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Undertaking doctoral research allows you to develop in-depth knowledge, while making a meaningful contribution to your chosen field.

With guidance from our expert supervisors, you'll carry out extensive independent research culminating in a thesis of up to 100,000 words. Broadly speaking the area covered by the Institute’s expertise is cultural and intellectual history in the period 1200–1700, but there are a range of specific research interests covered by members of staff who currently offer supervision.

This degree presents the opportunity to gain expertise in your area of interest while also honing a range of transferable skills. On completing this course, you'll be well prepared for specialist career paths both within academia and beyond.


Subject Areas and Supervision

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 Cartography and Cosmography
  • Religious History
  • History of the Book 

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.

The Warburg 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 School of Advanced Study

The School of Advanced Study at the University of London brings together nine internationally renowned research institutes to form the UK's national centre for the support of researchers and the promotion of research in the humanities.

Course Structure

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, you will attend 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 you will be expected to participate in a weekly seminar on Work in Progress and to present a paper every year from  your second year onwards. In your first year you are required to attend a weekly class on Techniques of Scholarship. You are also encouraged to participate in the regular seminars held at the Institute during the academic year.

Opportunities and Facilities

The resources available at 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.

More broadly, the School of Advanced Study itself offers excellent resources for inter-disciplinary research by bringing together nine internationally renowned research institutes that support the promotion of research in the humanities. 

The School of Advanced Study is also home to Senate House Library, the central library for the University of London. The art deco building, which the School and Senate House Library are part of, is a literary landmark in the heart of Bloomsbury, located next to the British Museum. The Library occupies the fourth to the nineteenth floors of the building,  with a range of historic library reading rooms and collections. 

Much like the Warburg Institute itself, the School offers a broad range of events, seminars and conferences that we encourage our research students to engage with.

Our research students can also take advantage of a varied and challenging research training programme, with general research skills training and research methodologies courses provided through the School and subject-specific training provided within the institutes.


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, and the Southbank Centre. 

How to Apply

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. You can find contact details and areas of expertise from our academic staff here.

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.

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


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

Fees and Funding


We offer online guidance and information regarding our tuition fees, payment and fee status.


Our students fund their studies in a variety of ways including scholarships, bursaries and fellowships, as well as government loans and postgraduate loans.

We offer a range of bursaries and studentships for applicants on our programmes, including Institute and course specific scholarships.

The School is part of the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP), through which we are able to offer a number of studentships in humanities disciplines.


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 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


E-mail | Research Profile

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


E-mail | Research Profile

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


Professor Michelle O'Malley 

Acting Director and Professor of the History of Art


E-mail | Research Profile 

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

Dr Richard Gartner

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

Richard Gartner



Research interests:

Metadata in theory and practice; Digital humanities; Digital curation and librarianship; Digital iconography


Richard has worked as both a practising librarian and an academic throughout his career and combines both functions to this day. He served for sixteen years as the Pearson New Media Librarian at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where he was responsible for the Library's first digitisation projects, the introduction of the Internet into the library and its first CD-ROM networks. He followed this by six years as a lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London before joining the Warburg as its first Digital Librarian.

His primary research is in the theory and practice of metadata, particularly in digital libraries.

Read more about Dr Richard Gartner.