MA in Cultural and Intellectual History 1300 – 1650

The Warburg Institute MA in Cultural and Intellectual History 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. 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. For further details on the research interests of teaching staff please click here.


This MA programme aims to:

Act as an introduction to interdisciplinary research in the cultural and intellectual history of Western Europe from the late Middle Ages to the early modern period, with particular attention on the legacy of classical antiquity.

Cover aspects of cultural and intellectual history seldom studied in any depth in undergraduate courses, for example Renaissance philosophy, iconology, humanism and history. The main emphasis is on Italy, but consideration is also given to the rest of Western Europe.

Provide students with a solid grounding in current scholarship in the areas covered, largely through the study of primary source material in the original languages.

Provide training in reading medieval and Renaissance languages, particurlaly Latin, Italian and French, in Latin and Italian palaeography, and in the description of manuscripts and early printed books. 

Equip students to undertake research, and to give them experience of such research through the writing of a dissertation. The MA is a qualification in its own right but it also serves as an introduction to further research. Many students have progressed to PhD study at the Warburg and elsewhere and many are pursuing successful academic careers in institutions across the globe including at the Universities of Cambridge, Copenhagen, Notre Dame (US), Padua, UCL, Birkbeck, La Sapienza (Rome), Warwick, York and Yeshiva (New York).

The normal minimum entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree from a British university, or an equivalent qualification from a foreign institution, in any discipline in the humanities which is related to the course. 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. Applications should be submitted by: 31 August 2018.


Core modules

Core modules explore European early modern social and religious life, intellectual ideas and visual culture. Students develop skills in the analysis of primary texts, images and key secondary material in the field of cultural and intellectual history. An introduction to central debates on the writing of cultural and intellectual history involves students with methods of engaging with the historical record.

Optional modules (two to be chosen)

Artistic Intentions 1400 to 1700

The History of the Book in the Renaissance

Islamic Authorities and Arabic Elements in the Renaissance

Music and the Arts in the Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures

Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern

Renaissance Material Culture

Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation

Why choose this degree?

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.

“The course gave me the opportunity to consolidate my research skills, attend interesting classes and meet a wide range of academics in an inspiring multicultural environment at the Warburg Institute.”

Valentina Cacopardo, class of 2017


“I was very pleasantly surprised to find a degree of support and encouragement that I had never experienced before in academic studying; neither in Italy nor in the UK … There is a unique blend of academic rigour and conviviality that has made my experience of studying at the Warburg Institute very rewarding.”

Aldo Miceli, class of 2015