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Course content

Has the end of the Cold War created a new world order? Has the fall of the Berlin Wall inaugurated a new Europe? Has 9/11 changed our world and the character of our democracies forever? Are we facing a ‘clash of cultures’ in the Middle East? Is American power declining and being replaced by new players on the world stage?

This MSc allows you to explore such questions critically and analytically whilst discovering how the recent past shaped the modern world. A specialised methodological and historiographical course will help you appreciate the distinctiveness of contemporary history, its use of radio, television, film, and internet-based sources such as Wikileaks and its methodology. This rigorous skills training will be supplemented by a variety of topical, spacialised options, covering virtually every distinctive approach to history (e.g. political, social, and economic) and every region on the globe, underlining the increasing globalisation of our recent past. You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the increasingly global experience of humankind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

The MSc makes use of Edinburgh’s unique archival and bibliographical resources – The National Archives of Scotland, The National Library of Scotland, the University’s library and archives – and is enriched by the city’s key role in current British politics.

Programme structure

The compulsory courses are Historical Methodology; Historical Research: Skills and Sources; Introduction to Contemporary History.

Option courses previously available include: Contemporary Scotland; Gender, Crime and Deviancy: Britain, c1860–1960; History as Romance, Profession, Critique: Theory and Scholarship in the West, 1835–1985; The British at War, 1939–1945; The Politics of Historiography in Post-Colonial South Asia; Cinema and Society in South Asia, 1947 to the Present; Thinking the Twentieth Century: Hannah Arendt and the Breakdown of European Civilisation; Revolutions in Twentieth Century Europe; Civil Wars in Twentieth Century Europe; Genocide in the Contemporary World; The Closest of Enemies: Cuban-US Relations, 1895-2014; The United States and the Vietnam War; The United States and the Cold War.

Career opportunities

Our students view the MSc and a graduate degree from Edinburgh as an advanced qualification valued and respected by employers. Those students interested in long-term academic careers consider the programme as preparation for a PhD.

The combination of skills training, specialised seminars, and independent research provides you with transferable skills that will be beneficial whatever path you choose. Graduates work in related areas such as museums, policy think-tanks, national and international civil services, non-governmental organisations, galleries, libraries and historic trusts. Others enter business, media, public administration or marketing.


Visit the Contemporary History - MSc page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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