Studying for a PhD at the Warburg Institute

The School of Advanced Study is the UK's national research hub in the humanities and offers a world-class research environment to our research students. We run a range of research training programmes, open to all postgraduate students, as well as an active public engagement calendar. The School is part of the AHRC-funded London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), through which we are able to offer a number of studentships in humanities disciplines. Our institutes also offer a range of bursaries and studentships for applicants on our programmes.


The resources of the Institute are especially geared to students interested in interdisciplinary study, including the Archive, Photographic Collection, and open-stack Library with its unique cataloguing system specifically designed by Aby Warburg to aid research. The Institute’s Library is classified as one of the ‘20 Libraries that Changed the World'. Through the Institute’s research projects, events and fellowship programmes and informal collegiate atmosphere, students have extensive opportunities for networking with the international community of scholars who use the Warburg Institute as their base. This significantly enriches Warburg students’ learning experience and can provide ideal networking connections for their future careers.


Investing in your future

Many Warburg alumni have continued their academic careers at Universities across the globe including the Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Notre Dame (US), Padua, UCL, Birkbeck, La Sapienza (Rome), Warwick, York and Yeshiva (New York). Our graduates have also gone into positions at cultural institutions such as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Bayerische Akademie, the National Library, Argentina, Sothebys, Arts Council England, the National Gallery, the V&A, and the Southbank Centre. 

More about the Warburg Institute

Subject Areas

The Warburg Institute offers doctoral research supervision in the following areas:

  • Art History and Iconography
  • Cultural History
  • Translation studies
  • Intellectual History
  • Art History
  • Renaissance Culture
  • History of Magic and Science
  • History of Islamic influence in the West
  • History of Cartography and Cosmography
  • Religious History
  • History of the Book 




Full-time study for the PhD degree entails three or a maximum of four years' independent research, culminating in the writing of a thesis of not more than 100,000 words. Part-time students complete the same programme in five, or a maximum of six years. After submission of the thesis, the student attends an oral examination conducted by an internal examiner, from the University of London, and an external examiner, normally from another British university.

There is no formal coursework, but PhD students are expected to participate in the weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from their second year onwards. In their first year they are required to attend weekly a class on Techniques of Scholarship; they may take language classes and other research training courses as necessary. They are encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.

The Institute will accept suitably qualified students provided that their topic can be supervised by a member of the academic staff. Broadly speaking the area covered is cultural and intellectual history in the period 1200–1700; specific research interests of members of staff can be found here. Current dissertation topics include: From Astrology to Aliens: A Shift in Early Modern Cosmology, The Collection of Sir Richard Ellys (1682-1742) in the Context of Eighteenth-Century Book Collecting, The Workshop and its Painters: Perugino and the Perugineschi in Florence and Perugia. 


How to Apply

Before agreeing to accept you, the School will require you to submit a research proposal, so it is worthwhile having this drafted ahead of a formal application. Guidelines on drafting your research proposal. Before submitting an application you are advised to contact a member of the Warburg academic staff who has interests in your proposed field of study to discuss your proposal. A list of academic staff and their interests can be found here.

Please apply by clicking the links to the appropriate online application form for the January 2020 session.

Location Mode Duration Apply
London Full Time 3 years Apply
London Part Time 6 years Apply
Distance Learning Full Time 3 years Apply
Distance Learning Part Time 6 years Apply


Candidates will normally receive an initial response to their application within 28 working days. Those who have been formally interviewed will normally be informed within one week as to whether they are to be offered a place.

Note: in accordance with regulations research students will be registered for the MPhil degree in the first instance. Upgrading to PhD will be considered in the second year for full-time students and in the third or fourth year for part-time students.



Dr Sara Miglietti

Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History


E-mail | Research Profile

Sara’s work is broadly concerned with early modern European intellectual history (c. 1500 – c. 1700) and the history of philosophy. She is especially keen to situate early modern intellectual cultures within a wider genealogy, by reconstructing their debts to ancient and medieval thought and their legacy on modern and contemporary cultures, but also by examining the circulation and reappropriation of texts and ideas across geographic and linguistic borders. Her interest in the transmission and reception of texts has led her to investigate phenomena such as censorship, annotation, authorial revision and self-translation, theoretically as well as historically. 


