University of Edinburgh

MSc Contemporary History


Old College

South Bridge

Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9YL

United Kingdom

Program Information

Degrees Offered:

MSc Contemporary History

Format: Campus

Program Description:

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, specialised 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.


Given the importance of analytical and methodological skills for this programme, you will take three core courses:

  • Semester 1: Historical Research: Skills and Sources
  • Semester 1: Introduction to Contemporary History
  • Semester 2: Historical Methodology

In addition, you will undertake three optional courses. Option courses change every year but have previously included courses as diverse as:

  •  Conservatism in the United States, c.1930-c.1990
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Gender, Crime and Deviancy: Britain c. 1860-1960
  • Themes in African Social History
  • Historical Sources in the Digital Age
  • The United States and the Cold War
  • The Politics of Historiography in Post-Colonial South Asia
  • Cinema and Society in South Asia, 1947-present
  • The British at War, 1939-1945

The final element of the programme is a 15,000 word dissertation which students complete during the summer months. This is an independent, primary source-based research project supervised by one or more members of the academic staff.


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

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



  • Our reputation for excellence -The School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh is one of the great world centres for the study of the human past. We’re a world top 20 university (QS World University Ranking 2016-17) and rank third in the UK for the combined quality and size of our History research (REF 2014).
  • Our diverse and welcoming community - In the School of History, Classics & Archaeology, our graduate community of over 300 students is international, making the School the ideal environment in which to share ideas, collaborate on research, gain new perspectives and meet like-minded individuals. We have an active academic and social life involving regular workshops, seminars, conferences and symposia across all three subject areas, as well as many informal gatherings and events.

  • Our historic city - Edinburgh offers a historical heart with a thriving, modern culture and is consistently voted the most desirable place to live in Britain. Based in the Old Town in a splendid historical building, our School is a thriving, vibrant hub of intellectual and cultural life.


The University of Edinburgh

International Student Requirements:

If you are a non-EU/EEA/Swiss national, and you will come to the UK to study for more than six months, you will need to apply for a Tier 4 visa. You will also need to apply for a Tier 4 visa if you wish to do a work placement as part of your studies, or look for a part time job.

Facts & Figures

Classification: Higher Education Institution (Not Carnegie Classified)

Locale: Midsize City

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