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Intellectual History (MSc)

Course Description

Programme description

Ideas and patterns of thought always have been, and continue to be, subject to historical change. The ways in which they change, and the reasons why they do so, make for fascinating study.

In this comprehensive programme, you’ll be introduced to the principal methodologies of intellectual history and become familiar with some key theoretical areas, such as Begriffsgeschichte and the Cambridge School.

You will also have the opportunity to explore particular themes in intellectual history, such as Epicureanism, mind-body dualism in early modern thought, the Scottish Enlightenment and the intellectual history of the American revolution, developing a detailed understanding of their origins, historical circumstances and implications.

By the end of the programme you’ll have the tools you need to appreciate the interdependence of text and context and the importance of ideas in past and present, as well as the ability to research effectively and present your work with confidence.

Programme structure

You will be assessed through coursework and a 15,000-word dissertation.

You will take two compulsory courses:

Historical Methodology
Historical Research: Skills and Sources

You will select four option courses (or two courses and supervised reading) from choices that may include:

Epicurus and Epicureanism
Intellectual History of the American Revolution
Man and the Natural World in the Enlightenment
Religion and the Enlightenment: the Birth of the Modern
The Enlightenment: Questions of Geography
The Science of Man in the Scottish Enlightenment
Mind and Body in Early Modern Philosophy
Thinking the 20th Century
A Crucible for Change: Enlightenment in Britain 1688–1801

Learning outcomes

Students are expected to achieve several aims, which will be assessed primarily by essays and a dissertation, such as:

knowledge of the chief methods of practising intellectual history
a detailed understanding of certain major episodes in intellectual history
an appreciation of the interdependence of text and context, and of the importance of ideas in past and present

A wide variety of intellectual skills are promoted through seminars, discussions and advanced study, encouraging the development of the:

ability to develop tight and coherent arguments both orally and on the page
capacity to read texts critically and sensitively, evaluating their arguments as well as situating them in their practical and intellectual contexts
appreciation of a variety of approaches to intellectual history
ability to cross-disciplinary boundaries, for example, between philosophy, science and history

Career opportunities

Many students are attracted to the MSc Intellectual History as an advanced qualification that will be valued by a range of employers.

Others are interested in pursuing long-term academic careers and see the MSc as preparation for a PhD, while some are considering an academic career as a possibility, and use the MSc to establish whether it is the right career choice.

The combination of skills training courses, specialised seminars, and independent research provides you with transferable skills that will be beneficial whatever path you choose.

Possible fields for employment after graduation include academia, policy think-tanks, national and international civil services, non-governmental organisations and museum/curatorial organisations.

Visit the Intellectual History (MSc) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

Entry Requirements

A UK 2:1 degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant discipline.

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