Sara was educated in Italy, France and the UK, and taught for three years at Johns Hopkins University (USA) before joining the Warburg Institute in 2018. Her teaching at the Warburg focuses on the history of philosophy (particularly ethics and politics) and Renaissance intellectual history. Sara is especially interested in the circulation, reception, and reuse of texts and ideas across geographical and chronological boundaries, and in the afterlife of classical ideas in the early modern period. Her publications include a genetic edition of Jean Bodin’s Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem, three edited volumes, and articles on various aspects of early modern European cultures. She is currently at work on two books, one on early modern climate theories and one on philosophical and scientific self-translation in Renaissance France.

Read more about Professor Sara Miglietti




Professor Charles Burnett

Professor of the History of Arabic/Islamic Influences in Europe


E-mail | Research Profile

Charles Burnett, MA, PhD, LGSM is Professor of the History of Arabic/Islamic Influences in Europe at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and Co-Director of the Centre for the History of Arabic Studies in Europe. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, and Fellow of the International Society for the History of Science. He is leader of the Humanities in the European Research Area project on Encounters with the Orient in Early Modern European Scholarship (EOS). 


His research centres on the transmission of texts, techniques and artefacts from the Arab world to the West, especially in the Middle Ages. He has documented this transmission by editing and translating several texts that were first translated from Arabic into Latin, and also by describing the historical and cultural context of these translations. Throughout his research and his publications he has aimed to document the extent to which Arabic authorities and texted translated from Arabic have shaped European learning, in the universities, in medical schools and in esoteric circles. Among his books in this subject area are The Introduction of Arabic Learning into England (1997), Arabic into Latin in the Middle Ages: The Translators and their Intellectual and Social Context (2009) and Numerals and Arithmetic in the Middle Ages (2010). Other interests include Jesuit education in Japan in the late sixteenth century, the use of Japanese themes in Latin drama in Europe in the seventeenth century and the use of music in therapy and in the Christian mission.

Read more about Professor Charles Burnett




Professor Bill Sherman 

Director of The Warburg Institute




Bill Sherman's research has been driven by a love of archives and other collections, and by an interest in how objects from the past come down to us and speak across time and space. Trained in literary criticism, textual studies and the theory and practice of editing, and drawn from his undergraduate years to textual representations of travel and magic, he has edited  several major plays from the Renaissance period, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Jonson’s The Alchemist. 


Professor Bill Sherman earned his BA from Columbia University and his MPhil and PhD from Cambridge. He was founding director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies at the University of York, and he moved to the Warburg from the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he served as Director of Research and Collections and head of the V&A Research Institute (VARI). Bill has held visiting positions at Caltech, Keio University and Queen Mary University of London and fellowships from the Folger, Huntington and New York Public Library. He was associate editor of Shakespeare Quarterly for more than a decade and sits on many editorial and advisory boards as well as a range of trusts and councils on both sides of the Atlantic. 

Read more about Professor Bill Sherman

Dr Paul Taylor  

Curator, Photographic Collection


E-mail | Research Profile 

Research interests:

Early Modern, History of Art, Europe; Seventeenth-century Dutch art theory; Iconography


Dr Paul Taylor studied for his BA at Cambridge University, where he read Philosophy (Part I) and History of Art (Part II). His PhD was also at Cambridge, supervised by Jean Michel Massing. He has worked in the Photographic Collection since 1991, and is one of the Editors of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. Paul also supervises PhDs, teaches (though not every year) on the MA course, and publishes research. In the past decade Paul has been invited to deliver lectures and to speak at conferences in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Poland, France, Switzerland, Italy, the United States, Mexico, Argentina and China.

Read more about Dr Paul Taylor


Dr Rembrandt Duits  

Deputy-Curator, Photographic Collection


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Rembrandt Duits joined the staff of the Warburg Institute in 1999. He is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database, the on-line resource of the Photographic Collection. Together with Dr François Quiviger, he teaches an option on Renaissance Material Culture in the Institute’s two MA courses. He is an editor of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 


Rembrandt Duits joined the staff of the Warburg Institute in 1999. He is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database, the on-line resource of the Photographic Collection. Together with Dr François Quiviger, he teaches an option on Renaissance Material Culture in the Institute’s two MA courses. He is an editor of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes.

Rembrandt studied Art History and Iconology at the University of Utrecht (MA, PhD). His research concerns the social and economic mechanisms behind Renaissance art and material culture, examining issues of value and values, fashion and taste, social class and social mobility, technique and innovation in the manufacture, sale, use and appreciation of artefacts between 1300 and 1600, with a particular focus on Italy and the southern Netherlands and the relationships between them. He has published on the representation of luxury fabrics in Renaissance paintings and more recently on collections of Byzantine icons in Renaissance Italy. His wider research interests include the archaeology of Byzantine churches and frescoes from the Venetian period on Crete (1211-1669), astronomical and astrological images in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, the afterlife of the pagan gods in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and the historiography of art history.

