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Course content

Programme description

This programme is designed for students seeking a distinctive and unique perspective on the arts of the Middle Ages. Visual culture, throughout the medieval period, is addressed from a global viewpoint.

The programme combines study of the arts and their audiences in Europe (particularly France, Italy and the Netherlands) and Early Medieval Britain and Ireland with those in non-Christian cultures (the arts of Islamic World, South Asia, Japan and China). The main focus is on issues stemming from considerations of cultural exchange and trans-regional interaction.

One example is the practice of exchanging gifts, its traditions, diplomatic significance and intellectual consequences. The programme will also consider issues concerning pilgrimage and conquest, and will address questions arising from study of the rise of global trade and travel. These embrace such topics as:

  • material exchange
  • shared artistic vocabularies
  • pilgrimage
  • literature and its uses
  • artistic and technological exchange
  • the taste of the exotic

The programme includes the possibility of taking an internship in a museum, public institution or similar organisation. It aims to:

  • introduce you to research in medieval history of art at the highest level
  • open up issues of global cultural exchange for academic debate
  • draw attention to contemporary resonances stemming from study of medieval visual culture
  • prepare students for further scholarly research, or for a career working with medieval objects, images or works of art, in museums, libraries, archives, and other collections

Programme structure

This programme is taught through a combination of small-group seminars and tutorials, one-to-one supervision and private study. You will be examined through coursework and a dissertation.

Learning outcomes

The programme seeks to inform students from three vantage points:

  • an overview of the multiple cultures active within the medieval period
  • a more specific knowledge of the various points of intersection between these cultures
  • an in-depth, expertise in of one cultural area with special emphasis on its interactions with other areas

More specifically upon completion of the course, students should have an understanding of how the relationships and connections between cultures are formed and the way in which a specific culture perceived itself, presented itself, as well as how it was perceived abroad as evidenced both in text and images.

More broadly, it is expected students will gain a more considered understanding as to the question of influence within the context of cross-cultural exchange.

Finally, students are expected to gain an understanding of the theories and methodologies relevant to the study of medieval visual culture and inter-cultural studies.

Career opportunities

Should you be considering advanced study in art history, this programme provides the perfect preparation, as you will have gained both a strong foundation in the discipline and identified a particular area of interest. This study may, in turn, lead to an academic career, or a rewarding position in the cultural heritage field.


Visit the Art in the Global Middle Ages - MSc page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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