register interest (oct 2022)

The MA in Cultural, Intellectual and Visual History introduces students to the interaction of ideas, images, and social history. It gives students the skills to study the survival and transmission of culture across time and space, with an emphasis on the afterlife of antiquity. All of our graduates are awarded a University of London degree.

Contact the institute

If you have specific questions about this degree, please make an enquiry.


register your interest Download brochureMake an enquiry

Degree overview

The course 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. 

This course is also available as a Master of Research (MRes) degree, suitable for those students wishing to undertake a substantial piece of original academic work, and as a Postgraduate Certificate, ideal for those who wish to undertake further study but can not commit to a full time master's degree. 

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.

To find out more about the course, download our programme specification

How will this course benefit me?

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.

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 will include Latin and either Italian or French. 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: terms 1 and 2

  • Reviving the Past
  • Art History and Renaissance Culture: Image to Action
  • Language and Palaeographical Studies
  • Methods and Techniques of Scholarship (unassessed)

Option modules: term 2 (two to be chosen)

  • Classical Disorders: Architecture, Painting and the Afterlives of the Renaissance
  • Cosmological Images: Representing the Universe
  • Global Objects in Western Modern Discourses
  • Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern
  • Renaissance Painting and the Workshop Tradition
  • Renaissance Political Thought from Erasmus to Campanella
  • Religion and Society in Italy

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

Dissertation: term 3

The opportunity to conduct an independent research project utilising the world-renowned resourced at the Institute undert the guidance of an academic from the Warburg.


Degree structure

Full time (one year)

Three core modules  (one unassessed), Latin, your chosen European language (Italian or French) and palaeography, and two option modules chosen from a range of topics, plus a dissertation of 20,000 words.

Part time (two years)

Year 1: two core modules (one unassessed), one option module, and Latin and Paleography;

Year 2: one core module and one option module, and your chosen European language (Italian or French).

You will work on your dissertation over both summers, with one-to-one supervision during each summer.

Part time plus (three years)

Year 1: one core module, one option module and your chosen languages. Part one of the unassessed Techniques of Scholarship core module;

Year 2: one core module, palaeography and techniques of scholarship part two. You will be allocated your dissertation supervisor and begin work on it;

Year 3: one option module and your dissertation. Students will work on the dissertation over the summers of Years 1 and 2, with one-to-one supervision during each summer.

Mode of study

12 months full-time | 24 months part-time | 36 months part-time plus

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 entrance requirement is a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree from a university in the UK, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

We will consider applications from candidates who do not meet the formal academic requirements but who offer alternative qualifications and/or relevant experience. Applicants are not required to have a law degree nor a professional qualification in law. 

English is the language of instruction and applicants are required to demonstrate an appropriate level of proficiency.

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.

Find out more about our entry requirements. 

How to apply

For more information on how to apply, including deadlines and the documentation you will need to provide on the application form, visit our How to Apply page.

Fees, funding and scholarships


The School of Advanced Study is a unique environment in which to study the humanities.  The School strives to reflect the latest developments in thinking across the humanities disciplines it supports and to ensure that its programmes reflect this.   We are also aware that the needs of our students are constantly changing.  With that in mind, the School continually reviews the its programmes and, as part of that process, reserves the right to alter or discontinue them. 

We assure you that we carry out these exercises at no detriment to any enrolled students. Students enrolled on any programme that we discontinue will be able to complete that programme within a reasonable timeframe and with all the necessary resources at their disposal. The School will communicate any anticipated changes with students as early as possible.