- Course dates
- The Warburg Institute
- Course duration
- 3 years (full-time); 6 years (part-time)
- Application deadlines
- Monday 31 July 2023 (September intake)
- Level of study
- Mode of study
- Full-time On Campus, Part-time On Campus, Full-Time Distance Learning, Part-time Distance Learning
PhD at the Warburg Institute
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.
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 special emphasis on the afterlife of antiquity.
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.
Subject Areas and Supervision
The Warburg Institute offers doctoral research supervision in the following areas:
- Renaissance Art, Architecture, and Visual Culture
- Cultural and Intellectual History
- Reception of the classics
- 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 below in the Supervisors section.
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 eight internationally renowned research institutes to form the UK's national centre for the support of researchers and the promotion of research in the humanities.
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 eight 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.
Looking ahead to your future career, a PhD at the Warburg will open many doors. Warburg alumni have continued their academic careers at institutions 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.
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.
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 Alessandro Scafi
Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Cultural History
History of utopias and political thought; Paradise; Sacred geography and pilgrimage; History of cartography; Dante and literature on journeys to the otherworld; Aby Warburg; Money design
Alessandro Scafi is the author of Mapping Paradise: A History of Heaven on Earth (London-Chicago, 2006). He has worked on various aspects of the history of cartography and of pilgrimage, Aby Warburg, the relationship between the Italian and Hungarian Renaissances and on Italian art and literature, in particular on Dante and Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini. He has also authored publications intended for a wider readership and audioguides for museums and exhibitions. He has been a contributor to a number of cultural broadcasts, newspapers and magazines. He has presented papers at international conferences and has given public lectures in many countries. Since 2011 he has run at the Warburg Institute (and since 2016 at the Italian Institute of Culture, London) with John Took a series of Dante public readings aimed at the general public.
Professor Bill Sherman
Director of The Warburg Institute
Medieval to Modern Book History; Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama; Travel Writing; Textual Transmission and the Theory and Practice of Editing; Word and Image; Magic and Science; History of Espionage and Cryptography
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 sits on many editorial and advisory boards: he was Associate Editor of Shakespeare Quarterly for more than a decade and is currently Series Editor (with Ann Blair) of Oxford-Warburg Studies and a member of the Advisory Boards for the Huntington Library Quarterly and British Art Studies. He was one of the judges of the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year prize for 2019 and Chair of the judges for the city of Hamburg's Aby Warburg Prize in 2020.
Professor Caspar Pearson
Director of Studies
Italian Renaissance art and architecture; Renaissance art theory; Architecture; Cities and urbanism; The works of Leon Battista Albert; The afterlives of Renaissance architecture in the modern and contemporary periods; The visual culture and iconography of the European Union
Caspar Pearson is Director of Studies. His work focuses on the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, as well as historiography and the afterlives of the Renaissance in later periods. He is particularly interested in images and writings regarding cities, in the relationship between representation and place, and in Renaissance theories of architecture and urbanism. He also writes about aspects of contemporary architecture and visual culture, especially in relation to the European Union. He joined the Warburg Institute in 2020.
Professor John Tresch
Mellon Professor in Art History, History of Science and Folk Practice
History of Science; Science, Technology, and the Arts; History of Philosophy/ Anthropology/Social and Human Sciences; Philosophy of Science and Technology
John Tresch’s research examines changing methods, instruments, and institutions in the sciences, arts, and media from the early modern period to the present, as well as connections among disciplines, practices, and cosmology. He has published two books on 19th century sciences and their connections to technology, arts, literature, and politics. From 2005-2018 he taught History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; he has held fellowships at the New York Public Library, the Institute for Advanced Studies, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, and has been visiting researcher at King's College London and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
Dr Lucy Nicholas
Lecturer in Latin and Ancient Greek
Neo-Latin; Neo-Greek; Classical Reception
Dr Lucy Rachel Nicholas is Lecturer in Latin and Ancient Greek. She is particularly interested in classical reception and projects which bridge the fields of Neo-Latin and early modern Reformation history. Her doctoral thesis entailed a translation and contextual analysis of a Latin treatise on the Eucharist by the sixteenth century English humanist and Cambridge classical scholar, Roger Ascham. Aspects of this have been published as ‘Roger Ascham’s Defence of the Lord’s Supper’, Reformation, vol. 20 (2015), 26-61 and Roger Ascham’s ‘A Defence of the Lord’s Supper’: Latin Text and English Translation (Brill, 2017). She has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume on Roger Ascham (Brill, 2020) and two Neo-Latin anthologies on Britain and Europe (Bloomsbury, 2020) with a third on the use of Neo-Latin in British universities due to be published soon. The Latin works of the Protestant circle at Cambridge University, including the verse and prose of Walter Haddon, represent the focus of her current research. She is a participant in the AHRC Baroque Latinity Network, and is the Latin Editor on the Thomas Nashe project. She has held fellowships at The Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Innsbruck (2019), The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC (2016) and Tel Aviv University, Israel (2014-15).
Dr Paul Taylor
Curator, Photographic Collection
Seventeenth-century Dutch art; Early modern art theory; Iconography; World art; Conservation and condition
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.
Dr Rembrandt Duits
Deputy-Curator, Photographic Collection
Art History; Art Markets; Textile and Costume History; Art and Social Status; Renaissance Material Culture; Renaissance Art Theory; Iconography and Iconographic Classification; Medieval and Renaissance Astrology; Survival of the Pagan Gods; Byzantine Art and Archaeology; Art Historiography
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.
Dr Sara Miglietti
Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Intellectual History
Renaissance intellectual history; History of political thought (ancient to modern); Renaissance translation & Translation studies; History of philosophy; Book history; History of medicine (esp. 16C-17C); Ecocriticism & Environmental humanities
Sara was educated in Italy, France and the UK, and taught for three years at Johns Hopkins University before joining the Warburg Institute in 2018. She is especially interested in intersections between moral and political thought, natural philosophy, and the history of medicine; the transmission, reception, and reuse of texts and ideas across geographical and chronological boundaries; and the afterlife of classical ideas in the early modern period. Sara studies these processes through a combination of close textual analysis, book history, and translation and reception studies, and with a special attention to the languages and contexts of early modern knowledge-making. Sara’s recent and ongoing projects include a book on early modern “climate theories” (currently under review) and a multi-year project on philosophical and scientific self-translation in Renaissance Europe.
Professor Thalia Allington-Wood
Lecturer in Renaissance and Early Modern Art History
Renaissance to early modern visual culture; Italian outdoor sculpture and designed spaces; Materiality and processes of making; Word and Image; Renaissance afterlives and visual historiography – particularly across photography and film; Exhibition history and methods of display; Environmental humanities; Cultural responses to natural disaster; The global Renaissance; Issues of gender
Thalia Allington-Wood is Lecturer in Art History c.1300-1700 and Convener of the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture at the Warburg Institute. She is particularly interested in the materiality and wider viewing environments of art objects in relation to their making and reception, canon formation, periodization and what has been termed the ‘visual historiography’ of art history, as well as issues relating to the environment and feminism. Trained with an English Literature degree from the University of Manchester and an MA and PhD (2019) in Art History at UCL, Thalia taught at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, UCL and Oxford Brookes before joining the Warburg Institute in 2021.
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.