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MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History

The MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History combines taught and research elements over a nine-month full-time programme, though priority is given to the pursuit of the individual student’s research. Classes are provided in methodology, in the reading of selected texts, and in selected concepts: these are intended to be "exemplary", offering opportunities to explore different methods used in the field, different approaches to reading texts, and a variety of political concepts. 

The MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History offers students a rounded and flexible master's programme that provides them with an introduction to all three of the fields contained within its scope (History of Political Thought, Political Theory, Intellectual History), while allowing them to specialise in their own area of particular interest. It offers a thorough training in the key techniques of higher-level academic study and research. It is an inter-faculty programme linking History, Politics, and Classics. The teaching staff, and examiners, have diverse disciplinary backgrounds, as do students on the course.

Throughout the course students will be supervised by a dedicated member of staff, who will guide their research towards the completion of an original historical subject chosen and developed by them. In addition, students will benefit from Cambridge’s vibrant research environment, attending and participating in seminars, guest talks, workshops and other events throughout the year.

Learning Outcomes

Students on the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History will be provided with an in-depth study of some of the key areas of research in political thought and intellectual history and all students will have a supervisor who will guide them through the requirements of the course and, most crucially, the dissertation.

By the end of the programme, students will have acquired:

  • an enhanced understanding of the history of political thought as well as an appreciation of the broader theoretical approaches and intellectual idioms that inform its study;
  • acquired the analytical capacity to pursue independent study of primary texts in the history of political thought and to evaluate the findings of secondary commentators; and
  • acquired the ability to situate their own research findings within the context of previous and current interpretative scholarly debates in the field of political thought and intellectual history.


The MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History is a nine-month full-time programme which combines elements of formal teaching with independent research. Students on the MPhil will join a group of researchers of all levels within the fields of political thought and intellectual history, allowing them to integrate into the research culture at Cambridge.

The course comprises two kinds of work: group study and individually tailored supervised research training. Both persist simultaneously throughout the year, so that students are expected to attend the course classes, research seminar, and lectures while at the same time researching their essays. While there are no fixed course classes in Easter term when students will be concentrating on their dissertation, they will be required to present their work at a dissertation seminar and encouraged to continue attending lectures and the research seminar.

The MPhil includes the following components:

  • One core course in Michaelmas term: Methods in the History of Political Thought (six 1.5-hour sessions)
  • One eight-week class in Michaelmas term on reading a selected text (eight 1.5-hour sessions)
  • One option course in Lent term chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (six 1.5-hour sessions)
  • Two essays within the general fields of political thought and intellectual history (6,000 words) each worth 25 per cent toward the overall degree
  • A dissertation (15,000–20,000 words) worth 50 per cent toward the overall degree

In addition, students are required to attend the weekly research seminar in political thought and intellectual history and to present their dissertation work-in-progress once at the dissertation seminar in Easter term.


Students can expect to receive:

  • regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports;
  • written feedback on essays and assessments;
  • oral feedback from peers during graduate workshops and seminars;
  • written and oral feedback on dissertation proposal essay to be discussed with their supervisor; and
  • formal written feedback from two examiners after examination of dissertation.



The thesis is Part II of the MPhil in Political Thought and History.

All students will submit a thesis of 15,000–20,000 words, worth 50 per cent toward the final degree. 

At the discretion of the examiners the examination may include an oral examination on the thesis and the general field of knowledge within which it falls.


Students will produce two 5,000–6,000-word essays, one in Michaelmas term and another in Lent term.

Each will count toward 25 per cent of the final degree, for a total of 50 per cent. The two essays together constitute Part I of the MPhil, and students must receive passing marks in order to move to Part II.

Students will also prepare a 2,000-word dissertation proposal essay due in the Lent term. This essay will be unassessed but students will meet with their supervisor to discuss the essay and get feedback in preparation for the dissertation.

Practical assessment

All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.

Funding Opportunities

For information on more general funding opportunities, please visit the Funding page on the Graduate Admissions website.

General Funding Opportunities

Apply using the Applicant Portal

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Further information on How To Apply

Visit the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!