The Warburg Institute MA in Cultural and Intellectual History aims to equip students for interdisciplinary research in the late medieval and early modern period, with a particular emphasis on the reception of the classical tradition. Students will become part of an international community of scholars, working in a world-famous library. They will broaden their range of knowledge to include the historically informed interpretation of images and texts, art history, philosophy, history of science, literature and the impact of religion on society. During this twelve-month, full-time course, students will improve their knowledge of Latin, French and Italian and will acquire the library and archival skills essential for research on primary texts.

Although it is a qualification in its own right, the MA is also designed to provide training for further research at doctoral level. It is taught through classes and supervision by members of the academic staff of the Institute and by outside teachers.

The teaching staff are leading academics in their field who have published widely. Research strengths include:

  • Changes in philosophical trends between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment
  • Early modern material culture, and
  • Forms of religious non-conformism in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. 

> Course Handbook


Entry requirements

The normal minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree from a British university, or an equivalent qualification from a foreign institution, in any discipline in the humanities which is related to the course.

A working knowledge of Latin and one European modern language are required. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study.


Structure and Assessment

The course begins in early October with a Foundation Week, in which students are introduced to the main topics and themes to be covered over the year. In addition to the core and optional modules offered in the first and second term, there is a regular series of classes throughout the three terms on Techniques of Scholarship, which include description of manuscripts, palaeography, printing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, editing a text, preparation of dissertations and photographic images. Some of these classes are held outside the Institute, in locations such as the British Library or the Wellcome Library.

Students are given the opportunity to examine early printed books and manuscripts. Reading classes in Latin, Italian and French are provided to help acquire the necessary familiarity with those languages as written in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Students are also encouraged to attend the weekly research seminar and any of the other regular seminars held in the Institute that may be of interest to them. The third term and summer are spent in researching and writing a dissertation, under the guidance of a supervisor from the academic staff.

All students take two compulsory core courses and two optional subjects. The core courses are taught in the first term and will vary from year to year. The optional subjects are taught in the second term and the options available vary each year. The courses listed below are those from which students may select in 2016-17. Note: The availability of optional modules will be dependent on student option selections.

Core modules

  • Image to Action | Dr Joanne Anderson
  • Religion and Society | Dr Alessandro Scafi

Optional modules (two to be chosen)

  • „„The History of the Book in the Renaissance | Dr Raphaële Mouren
  • Imagination, Fantasy and Delusion: Renaissance Philosophy and the
  • Challenges of Representation | Dr Guido Giglioni
  • Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures, 1400-1500 | Dr Joanne Anderson
  • Maps and Mapping | Dr Alessandro Scafi
  • Renaissance Material Culture | Dr Rembrandt Duits
  • Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation | Professor Alastair Hamilton


Teaching, learning and assessment 

The normal format for classes is a small weekly seminar, in which students usually discuss texts in their original languages. In most courses, students also give short presentations of their own research, which are not assessed.

The emphasis is on helping students to acquire the skills necessary to interpret philosophical, literary and historical documents as well as works of art. Each compulsory or optional module will be assessed by means of a 4,000 word essay to be submitted on the first day of the term following that in which the module was taught. A dissertation of 18,000–20,000 words, on a topic agreed by the student and supervisor, has to be submitted by 30 September.

The course is examined on these five pieces of written work, and on a written translation examination paper in the third term. Students are allocated a course tutor and, in addition, are encouraged to discuss their work with other members of the academic staff. Because of our relatively small cohort, students have unusually frequent contact, formal and informal, with their teachers.

The mode of study is 12 months full-time.


English Requirement

All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence (gained in the last two years) that their written and spoken English language is adequate for postgraduate study. This requirement is specified in order to ensure that the academic progress of students is not hindered by language difficulties and that students are able to integrate socially while studying and living in the UK.

Further information can be found on the English language competency section of our Entry Requirements page.


Course Aims

The MA programme aims to:

  • Bring together the art historical and scholarly traditions of the Warburg Institute with the practical experience and skills of the National Gallery to provide an academic programme which will equip students to become academic art historians with serious insight into the work of a great museum, or curators with the research skills necessary for museum work.
  • Provide linguistic, archive and research skills to enable graduates of the programme to research, catalogue and curate works of art held in collections of national and international standing.
  • Enable students to understand the general issues involved in curating, conserving and presenting paintings in a museum or gallery context.
  • Build understanding of and ability to comment on primary source materials, both visual and textual.
  • Enable students to read critically academic papers and publications in at least two European languages, and to undertake scholarly research at a high level and write up the results in an accurate and rigorous way.
  • Help students to acquire a familiarity with the principal sources of information in a variety of historical disciplines. 


What our students say

The course has been a wonderful experience. The classes, such as Iconology, Palaeography, Material Culture and Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation, have broadened my knowledge, whilst the language skills I’ve developed have enabled me to pursue topics that I would never have been able to tackle before. The National Gallery module has been an invaluable experience, which not only allowed us to get a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at such a prestigious museum but also to learn about curatorial practice. The other students, all from different backgrounds, have become great friends and helped create a stimulating learning environment. The staff, both at the Institute and at the National Gallery, have been extremely supportive and generous with their time making this experience a truly unique one.

- A recent MA student, Aldo Miceli from Italy, describes his experience of the MA course.