Master in History: Religion and Society


Program Description

Application deadline update

  • Non-EU/EEA students: 1 May (the original deadline of 1 April has been extended due to COVID-19)
  • EU/EEA students and students who do not need a study visa/residence permit through VU Amsterdam*: 1 June (the original deadline of 1 May has been extended due to COVID-19)

The MA History programme Religion and Society focusses on understanding the changing role of religion(s) in society from Antiquity up until the present. Courses deal with questions such as: what is the relationship between religion, politics and society since Antiquity? How can we understand the gradual separation of Church and State and new forms of worship, dissent and devotion since the western Middle Ages? And what has been the impact of broader processes such as secularisation, globalisation and colonialism?

  • Master: History
  • Specialization: Religion and Society

Study Program

A long-standing tradition of expertise

The History department of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam has a strong tradition in teaching and analyzing the role of religion throughout history. Religion is studied in its societal and political contexts and from a long-term perspective, which makes our program unique. Students are trained in the latest interdisciplinary approaches to study religion, including history, cultural anthropology, archaeology, philology, and digital humanities. They can improve their knowledge, network, and skills by participating in activities of research institutes such as the Amsterdam Centre for Religious History and CLUE+. The program has great societal relevance as topics such as clashes between religion and secularism, the entangled relations between politics and religion and the future of religious heritage are discussed.

The program is taught by staff from the Chair of Religious History (prof. dr. Fred van Lieburg) and the Chair of Ancient History (prof. dr. Bas ter Haar Romeny).

A program that trains you to become a professional

This program is a specialization within the Master’s degree program in History, which trains students to become professional historians with specialized knowledge and transferable skills such as writing, presenting and analytical skills. Students, personally mentored by a member of the academic staff throughout their studies, take several core courses and choose specialized tutorials or opt for an internship.

A combination of core courses and specializations

The master’s degree course in history at the Vrije Universiteit has a unique character due to the combination of a broad common curriculum and specializations. All students follow an introductory core subject, two research subjects, and the subjects ‘History and Theory’ and ‘Key works in Contemporary Historical Thought’. The subjects of the broad master’s course offer a basis from which you can specialize. The introductory course and the course ‘History and Theory’, given in the same period, ensure a common basis from which to progress, regardless of your disciplinary background. ‘Key works in Contemporary Historical Thought’ helps you to develop your specialization. In the research courses, you examine a specific historical problem in-depth and develop your research skills. It is also possible to do an internship.

You become acquainted with new methods of the e-Humanities and are brought regularly into contact with the working practices of historians. You are free to choose the subject of your master’s thesis from the field of your specialization.

Career Prospects

Master of Arts

A master’s title in History makes you an attractive employment prospect because you have broad-based knowledge and have developed an analytical way of reading and writing. Among other areas, you could work for government institutions, business or international institutions. Many historians do not enter the business world but go into politics or journalism. In addition, after a further specialized year of master’s courses, you could find a position in teaching or research.


With a master’s title in History, you can embark on Ph.D. research at a university or research institute. If you aim at an academic career you could also consider following the two-year research master’s degree course in History. This master’s degree course trains you specifically as a (university) researcher.

Why VU Amsterdam


Studying in the city of Amsterdam is a unique experience. The urban setting and the multicultural mindset of the people of Amsterdam, combined with the presence of thriving cultural city life give your education a special dimension.

Unique program

This is a unique specialization that focusses on the role of religion in Europe and beyond, including the Mediterranean World and the Middle East. Moreover, the relationship between religion, society, and politics from Antiquity until the ‘War on Terror’, of dominant and minority religions, ranging from Judaism and Christianity to Islam and Eastern religions are thoroughly studied. We also pay ample attention to the history of the Reformations and Protestantism in Europe and the Netherlands and introduce our students to relevant collections, including important ones at VU Amsterdam. Students are encouraged to write their thesis in one of these subjects and are welcome to contact our staff members beforehand to discuss their field of interest.

International Students

Admission Requirements

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application.

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programs, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent.

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s program History:

The Master’s History is designed for students with an academic Bachelor’s in history. You may also be accepted if you have an academic Bachelor’s in other disciplines of the Humanities (including theology or philosophy) or in anthropology or sociology, with significant historical interest, apparent from a major or specialization equal to a minimum of 30 ECTS.

For international students, the level of studied academic theory needs to be based on the course description, literature list and sample of academic writing, due to a lack of distinction between applied and academic universities abroad.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school/International Baccalaureate in English or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. You can already apply online without having the test results. In case you haven’t taken a test yet we advise you to plan a test date as soon as possible. Below you will find the minimum English test scores for the English taught programs at the Faculty of Humanities:

  • TOEFL score (score 600 paper-based with a minimum of 55 in each of the subtests plus 4.0 in TWE, score 250 computer-based or score 100 internet-based with a minimum of 20-23 in each of the subtests).
  • IELTS score of 7.0 overall band score (with none of the separate section scores dropping below a minimum score of 6.5).
  • Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C.


If you have read the admission criteria below and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet the admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online

Please prepare the following documents. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents).
  • Curriculum Vitae.
  • Motivation Letter.
  • Two Letters of Recommendation.
  • Transcript of records.
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature).
  • A description of the relevant courses you have taken during your previous higher education.
  • A list of all the main literature used during your previous higher education.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via email.

Step 3: Await decision on admission

The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!

Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the program. When all conditions are met, you will be ready to start your program at VU Amsterdam!

Overview History: Religion and Society

  • Language of instruction: English, Dutch
  • Duration: 1 year
  • Application deadline: 1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.
  • Start date: 1 September
  • Study type: Full-time
  • Field of interest: Art, Culture, and History
Last updated Jul 2020

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over ... Read More

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 150 English taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to over 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff of 122 nationalities create a dynamic international academic community. The University distinguishes itself in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes: Human Health and Life Sciences, Science for Sustainability, Connected World and Governance for Society. Curious about student life at VU Amsterdam? Click here to ask our International Student Ambassadors. Read less