Apply online Download brochure

The Warburg Institute MA in Cultural, Intellectual and Visual 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. The programme combines the study of images and texts, art history, philosophy, the history of science, European literature and the impact of religion on society and is offered full-time or part-time.

Working with text in its original language is an important part of this programme and we welcome those with language skills and those with interests in learning languages. During this twelve-month, full-time course, students will improve their knowledge of classical and/or European languages 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 and are involved in research related to the topics they teach. 

 

Contact the institute

If you have specific questions about the MA or MRes degree, please contact warburg@sas.ac.uk or the admissions office.

Degree Overview

The MA is characterized by four distinguishing features: interdisciplinary openness, emphasis on linguistic competence, a view of scholarship as a process of apprenticeship and the belief that a most rigorous training is necessary to acquire all the specific skills required for doctoral research.

The interdisciplinary ethos of the MA course is a natural expression of the very character and history of the Warburg Institute and its Library. Aby Warburg, the founder of the Institute and the Library, is regarded as one of the fathers of the modern field of cultural studies, a legacy that is reflected in both his works and the library he established (which is organized according to his way of dividing the fields of knowledge according to disciplinary intersections: art, literature, religion, philosophy, science and history). 
Developing a reading knowledge of languages is key to acquiring a more nuanced perception of the historical, cultural and national differences underlying established disciplinary divisions.

In addition to the MA course programme, there is a varied and exciting range of public lectures and conferences available to students at the Warburg Institute. They have the opportunity to consult and exchange ideas with the community of academics who use the Warburg as their base and provide access to networks which will support them in their future profession.

Located in Bloomsbury, we are at the centre of an academic and cultural hub and students can benefit from many other research institutions, including the British Library, the British Museum and the other research institutes of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

The MA programme aims to:

  • Introduce current methodological and theoretical approaches to understanding the cultural, intellectual and visual history of Western Europe.
  • Encourage understanding of key elements of the history of philosophy, science, literature, the arts and visual culture, rooted in the Renaissance and the early modern period but embracing material from the middle ages to the advent of modernity.
  • Develop the language and palaeographic skills necessary to conduct research in these areas, particularly skills in Renaissance Latin.
  • Provide training in reading and understanding primary sources.
  • Equip students with the skills to design research questions, structure and undertake research, use supervision effectively, and produce sustained pieces of academic writing.

The MA is a qualification in its own right but it also serves as preparation for further research. Many students have progressed to PhD study at the Warburg and elsewhere and many are pursuing successful academic careers in institutions across the globe including at the Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Notre Dame (US), Padua, UCL, Birkbeck, La Sapienza (Rome), Warwick, York and Yeshiva (New York).  For further details on the research interests of teaching staff please visit our Research and Teaching page.

Modules and structure

Modules are taught by academics at The Warburg Institute. While the temporal and conceptual anchor of the MA is the Renaissance, its overall scope stretches from the medieval era to modernity. It emphasises the history of philosophy, ethics, religion and politics along with the cultural, intellectual, and visual dimensions of civilisations, both drawing on and foregrounding the interdisciplinary strengths of the Institute.

All students take three core modules and two option modules. The core module on Language and Palaeographical Studies includes training at all levels in a range of languages which can include French, German, Italian and Latin.  Finally, students have the opportunity to conduct an independent research project through the dissertation, which is completed in the summer term under the guidance of a supervisor from The Warburg. 

The programme is supported by an unassessed Methods and Techniques of Scholarship module that will introduce you to the nuts and bolts of the historiography and methods of scholarly work in early modern cultural history. It will prepare you, through a term of workshops, to choose, develop, and research the topic that forms the subject of your dissertation.

The course is examined as follows:

  1. Reviving the Past – 4,000 word essay
  2. Art History and Renaissance Culture: Image to Action – 4,000 word essay
  3. Language and Palaeographic Studies - examinations in palaeography and languages
  4. Two optional modules – 4,000 word essays
  5. Dissertation - 20,000 words

 

Core modules

Core modules explore European early modern social and religious life, intellectual ideas and visual culture. Students develop skills in the analysis of primary texts, images and key secondary material in the field of cultural and intellectual history. An introduction to central debates on the writing of cultural and intellectual history involves students with methods of engaging with the historical record.

