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Social History of Art MA

Different course options

Full time | University of Leeds | 12 months | SEP-23

Study mode

Full time


12 months

Start date


Key information

Qualification type

MA - Master of Arts

Subject areas

Social History Art History

Course type


Course Summary


The study of the history of art at Leeds has an international reputation for its innovative, rigorous, diverse and critically engaged approaches. Previously called MA History of Art, the name was changed to highlight the established strengths of this course with its emphasis on social and political approaches to art history.

The MA Social History of Art builds on a unique legacy of dynamic and challenging scholarship, and continues to test the parameters of the discipline and shape wider debates in the field.

Around a shared commitment to understanding art as central to the production and reproduction of the social worlds we inhabit, our key research strengths lie in feminist, gender and Jewish studies, on questions of materialism and materiality, the postcolonial and the ‘non-Western’, as well as in provocations of those fields of art history considered more ‘established’, from Medieval and Renaissance up to the contemporary.

Drawing on the School’s community of researchers, and with our links to internationally important research institutions such as the Henry Moore Institute, as well as with an abundant and growing array of arts institutions in Leeds and nearby, this course will equip you to develop your own critically informed research.

Learning and teaching

You will benefit from a variety of teaching and learning methods including lectures, seminars, online learning and group critiques and tutorials.

Independent study is crucial to the degree ? it allows you to prepare for classes and assessments, build on your skills and form your own ideas and research questions. The University Library offers free classes and resources on topics such as academic integrity and plagiarism, public speaking, searching for information and structuring essays.

On this course you’ll be taught by our expert academics, from lecturers through to professors. You may also be taught by industry professionals with years of experience, as well as trained postgraduate researchers, connecting you to some of the brightest minds on campus.


Our taught modules are generally assessed through essays, which you will submit at the end of the semester in which you take each module. Some optional modules may be assessed by other methods including group work, reports and presentations.

Career opportunities

You will develop your visual, critical and cultural awareness and expand your subject knowledge in history of art. In addition, you will graduate equipped with sophisticated research, analytical, critical and communication skills that will put you in a good position to succeed in a variety of careers.

Our graduates have pursued careers as curators and education staff in museums and galleries and worked for national heritage organisations, as well as in journalism, publishing, arts marketing, public relations, university administration and teaching.

Others have transferred the skills they gained into fields like the insurance industry, independent style editing and freelance writing on fashion, arts and culture.

Many of our graduates have also continued with their research at PhD level and secured external funding to support them – including AHRC scholarships. Some of our former research students are now developing academic careers in the UK, Europe, Asia, USA and Canada.


By the end of this module students will have been taken through a programme of talks and guided close reading of theoretical and practical work in the history of art. They will have considered the relation of "art" and "aesthetics" to "history" and "history" to "art" and "aesthetics," and come to grips with their conjoining as "history of art." They will have been introduced to the foundations of the history of art as they were laid in the first half of the twentieth century (by Max Dvorak, Erwin Panofsky, Alois Riegl, Meyer Schapiro, Aby Warburg, Heinrich Wolfflin, and others) and have gained a critical understanding of how the history of art developed as an academic discipline in the United Kingdom and USA between c1945 and c1968. They will also have been introduced to examples of innovative work in the social history of art and the inauguration of feminist work in the history of art, not least work that has been done at the University of Leeds since 1973 (by T. J. Clark, Fred Orton, Griselda Pollock, and others). Over and above that, students will have become acquainted with new ways of thinking about the history of the "art" of non-western countries. At the end of this module, students should be able to link various theories and methods of the history of art to research in history of art, to interpretation and explanation, in such a way that they should be well prepared to undertake innovative, self-directed research at both taught graduate level and PhD level.

Tuition fees

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Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons).

Department profile

As a Masters student, you will contribute to the School’s dynamic postgraduate community. The School is one of the largest British graduate schools for art and art theory outside London and a leading centre for work in critical cultural theory, with over 30 members of staff comprising artists, historians and theorists. We offer six Masters courses, all of which can be studied full or part-time. Whichever course you choose to study, you’ll...more

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