark of at least 65%, or US GPA 3.4 or other international equivalent.

We may also consider your application if you have relevant professional experience; please check with your potential supervisor before you apply.

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
PhDHistory3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDHistory6 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:

  • Programme Director, Professor Diana Paton
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4578
  • Contact: Diana.Paton@ed.ac.uk
  • 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 two references with your application.

You must submit a research proposal demonstrating your knowledge of your field of research, which will be closely scrutinised as part of the decision-making process.

Two supervisors will be appointed to work with you on the project: it is a good idea to consult with prospective supervisors before applying.

If necessary start dates outwith September and January are available. Please begin your application using the closest date and contact the Graduate School to discuss the matter.

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

Further information

  • Programme Director, Professor Diana Paton
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 4578
  • Contact: Diana.Paton@ed.ac.uk
  • School of History, Classics & Archaeology
  • Graduate School Office, Room 2.29, William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG