Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Contemporary History MSc

Awards: MSc

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Contemporary History

Why has the end of the Cold War not inaugurated a more harmonious world order? Do we see the continuation of old rivalries or the birth of a fundamentally different world? Do we still live in a globalised world or are we facing nationalist retrenchment? Is liberal democracy in crisis? Is US power declining and being replaced by new leaders on the world stage?

How will I learn?

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 (for example, 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:

  • take two compulsory courses
  • select a further four course options from a wide range on offer
  • complete a dissertation

The compulsory courses are:

  • Historical Methodology
  • Historical Research: Skills and Sources

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. Nevertheless, these give you a good idea of the range of courses we offer:

  • The Cold War in Latin America
  • The Dark Side – Tourism and Difficult Heritages
  • An Uncertain World: The West since the 1970s
  • The United States and the Vietnam War: Origins and Repercussions
  • The Sixties in the United States
  • African Print Cultures: Newspapers and their Publics in Modern African History, c. 1880 to 1975
  • Islamic History
  • Global Environmental History
  • Black Activism in Britain since 1800
  • An Age of Great Dreams: The 1960s in the United States
  • Empire or Continent?: British Foreign Policy in the Era of the Great War
  • 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 British Empire in Political Thought
  • Revolutions in Modern Europe
  • Gender, Crime and Deviancy: Britain c. 1860-1960
  • Contemporary Scotland
  • Gender in the History of the Americas
  • A Cultural History of Photography
  • China's foreign and security policy: a twentieth-century perspective
  • Cinema and Society in Britain
  • The Closest of Enemies: Cuban-American Relations 1898-2014

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
  • historic trusts

Others enter business, media, public administration or marketing.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, a minimum US 3.25 GPA or international equivalent in a subject related to this programme.

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

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

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
  • your tuition fee 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
  • William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines. We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please be aware that applications must be submitted and be complete, i.e. all required documents uploaded, by the relevant application deadline in order to be considered in that round. Your application will still be considered if you have not yet met the English language requirement for the programme.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024/25:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 05 December 2023 18 January 2024
2 02 February 2024 14 March 2024
3 01 April 2024 13 May 2024
4 05 June 2024 08 July 2024

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
  • William Robertson Wing
  • Teviot Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AG