Undergraduate study - 2019 entry

Subject area: History

Why choose History at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're ranked in the world's top 20 universities for history in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018.

  • We cover every period of history from the early Middle Ages to the late 20th century, and all major geographical regions of the world – Europe, Britain and Ireland, North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

  • Beyond the University and its own libraries, there are further resources available to you in Edinburgh for historical research, including the National Library of Scotland, National Museum of Scotland and National Records of Scotland.

  • The University has one of the largest and most diverse history departments in the UK, with more than 50 academic staff at the cutting edge of the discipline.

  • You will be studying in a city steeped in history – a UNESCO world heritage site that has been home to famous historical figures including Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sophia Jex-Blake, Julius Nyerere, and Muriel Spark.

Study abroad

I chose to study at the University because of its world-class status, its record for graduate employability, and for the opportunity to be taught by leading and prolific academic experts.

Thomas Wrench 4th year MA (Hons) History & Politics
Thomas Wrench 4th 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. You will have the opportunity to choose from a broad range of historical themes, including political history, cultural history, economic and social history, gender history, intellectual history, and environmental history.

Whichever path you choose, you'll be able to deepen your understanding 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 wide chronological and geographical frameworks, from the early Middle Ages to the present day, and are designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.

With the exception of Economic History students, 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.

You will also choose from a wide range of option courses.

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, European, British, Scottish, and global history, although what you will study will vary depending on your chosen programme.

With the exception of Economic History students, 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 previously courses have covered subjects as diverse 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 longer special subject studied across the year.

Courses available can change each year but previously have included 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 such as transport, accommodation and photocopying.

The overall cost to you will depend on the topic you chose and where your fieldwork takes place. If you study abroad in Year 3, your costs will vary by country.

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 in Year 3, either by applying for the School's Erasmus exchange agreements, or for of the University’s many international exchanges beyond Europe. These cover practically every continent on the globe, from North and South America to Australasia and Asia.

These are unique opportunities to immerse yourself in different university systems and cultures.

How will I learn?

In Years 1 and 2 formal teaching involves lectures and tutorials. Lectures are delivered by experts in the field, and provide an overview of key themes, concepts and questions relating to the week’s topic.

In tutorials the emphasis is on student discussion in small groups. Some courses also incorporate small student study groups, which help you learn from each other in preparation for tutorials.

You will also study independently, with a focus on reading in preparation for 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?

Our courses use a variety of assessment methods to help you develop transferable skills and improve your performance. You will be assessed by exams, coursework (which may include essays, primary source analyses, oral presentations, podcasts and online discussion forums) and, in some courses, your participation in tutorials and seminars.

You will gain key transferable skills that employers are looking for. In particular you will learn to develop intellectually rigorous arguments, based on sound independent research and analysis.

You will also learn to compile and critically evaluate large amounts of complex and conflicting evidence, and to formulate and present your views coherently and cogently, 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.