The first principal of King’s College – Hector Boece – was a historian, and today’s History Department has been thriving since its foundation in 1898.

It is part of the School of Divinity, History and Philosophy and has close interdisciplinary cooperation with Humanities, Social Sciences, Physical and Computing Sciences and Medicine subjects in the University. Our students come from all over the world to explore Scottish, European and World History of all periods from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century.

Areas of study include Scottish and European History, Global History, Scandinavian History and Culture, Early Modern and Medieval Europe, Poland-Lithuania, Enlightenment Studies, the History of Ideas, Religion, Philosophy and Science – all led by supervisors who are scholars with an international reputation in their field.

Founded by Bishop Elphinstone in 1495, the University holds excellent library resources and rich archival materials for historians to exploit, including the archives of the Catholic Church in Scotland, archives on the social and cultural history of the North-East of Scotland, the history of science, and many collections on the history of Scotland in its European context. Aberdeen provides a unique research environment for doctoral students, with opportunities for postgraduate training and a lively research seminar culture.

September and January start dates available

Our Research

Aberdeen historians research and supervise in concentrations of research activity embedded within and across the following research centres:

Research Interests

History of Science, Technology and Medicine, History of Literature and Science

Cultural history of science, technology and medicine in Britain from the eighteenth century to the present; history of science and literature.

Supervisors: Dr Ben Marsden and Professor Ralph O’Connor

Food History

Cultural history of food and foodways from the seventeenth century to the present day; historical approaches to culinary writing, technologies of food production, and patterns of consumption.

Supervisor: Dr Ben Marsden

Irish and Scottish Enlightenment, Global Diaspora and Catholicism

Eighteenth-century British and Irish political identity and the development of nationalism; the Enlightenment in the British Isles; intellectual history of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment; Scottish philosophical and literary societies; Scottish intellectual, moral and philosophical culture in the age of revolution; intellectual currents of Scottish and Irish global diaspora; the ‘First’ British Empire; aspects of political, social, religious and intellectual history of Ireland; the history of Catholicism in Scotland since 1707; and the political history of Britain in the Victorian era.

Funded PhD project: Irish and Scottish Liberalism in the Long Nineteenth century

Supervisors: Professor Michael Brown, Dr Colin Barr and Dr Bradford Bow

Northern Europe in the Later Middle Ages

Scottish and English politics and landed society (thirteenth to sixteenth centuries); aspects of medieval and early modern nobility, rulership, law, and towns (including Aberdeen); Anglo-Scottish relations; medieval and early modern frontiers, borderlands and peripheries; medieval warfare; religious history and the history of women; aspects of law, legal culture, courts and litigation; medieval demography.

Supervisors: Professor Jackson Armstrong, Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner and Dr Aly Macdonald

Early Modern Scotland and Europe

European and/or Scottish histories of witchcraft, medicine, sexuality, law and crime; Calvinism and Reformed Protestantism (especially with regard to social control) in the broad period c. 1450-c. 1700; aspects of urban and noble society; aspects of military history; aspects of the history of women, and early modern Scottish church history.

Supervisors: Professor William Naphy, Professor Jackson Armstrong , Dr Aly Macdonald and Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner

Early Modern and Nineteenth-Century Germany

Political, cultural, religious and social history of the Holy Roman Empire, Thirty Years War, German Enlightenment, the history of noble elites and cities in Germany and Central Europe, the development of modern Germany during the nineteenth century.

Supervisors: Professor Karin Friedrich and Professor Robert Frost

Global Empires and Emigration. Modern Scotland, Britain and the Commonwealth

Emigration within the British empire since the eighteenth century; Modern Scottish History; Oral History; Medicine and Migration; History of the British empire and the Commonwealth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including the impact of the empire on Britain; economics and business histories of the empire, the politics of the Commonwealth, history of settler societies. Africa and the African diaspora in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; slavery and abolition.

Supervisors: Professor Marjory Harper Dr Andrew Dilley and Dr Richard Anderson

Modern Russian and Soviet History, Transport History

Any aspect of Modern Russian and Soviet history (particularly c.1900–c.1930), and also transport history, particularly in relation to the role of railway transport in warfare in Britain and Europe; British railway history.

Supervisors: Professor Anthony Heywood

Early Scandinavian, Icelandic and Irish Literature, Culture and Society

The medieval North, particularly Old Norse-Icelandic literature, language, culture, and society; Old Norse poetry, and literary-legal connections in medieval Iceland, riddles, Norse mythology, and translation; the Sagas of Icelanders, legendary sagas and chivalric sagas, including comparisons with medieval Irish literature; aspects of Norse-Icelandic literature.

Supervisors: Professor Ralph O’Connor and Dr Hannah Burrows

History of Modern European Nobilities and Monarchies, Gender and Emotions

Especially French history post-1789; aspects of social history; private archives of noble families, archival theory and practices; aspects of modern European history, especially political cultural history, military and media history as well as the history of the monarchy in the long nineteenth century.

Supervisors: Dr Elizabeth Macknight and Dr Heidi Mehrkens

Global Political History and International Affairs. Modern Europe and the Middle East

International and global political history and a wide array of modern European history; history of international affairs; Jewish/non-Jewish relations and historical methodology; modern social, political and cultural histories of the Middle East, including wider conflict between national and religious groups; aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Supervisors: Professor Thomas Weber and Dr Alessandra Cecolin

Entry Requirements

Normally, the minimum entrance requirement for admission to the PhD is a degree with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in an appropriate field, or equivalent. It is preferable that you hold a Masters in the chosen area of study as well.

Alongside your application form, you will need to upload the following supporting documents online:

  • Copies of your undergraduate and graduate degree certificates
  • Academic transcripts for your undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  • Two academic references; either the details of your referees provided on your application form or uploaded online with your application.
  • Your research proposal
  • If English is not your first language and you have not studied previously at an institution in the UK, you will need to demonstrate your proficiency in English by taking an IELTS, TOEFL or PTE academic test.

Fees and Funding

View the tuition fee rates

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

One of the best settings in the UK

The medieval street-plan of Old Aberdeen still dictates the campus layout, but the tranquillity of the ancient buildings, cobbled streets and quadrangles sits alongside vibrant new constructions.

Postgraduate research culture

PG researchers in History enjoy an inclusive and supportive scholarly environment, with a regular seminar series where students present their findings to their peers and receive constructive feedback.

Leading University in Scotland for Research Impact

Aberdeen was ranked the leading University in Scotland for Research Impact and 2nd in the UK Outstanding Impact after the last Research Excellence Framework (REF).


Historians' skills are needed for any profession that values quick and critical thinking, detailed analysis, close reading, the art of comparison and testing concepts through practical case studies. History graduates have made careers in politics, become prime ministers (Gordon Brown) and chancellors (Alastair Darling), but also gone into banking, the law, journalism and media.

A postgraduate history degree offers numerous possibilities, including university teaching and research posts; curatorial work; academic administration; freelance writing and broadcasting; teaching in Scotland, Europe and North America.

Our PhD students conduct research in a wide variety of subject areas.

Dr Rose Luminiello and Dr Amy Hayes are among our recent History PhD graduates.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

School of Divinity, History, Philosophy and Art History
University of Aberdeen
50-52 College Bounds
AB24 3DS