Rembrandt is a member of the advisory board of the journal Troianalexandrina. He won the Karel van Mander Prize for his PhD thesis in 2004.

Read more about Dr Rembrant Dutis 

Dr Alessandro Scafi  

Lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Cultural History


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Alessandro Scafi's research interests over the last years have firmly grounded in a common theme: the way in which spiritual beliefs not only shaped contemporary world views but were also fundamental to cultural expression and political activities.


His work to date has been in the following areas:

The notion of the earthly paradise: I investigated this topic whilst writing my doctoral dissertation on the notion of the earthly paradise from the Patristic era to the fifteenth century (Warburg Institute, 1999) and have since studied in more depth and over a wider chronological span whilst preparing my book Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth (London: British Library; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006; Winner: 2006 Awards for Excellence, Association of American Publishers; Italian transl. Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2007). I now intend to complete a nuanced exploration of the ways in which between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance Christian theologians have imagined the perfect condition of Adam and Eve before the Fall.

History of Cartography and Sacred Geography: I have a strong interest in the ways in which religion and geography intersect and interact, particularly in the context of medieval and early modern sacred geography. I maintained my interests in a number of related aspects of medieval and Renaissance cartography, including the shift from medieval to Renaissance mapping; musical iconography on medieval and Renaissance maps; the representation of non-Christian religious traditions; allegorical cartography in the early modern period. I have worked on the Hereford, Ebstorf and Psalter maps, the Fra Mauro World Map, the Kunstmann II Map.

Literature on journeys to the otherworld: I devoted particular attention to a little known text by Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, the Dialogus de somnio quodam, which I translated from Latin into Italian and for which I wrote a detailed commentary (Turin: Aragno, 2004). I have also a strong interest in Dante. I have been working in connection with the Centro Dantesco in Ravenna, participating in many of their initiatives and supervising theses on Dante at their library.

Medieval and Renaissance views of the temporal and spiritual powers and their history: I have researched a number of inter-related subjects including papal art patronage in Church Jubilee years and medieval Christian ideas about pilgrimage and death. I have received a grant (with Dr Avril Maddrell, University of the West of England, Dr Heather Walton, University of Glasgow and Dr Veronica Della Dora, University of Bristol) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (within the Religion and Society Scheme) for a research project on pilgrimage practices in different Christian traditions. I have focussed on pilgrimage through mental landscapes in the Roman Catholic tradition (at the monastery of Subiaco, Italy, in particular).

History of utopian thought and cultural interchange in the early modern age: I have worked on Filarete’s ideal city (Sforzinda) and on the relationships between Italy and Hungary in the Renaissance.

Aby Warburg: Warburg’s interest in musical iconography (a topic so far ignored by Warburg scholars) and Warburg’s involvement in World War I.

I have also authored publications intended for a wider readership,  for example a book on the graphic design and imagery of the European single currency (Eurodesign: Immagini, avventure e misteri della moneta europea, Milan: Bruno Mondadori, 2009), and a survey of paradise visions and journeys throughout the world (Alla scoperta del paradiso: Un Atlante del cielo sulla terra, Palermo: Sellerio, 2011). I have presented papers at international conferences and given public lectures in many countries, including Belgium, Finland, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, UK, USA.

Read more about Dr Alessandro Scafi

Dr Joanne Anderson 

Convener of the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture


E-mail | Research Profile

Joanne Anderson's research interests include Christian iconography and female patronage within family dynamics in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. More recently she has been working on secular prints and their relationship with wall paintings, and other display objects, in the chivalric culture of courtly residences. 


Joanne Anderson is Lecturer in 13th-17th Century Art History at the Warburg Institute. She is convener of the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture, contributing courses on Iconology and Renaissance mural painting (making and meanings). Joanne previously worked at Birkbeck, Sussex and Warwick as lecturer in Renaissance art history and was editorial assistant of The Art Bulletin 2011-13. She is a Research Associate at Sussex University, and was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick.

