This programme will give you a comprehensive understanding of the increasingly global experience of humankind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
What has brought about the most recent past? Has the end of the Cold War created a ‘new world order’? Has 9/11 changed our world forever? Is globalisation the dominant force of our age or is there a return to nationalism? By exploring such questions critically and analytically, you have a unique opportunity to understand the present through the recent past.
This programme teaches you to appreciate the distinctiveness of contemporary history, its use of sources (e.g. radio, television, film, internet-based sources, such as the ‘Wikileaks’, etc.) and its methodology.
Contemporary History is unique in that it offers a study of the past supported by oral, not just written, sources, including interviews, film and sound documents. Students will also be introduced to the important process of uncovering still secret archives and materials and familiarise themselves with the process of declassification.
Breadth of expertise
Students benefit from the experience and methodologically different approaches to contemporary history of over 40 internationally recognised experts. To name just a few, our staff specialise in political history, cultural history, social history, economic history, military history, colonialism and post-colonialism, gender history, and intellectual history. In addition, students will have the opportunity to take appropriate courses in other Schools, e.g. those of Social and Political Science and of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.
Our staff specialising in contemporary history jointly cover not only every imaginable disciplinary approach to history, but also almost every geographical region on the globe, including Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We are therefore in a position to deliver a programme that emphasises the increasingly inter- and transnational, and indeed global experience of humankind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Students will be able to study this unique period of history within a range of diverse topics, including the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, civil rights, decolonisation, human rights and social memory, cinema, crime, gender, ethnicity, class, and the digital world.
You’ll have a range of courses to choose from, enabling you to tailor your degree to your interests and ambitions.
The MSc lasts for 12 months from September to the end of August in the following year. To be awarded an MSc you must complete the coursework and a dissertation.
The taught courses are worth a total of 120 credit points and are assessed mainly by essays and written work. Provided you achieve the required standard, you will proceed to a period of individual research from May to August, resulting in a final dissertation worth a further 60 credits.
You will take several courses across two semesters of teaching, including three compulsory courses and a range of optional courses.
You will undertake a research project and produce a dissertation which is submitted on an assigned date in mid-August.
Find out about the admission criteria and required qualifications for the MSc in Contemporary History.
You will need a UK 2:1 honours degree, US GPA 3.4 or another international equivalent, in a subject related to this programme. Relevant experience or professional or other qualifications will also be considered.
Equivalency of international qualifications
Guidance on the equivalency of international qualifications is provided by the International Office. If you are unsure of the equivalency of your degree, the International Office provides information by country.
English language requirements
If you do not come from a majority English-speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English.
- IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
- TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
- PTE(A): total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
- CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
- Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components
Your English language qualification must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.
Alternatively, we may also be able to accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country for entry (as defined by UK Visas & Immigration), provided the degree is no more three years old at the beginning of your degree programme. In such cases, we may additionally require you to take the University’s Test of English at Matriculation (TEAM). This test is designed to highlight any weaknesses you may have with your English and tuition will be provided for you free of charge.
Our students have a variety of career paths in mind.
Many students are attracted to the MSc in Contemporary History as an advanced qualification that is valued by a range of employers; a more specialised supplement to their undergraduate degrees that could set them apart in a crowded job market. 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.
While some of our students go on to study for their PhDs, either at Edinburgh or at other universities, the majority go on to pursue careers in different fields. The MSc could lead into careers in the cultural sector, but a graduate degree from Edinburgh will be respected by employers in many fields. The combination of skills training courses, specialised seminars, and independent research provides students with transferable skills that will be beneficial whatever they end up doing.