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. Students will become part of an international community of scholars, working in a world-famous library. They will broaden their range of knowledge to include the historically informed interpretation of images and texts, art history, philosophy, history of science, literature and the impact of religion on society. During this twelve-month, full-time course, students will improve their knowledge of Latin, French and Italian 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. Research strengths include:  changes in philosophical trends between the Middle Ages and the Enlightenment; early modern material culture; and forms of religious non-conformism in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe. 

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 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. Although a qualification in its own right, the MA 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).

Entry requirements

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. A working knowledge of Latin and one European modern language are required[JF2] . All students whose first language is not English must provide recent evidence that their written and spoken English is adequate for postgraduate study.

Core modules

Image to Action | Dr Joanne Anderson

Religion and Society | Dr Alessandro Scafi


Optional modules (two to be chosen)


The History of the Book in the Renaissance | Dr Raphaële Mouren

Imagination, Fantasy and Delusion: Renaissance Philosophy and the Challenges of Representation | Dr Guido Giglioni

Italian Mural Painting and the Making of Visual Cultures, 1400-1500 | Dr Joanne Anderson

Maps and Mapping | Dr Alessandro Scafi

Renaissance Material Culture | Dr Rembrandt Duits

Sin and Sanctity in the Reformation | Professor Alastair Hamilton

Why choose this degree?

The Warburg Institute is one of Europe’s great interdisciplinary cultural institutions. Its combination of unique resources and leading academics provide a stimulating environment for students and visiting researchers. The Library with its mapping of human endeavours across its four main floors of open stacks – image, word, orientation and action – is widely recognised to be an incomparable resource for research because of the quality of its collections and because of its unique organisation.

In addition to the MA course programme, there is a varied and exciting range of public lectures and conferences held throughout the year at the Institute.

Located in Bloomsbury, we are just a few minutes away 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 Photographic Collection – the world’s largest collection of photographs of works of art organised by subject – has a unique iconographic classification and comprises the whole range of western visual imagery up to the eighteenth century. The Institute houses a vibrant and generous academic community – readers and researchers from all over the world visit on a regular basis.

"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. The fact that learning takes place in a single, contained but relatively large building allows an unusual frequency of contact and exchange with tutors and fellow students. All this creates a unique blend of academic rigour and conviviality that has made my experience of studying at the Warburg Institute very rewarding. Thanks to the unique system by which the Warburg Library is organised, I often find a book shelved among other texts on the same subject matter that I did not know existed. This has consistently prompted me to expand my researches far beyond the plan I had initially envisaged”.

A recent MA and current PhD student, Aldo Miceli