Joanne is currently preparing a book on the image of Mary Magdalen in northern Italy and the Alps during the long middle ages and its place in the wider Christian landscape. She is particularly concerned with the cultivation and circulation of visual types as linked to pilgrimage, artisanal practice and patronage in parish communities. Her interest in the Alps and its cultural production informs her new collaborative project on art, travel and geography, which borrow its title, Artistic Exchange in Unexpected Quarters, from Warburg's 1905 essay. 

To read more about Joanne, visit the Talking Humanities blog post: 'Picture this - Role of images in Society'

Read more about Dr Joanne Anderson

Professor Michelle O'Malley 

Acting Director and Professor of the History of Art


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Professor Michelle O'Malley holds degrees in the History of Art from Newton College of the Sacred Heart (BA), Boston University (MA), and the Warburg Institute, University of London (PhD). In 1998 she headed the Centre for Research in the History of Art, Sussex University, arriving from the position of the Head of Education for Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Her research interests include: Production, technique, authorship and quality, Historicising quality, Workshop practice, Period understanding of workshops and pictures, and Early modern material culture.


Professor Michelle O'Malley holds degrees in the History of Art from Newton College of the Sacred Heart (BA), Boston University (MA), and the Warburg Institute, University of London (PhD). In 1998 she headed the Centre for Research in the History of Art, Sussex University, arriving from the position of the Head of Education for Exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

She became the Director of the Centre for Arts Research Support in 2001 and was the Director of Research in the School of Humanities 2003 - 2008. From 2000-2014 she ran, with Evelyn Welch, the AHRC- and Getty-funded Material Renaissance Project and from 2008 to 2010 she held a Leverhulme Trust Fellowship award. Professor O'Malley was the Head of the Art History Department from 2010 to 2014 and In 2014-2015 was the Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the School of History, Art History and Philosophy. 2013 - 2016 she was the Director of Research Staff Development for the University of Sussex.In 2015/2016 she was a Research Fellow at the USA National Humanities Centre, in North Carolina.

Read more about Professor Michelle O'Malley

Dr Raphaële Mouren

Librarian and Reader



Research interests:

Raphaele's early research was on the transmission of classical texts in the Renaissance, with a focus on the history of philology and of the learned book in 16th century Italy. Whilst working on her PhD on the Florentine humanist Piero Vettori (1499-1585), Raphaele expanded her interests to the history of the book and libraries at that time, the transmission of Greek manuscripts from the Byzantine Empire, as well as the Republic of letters and the Cultural history of Florence and Rome. She is currently studying the history of the early modern printed book with a special interest in the relationship and collaboration between players of the book world, such as authors, editors, publishers, printers, translators, collaborators and patrons. Raphaele works from time to time on Greek palaeography and the history of transmission and Greek and Latin texts.


Dr Raphaële Mouren is Reader in History of the Book and History of Libraries, University of London, and Librarian of the Warburg Institute; co-Director, the Book and Print Initiative, School of Advanced Study; Deputy-Director, Centre Gabriel Naudé (Lyon), and president of the Association d’étude de la Renaissance, l’Humanisme et la Réforme. She studied at the Université de Provence (MA, Classics), at the École des chartes, Paris (archiviste paléographe) and the École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques, Lyon (Enssib, diplôme de conservateur des bibliothèques), and was a fellow at the École française de Rome for 3 years. She received her DEA and PhD from École pratique des hautes études, Sorbonne.


Raphaële was Head of the Department of Rare books and Special collections at Bibliothèque-Carré d’Art, Nîmes (1994-1995), Deputy Director of the Cité du livre–bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence (2000-2006) and Senior Lecturer in modern and contemporary history, Director of the Centre Gabriel Naudé, at Enssib, Lyon (2006-2013).


Read more about Dr Raphaële Mouren


Professor John Tresch

Mellon Professor in Art History, History of Science and Folk Practice



Research interests:

John Tresch is working on two books: The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science (Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2020), and Cosmograms: How to Do Things with Worlds (University of Chicago Press, under contract). He is also developing a research project on the history of ascetic practices and their relations to science, medicine, and religion.


John Tresch is Professor and Mellon Chair in History of Art, Science, and Folk Practice at the Warburg Institute. Trained in History and Philosophy of Science and in Anthropology, his work focuses on changing methods, instruments, and institutions in the sciences, arts, and media; connections among disciplines, cosmology, social order, and ritual; and shifting definitions of the rational and real. An ancien élève of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, he has held fellowships at the New York Public Library, Institute for Advanced Study, and Institute for Advanced Study and has been visiting researcher at King's College London and at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Read more about Prof John Tresch


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