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Masters Degrees (Astrology)

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The MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is a unique course which deals with the ways in which human beings attribute meaning to the planets, stars and sky, and construct cosmologies which provide the basis for culture and society. Read more
The MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is a unique course which deals with the ways in which human beings attribute meaning to the planets, stars and sky, and construct cosmologies which provide the basis for culture and society.

Course Overview

The MA focuses on Cultural Astronomy and Astrology. We define Cultural Astronomy as the study of the application of beliefs about the stars to all aspects of human culture, from religion and science to the arts and literature. It includes the new discipline of archaeoastronomy: the study of astronomical alignments, orientation and symbolism in ancient and modern architecture. Astrology is the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and events on earth. We therefore examine the relationship between astrological, astronomical and cosmological beliefs and practices, and society, politics, religion and the arts, past and present.

The MA is a hybrid of history and anthropology. As historians we pay attention to documentary evidence but are heavily influenced by recent trends in anthropology; this means that modern western culture can be subjected to the same academic scrutiny as pre-modern or non-western cultures, and by questions such as the requirement for the scholar or researcher to engage in practice as part of their study of practice.

The words astronomy and astrology have distinct meanings in modern English. Astronomy is the scientific study of the physical universe. Astrology is more akin to a study of the psychic universe. The split between the two, though, is a feature of modern western thought.

Both words are of Greek origin: astronomy means the ‘law’ of the stars, while astrology is best translated as the ‘word’, or ‘reason’, of the stars, so in the classical world their meanings overlapped. To the Greek scholar Claudius Ptolemy, writing in the second century CE, there were two forms of astronomy: one dealt with the movement of the stars, the other (which we would call astrology) with their effects or significance. From then until the 17th century, the two words were interchangeable. In ‘King Lear’, Shakespeare had Edgar refer to his brother Edmund, who had been posing as an astrologer, as a ‘sectary astronomical’.

Other terms Shakespeare might have used included mathematician (the astronomer Johannes Kepler studied astrology as part of his duties as ‘Imperial Mathematician’) or Chaldean (both astrology and astronomy were commonly traced to Chaldea, another term for Mesopotamia). Neither do most non-western countries employ different words to distinguish traditional astronomy from astrology.

In India both are jyotish, the ‘science of light’. In Japan they are onmyōdō, the ‘yin-yang way’. In China, the observation and measurement of celestial phenomena was inseparable from their application to human knowledge which, in turn, was divided into two, li, or li fa, calendar systems, and tian wen, or sky patterns. All cultures have ways of visualising the stars, many without a single name for the practice. The title of the MA, whose subject matter includes the beliefs and practices of pre-modern and non-western cultures, as well as contemporary worlds, is therefore necessarily ‘Cultural Astronomy AND Astrology’.

Modules

Students take six modules, and then write a 15,000-word dissertation based on independent research. There are three compulsory modules and students then take one ‘pathway’ of two optional modules, and any third optional module.

Assessment

Each module is assessed by 5,000 words of written work or the equivalent. For example, some modules require one short essay of 1,000 words and a longer, 4,000-word essay, normally due in week 10 to 12. Assessment requirements, lengths and due dates can vary from module to module. The shorter essays may be a critical review of a piece of writing, or be picked from a choice of two titles. For the longer essays there is a wider choice of titles. In some modules, the title and subject is negotiated with the course tutor. Each is then returned with comments from either one or two tutors, and students are offered the chance to have a tutorial via Skype in order to discuss the comments.

Students who take the entire MA then go on to write a 15,000-word dissertation based on a piece of independent research on a topic chosen by the student in discussion with the module tutor, and other appropriate members of staff. Each student is allocated a supervisor who can guide them through the research and writing process.

Career Opportunities

Most of our students take the MA as an end in itself because they love the subject. Some go on to study for PhDs, either with us, or at other universities.

The relationship between all academic work and non-academic employment is always based on potential employers’ appreciation of the generic skills acquired in MA study. Typically, these include critical thinking, communication skills, time-management and the ability to take on and complete independent projects. The latter quality is particular prized by many employers. One graduate is teaching at undergraduate level while another, a school teacher, was awarded a promotion and pay rise on her graduation.

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The MRes Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (CAA) is programme that is divided into a 60 credit taught part and a Dissertation of 120 credits amounting to up to 30,000 words in total. Read more
The MRes Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (CAA) is programme that is divided into a 60 credit taught part and a Dissertation of 120 credits amounting to up to 30,000 words in total. The taught element is done via distance-learning, through the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture and amounts to 3 taught modules chosen from the collection of modules on the programme, with a requirement that one of the choices be the Research Methods module (Researching Contemporary Cosmologies).

Course Overview

Since the programme is online there is no residency requirement and Students work from home.

Applicants who do not already have both a knowledge of the subject area and research skills at postgraduate level. Applicants without such a background should apply for the MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology.

The MRes in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is a unique course which deals with the ways in which human beings attribute meaning to the planets, stars and sky, and construct cosmologies which provide the basis for culture and society.

