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The Warburg Institute’s MA in Cultural, Intellectual, and Visual History (CIV) will provide you with a solid grounding in the cultural, visual and intellectual history of the Renaissance, the period from 1300 to 1650. The programme will equip you for interdisciplinary research with a particular emphasis on the reception of the classical tradition and its reinventions.

You will have the opportunity to study a wide range of topics and learn to interpret primary sources belonging to various disciplines stretching from the late Middle Ages to modernity. You will also be guided in the historically informed interpretation of images and texts. This unique programme of study examines the intertwined histories of art, philosophy, literature, science, and political and religious thought as these have developed, and as they have transformed Europe and the world.

For students who wish to undertake further study but cannot commit to a full-time master's degree, the Warburg Institute also offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Cultural, Intellectual and Visual History.

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Key Information

Degree overview

The programme combines the study of historical texts and their cultural contexts with an introduction to current academic debate and high-level linguistic, archival and research skills. You'll receive rigorous training in:

  • Intellectual and Cultural History of the Renaissance, dealing with such issues as the emergence of humanism; the image of Rome in early modern Italian city-states; the religious backdrop of the Renaissance, including papal politics and the Reformation; the Arabic translation of Greek texts, Islamic learning, and the Latin translation of Arabic texts; maps and visions of the earth and universe; images and practical methods of scholarship in various institutions; scholasticism and its challenges; political philosophy from Augustine and Aquinas to Bodin and Hobbes; traditions of utopian literature; alchemy, magic, and the roots of modern science; exploration, conquest, and colonialism and their impact on views of humanity; and much else.
  • Methods and Techniques of Cultural and Intellectual History. The programme will increase your understanding of methods for analysing literary, philosophical, religious and scientific texts of the early modern period, including close readings as well as biographical, political, and cultural contextualization.
  • Current scholarship and professional practice in these areas as well as new and emerging areas of research and scholarship.
  • Primary source materials in original languages and translation for high-level research

The programme is taught through classes and supervision by members of the academic staff of The Warburg Institute. The teaching staff of the Warburg Institute are leading academics in their fields who have published widely and are involved with research related to the topics they teach. Staff members’ expertise and current research feed directly into the teaching they provide, allowing you to develop the critical skills for academic research and creative independent projects.

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

How will this course benefit me?

• You'll have access to the best resources for the study of Renaissance art and culture in London. Our open-stack Library, Photographic Collection and Archive are of international importance in the humanities. One of 20 libraries that changed the world, and with over 300,000 specialist volumes, it serves as an engine for interdisciplinary research and study.

• This programme also provides unparalleled staff contact hours with internationally renowned academics and curators. With a combined 20 to 40 graduate students admitted each year to our MA courses, you will join a tight community of peers that benefit from close discussion with expert tutors and small-group teaching.

• You'll have the opportunity to join students from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of study, from art history to literature, philosophy, history, anthropology, classics, and more, making for a dynamic and interdisciplinary learning environment.

• Located in Bloomsbury, you'll be placed at the centre of London’s academic and cultural hub, and you'll benefit from visits and training sessions at neighbouring institutions including the British Museum, the Government Art Collection, the Wellcome Trust and the British Library, and further afield the V&A, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the Courtauld Gallery.  

• Warburg students are part of an illustrious tradition of international and interdisciplinary scholarship. Prominent scholars who have been associated with the Institute and Library include Aby Warburg, Ernst Cassirer, Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, Dame Frances Yates, Ernst Gombrich, Michael Baxandall, Svetlana Alpers, Carlo Ginzburg, Keith Thomas, Georges Didi-Huberman, Giorgio Agamben, Lisa Jardine, Anthony Grafton, Umberto Eco, and many, many more.

• Because we are a relatively small institute, we also are able to provide a welcoming and supportive academic community. Learning and research is a pleasure, and we are dedicated to ensuring that you feel at home and are able to advance in, and enjoy, your area of study.

Modules and structure

Modules are taught by academics at the Warburg Institute. While the temporal and conceptual anchor of the programme 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.

You'll take three core modules and two option modules. The core module on Language and Palaeographical Studies includes training at all levels in European languages which includes Latin, as well as palaeography training in one chosen language. Finally, you'll 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 your dissertation topic.

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 - 15,000 words

Mode of study

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


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)

  • Students will be able to choose from five or more modules on a specific topic. These vary from year to year, but have included such topics as “Renaissance Political Thought”, “Religion and Society in Renaissance Italy”, “Renaissance Sculpture”, “Cosmological Images” and others. 

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.

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.

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. 

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

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.

Careers and further study

In addition to key skills relating to scholarship and curatorial practice, you'll also acquire key transferable skills that will be useful in any workplace. These include:

  • Writing in different ways for different readerships
  • Researching effectively
  • Presentation skills
  • Problem solving and analytical skills
  • Critical reading and thinking
  • Time management
  • Project management and planning

Many Warburg alumni have gone on to pursue PhD study at the Warburg Institute or other leading Universities and cultural institutions across the globe, including the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, the Bayerische Akademie, the National Library (Argentina) and the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, UCL, Warwick, York, Princeton, Notre Dame, Yeshiva (New York), Basel, Copenhagen, Padua, and La Sapienza (Rome).

Other students successfully pursue careers in the worlds of publishing, libraries, editing, writing, and various domains of the cultural sector and other professions in the UK and elsewhere.

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.