The programme is supported by an unassessed Methods and Techniques of Scholarship module which aims to introduce students to the nuts and bolts of scholarly work in late medieval and early modern cultural history (broadly conceived), and to prepare them to undertake original research in this field. 

  • Reviving the Past
  • Art History and Renaissance Culture: Image to Action
  • Language and Palaeographical Studies

 

Option modules (two to be chosen)

  • Artistic Intentions 1400-1700

  • Cosmological Images: Representing the Universe

  • Curating Renaissance Art and Exhibitions

  • The History of the Book in the Renaissance

  • Islamic Authorities and Arab Elements in the Renaissance

  • Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures

  • Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern

  • Renaissance Material Culture

  • Renaissance Painting and the Workshop Tradition

    *Please note that the availability of option modules varies each year dependent on student demand*

See the Warburg website for more details on modules and the selection process.The availability of optional modules will depend on student numbers (a minimum of three students required per option).

 

Lecturing and teaching

The normal format for classes is a small weekly seminar, in which students discuss texts both in their original languages and in translation. 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.

Because of our relatively small cohort, students have frequent contact, formal and informal, with their teachers (an average of ten to twelve contact hours per week in terms 1 and 2).

Assessment

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 the end of 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. 

Mode of Study

This course is studied on-campus in London for 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time.

Find out more about the modules and structure of the course in the course handbook.

 

About the institute

The Warburg Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for studying the interaction of ideas, images and society. It is dedicated to the survival and transmission of culture across time and space, with a special emphasis on the afterlife of antiquity. Its open-stack Library, Photographic Collection and Archive serve as an engine for interdisciplinary research, postgraduate teaching and a prestigious events and publication programme.

The National Gallery houses the UK’s national collection of over 2,300 Western European paintings from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Its collection contains famous works, such as The Wilton Diptych, Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks, van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus and Turner’s Fighting Temeraire. The gallery’s aim is to care for the collection, to enhance and to study it, while encouraging access to the pictures for the education and enjoyment of the widest possible public now and in the future.

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. The course requires a working knowledge of a European modern language and knowledge of Latin or a willingness to study it. All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study. Applications should be submitted by 31 August 2019.

How to apply

You can apply online via our online applications system.

Apply

For more information on how to apply, click here.

Fees, funding and scholarships

Find out more about tuition fees here.

The School of Advanced Study has a range of funding opportunities for home, EU and international applicants. Find out more about funding opportunities here. If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline.

The Warburg Institute has a range of bursaries available to both home/EU and international students who have been offered a place to study at the Institute. The Institute also has an excellent record in securing external funding, and is happy to work with prospective students on funding applications. More information on the Warburg bursaries.

The American Friends of the Warburg Institute Scholarship is available for citizens of any country in north America and is judged on academic merit at undergraduate level, with an outstanding mark achieved in the final-year project/dissertation. Find out more about the American Friends scholarship.

The Peltz Scholarships are open to students who have applied to study on either of the Warburg Institute’s MA Programmes and who are self-funded and domiciled in the UK or European Union (EU), judged on exceptional quality and academic merit.  More information on the Peltz Scholarships.

 

What our students say

The course gave me the opportunity to consolidate my research skills, attend interesting classes and meet a wide range of academics in an inspiring multicultural environment at the Warburg Institute.

-Valentina Cacopardo, 2017

I was very pleasantly surprised to find a degree of support and encouragement that I had never experienced before in academic studying; neither in Italy nor in the UK … There is a unique blend of academic rigour and conviviality that has made my experience of studying at the Warburg Institute very rewarding.

- Aldo Miceli, 2015 

Apply online 

Apply online 

Apply to study the MA in Cultural and Intellectual History 1300–1650