Architectural History - MA (Hons)


Architecture has the capacity to help explore wider social, cultural, political and economic themes. Our undergraduate programme in Architectural History is rooted in this potential and places the history of architecture and fine art within the context of urbanism and the cultural history of cities.

The programme comprises two years of general study and two years of specialist, Honours-level study. You will develop a broad understanding of the field and have the opportunity to look at particular periods, movements and theories in depth. 

An unrivalled breadth of study

With its unique concentration of professional architectural historians, Edinburgh offers an unrivalled breadth of study in the historic built environment. Our staff specialise in topics ranging from ancient and medieval, through the early and late modern periods, to the twentieth century. Our programme engages with the latest research on all these topics.   

Unique in the UK

When launched in 1990, our degree was the only full undergraduate programme in the history of architecture anywhere in Europe, and it remains the only one in the UK. We now have a core staff of seven full-time architectural historians, and around a dozen associated staff.

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars, tutorials, site visits and field research. These draw on the extraordinarily rich urban context of Edinburgh itself, as well as the architectural heritage of Europe and beyond.

Additional benefits

Thanks to the generous benefaction of Mr Ben Pentreath, the MA Architectural History programme offers additional financial support to students undertaking dissertation research in their fourth year of study, allowing travel to explore a building, city, and/or archive anywhere in the world.

The Ben Pentreath Fund also makes possible our annual student trip to a major European capital to look at and study noted buildings in context.

Career opportunities

Our students follow a number of routes on graduation.

Some opt to continue their studies at Masters and doctoral level, either in Architectural History or a related subject.

Others move into architectural conservation, or to work in museums, libraries and galleries.

In teaching the skills of critical analysis and the presentation of arguments based on a close reading of the available evidence, the course offers a valuable foundation for a wide range of careers, and our students have been successful in many areas.

Programme structure

The first two years of study (‘Pre-Honours’ years) offer a rich and extensive overview of the history of architecture and urbanism from across the globe.

You will be part of a vibrant community of up to 300 students, drawn from all areas of interest and expertise across the University. These include architecture, history of art, languages, history and classics, English literature, civil engineering, and many more.

In these years, you will survey the history of architecture and urbanism worldwide, including major buildings and cities of the ancient world, of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, of European society and culture, as well as the major transformations affected by industrialisation and technological innovation coming into the twentieth century.

In addition to core courses, you will choose from a number of elective-based courses from across the University of Edinburgh.

In years three and four (‘Honours’ years), you will have the opportunity to develop and refine your interests by choosing to study specialist, Honours-level courses drawn from an extensive list covering the medieval world; Islamic art and architecture; the European Renaissance and its global contexts; the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, including Georgian and Victorian architecture and their reverberations worldwide; and Modern architecture in Europe, Russia, and the British Isles.

Third year students will also study the history of the theoretical development of architecture from ancient times to the present.

You will have the opportunity to undertake an internship with a museum, archive or historic environment agency, including National Museums Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, The Cockburn Association, and Edinburgh World Heritage.

In Year Four you will write a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choosing.

All Honours options are 20 credit, semester long (11 week) courses. 

Top five reasons to choose the programme

  • You will be part of an unrivalled and internationally-recognised programme in the history and theory of architecture.
  • You will gain the knowledge and transferable skills to pursue further research or a career in a related sector.
  • You will be taught by leading architectural historians and theorists and have access to world-class libraries and art collections.
  • You will be studying in the heart of a unique world-heritage site surrounded by extraordinary architecture.
  • You will have the opportunity to travel and, if you want to, to take an internship with a leading partner organisation.

Society of Architectural Historians 2017 Conference

SAH logo

ESALA is a formal partner of the 2017 Society of Architectural Historians Conference, to be held in Glasgow in June.

Find out more about the SAH 2017 Conference >



Dr Richard Anderson | View staff profile >

Dr Alex Bremner, Programme Director | View staff profile >

Professor Ian Campbell | View staff profile >

Dr Alistair Fair | View staff profile >

Dr Katie Jakobiec | View staff profile >

Dr Jim Lawson | View staff profile >

John Lowrey | View staff profile >

Dr Margaret Stewart | View staff profile >


Everything you need to know about finding perfect student accommodation.

Resources for History of Art, Art, Architecture and Landscape Architecture students.

A fully operational, entirely student-run 90-seat theatre housed in a neo-gothic church.

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The Centre for Research Collections (CRC) is the main space for anyone using the University of Edinburgh’s historic collections.

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By day, a café, bar and study space, and by night a club venue. Potterrow’s dome is also home to the Advice Place and the Potter Shop.

The neo-classical Sculpture Court in the ECA Main Building is home to the many pieces from the Edinburgh Cast Collection, and is regularly used for student exhibitions.

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Talbot Rice Gallery is the public art Gallery for the University of Edinburgh.

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News & events


Photo of 1-32 Coll Street and Red Road, Glasgow
1-32 Coll Street and Red Road, Glasgow

The three-year Heritage Lottery-funded project has digitised over 4,000 historic images taken in the 1980s and is now making them publicly available as part of the Tower Block-UK Slide Archive.

Announcing the details of the five AHT seminars scheduled for this semester.


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