Key Features

The course, quite simply, is unique. It is the only accredited university degree in the world to explore the human relationship with the sky through history and culture. We cover a wide range of material, from the ancient work to the present, and across cultures, and give students the chance to undertake individual research projects.

All our teaching staff are experts in their fields and either have PhDs or are undertaking doctoral research. Course material is on the web and we teach using webinars – live video-conferencing sessions, and all seminars are recorded.

Assessment

Each module is assessed by 5000 words of written work or the equivalent. For example, some modules require one short essay of 1000 words and a longer, 4000-word essay, normally due in week 10 - 12. Assessment requirements, lengths and due dates can vary from module to module. The shorter essays may be a critical review of a piece of writing, or be picked from a choice of two titles. For the longer essays there is a wider choice of titles. In some modules, the title and subject is negotiated with the course tutor. Each is then returned with comments from either one or two tutors, and students are offered the chance to have a tutorial via Skype in order to discuss the comments.

Students then go on to write a 30,000 word dissertation based on a piece of independent research on a topic chosen by the student in discussion with the module tutor, and other appropriate members of staff. Each student is allocated a supervisor who can guide them through the research and writing process.

Career Opportunities

Most of our students study with us as an end in itself because they love the subject. Some go on to study for PhDs, either with us, or at other universities.

The relationship between all academic work and non-academic employment is always based on potential employers’ appreciation of the generic skills acquired in MA study. Typically, these include critical thinking, communication skills, time-management and the ability to take on and complete independent projects. The latter quality is particular prized by many employers. One graduate is teaching at undergraduate level while another, a school teacher, was awarded a promotion and pay rise on her graduation.

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Research profile. The MSc by Research in History is aimed at students who have a specific topic of interest into which they wish to conduct their own research. Read more

Research profile

The MSc by Research in History is aimed at students who have a specific topic of interest into which they wish to conduct their own research.

The programme provides structured research training while at the same time enabling you to pursue a research project that you design yourself, in consultation with supervisors. It serves as both a self-contained research degree and a preparation for further study for the PhD degree.

History at Edinburgh is one of the largest and most distinguished departments of its kind.

Research interests within History are extremely wide-ranging and include medieval culture, religion, gender, and law; historical theory; early modern witchcraft and the occult; the Italian Renaissance; North America from the colonial era; intellectual history from Machiavelli to Marx; genocide; Nazi and post-war Germany; Russia and the Soviet Union; the Cold War; and political, social, and cultural aspects of the history of China, Japan, and India in the modern era.

In particular, we host expertise in:

  • Pre-modern and early-modern history: our research interests lie in the social, political, religious and cultural history of Europe – from the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, with particular emphasis on England, France and Italy.
  • Modern British and Irish history: we have particular interests in early modern religion, belief and intellectual history (including the Scottish Enlightenment); social and political history; relations between Britain and Ireland; Irish migration; and international relations and warfare.
  • Modern European history: specialisms include astrology and belief; Renaissance Venice; 18th-century political and intellectual history; genocide; France; Germany; Russia and the Soviet Union; and Spain.
  • American history: our expertise includes revolutionary and early national America; the Civil War; US diplomatic history in the 19th and 20th centuries; politics in the 20th century; African-American history and the civil rights movement.
  • Asian and African history: we research African history; the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth; modern India, Pakistan, and China and Japan since the early modern period.

Programme structure

The programme consists of two compulsory training courses common to all History MSc degrees, two directed reading and research courses and a dissertation on a topic chosen by the student.

Two supervisors are assigned at the outset of the course for each student's dissertation.

This programme requires completion of a long dissertation of 30,000 words. Students will additionally audit two training courses Historical Research: Skills and Sources and Historical Methodology.

Training and support

You will be assigned two supervisors who will provide expert academic guidance on your chosen research topic. You will meet regularly to discuss your progress and research plans, as well as drafts of your thesis/dissertation chapters, conference papers and potential articles.

In addition to individual supervision, you will also have access to research training and postgraduate seminars.

Facilities

Our home is the William Robertson Wing, an A-listed building on the southern edge of Edinburgh’s Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Designed by the distinguished 19th-century architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson, the building – part of the University’s Old Medical School – has recently been refurbished to an exceptional standard, providing state-of-the-art facilities for research, teaching and study.

Graduate students are able to use two further large School study and resource rooms, which are open to all staff and students. There is access to lockers equipped with laptop charging facilities as well as standard lockers.

The building is wireless enabled and includes state of the art teaching rooms, meeting rooms, a common room, a refreshment area, and open social/breakout areas.

Learning outcomes

The programme will enable you to:

  • develop a specific body of advanced knowledge
  • become competent in advanced historical methodology and in the evaluation of evidence through the close study of relevant primary and secondary sources
  • become familiar with historiographical debates and modes of historical explanation
  • develop rigorous historical argument
  • conceive and execute a coherent project in historical research and writing

Career opportunities

The concentration on research under supervision makes this degree suitable for those contemplating doctoral study, whether in our own School or elsewhere, and many who take this degree follow that route.

But undertaking substantial and independent research and a writing project is equally excellent preparation for a wide variety of careers.



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