Intellectual History Graduate Programs

There are a number of options for students who are interested in pursuing intellectual history at the graduate level. Find out more about these options, the type of coursework in these programs, and admission requirements.

Individuals who are interested in intellectual history can study this field at an advanced level by enrolling in a master's or doctoral history program and selecting intellectual history as a concentration or theme. This article will focus on providing prospective students with an overview of what types of programs are available, the coursework that is commonly offered in these programs, and general admission standards.

Information about Graduate Programs in Intellectual History

Intellectual history as a discipline is concerned with the history of the development of ideas, as well as the individuals who advanced these ideas. Generally, students can study intellectual history as a concentration within a broader history master's program or as a theme or thematic cluster in a history Ph.D. program. In addition to completing coursework, students will need to pursue independent research in order to complete a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation. Below, we will highlight five course topics that may be offered for students with an intellectual history focus.

European History

Often intellectual history will include a variety of coursework that focuses on topics related to the history of Europe. Some of these courses may highlight certain aspects or themes of European history, while others may focus on specific time periods. Possible course topics could include the Enlightenment, early modern Europe, the Renaissance, and the Catholic Reformation.


Historiography, or the study of the writing of history, is another common topic that will likely be addressed in intellectual history. In such courses, students may learn about various ways and methods that have been used over the years in the recording of history, as well as how these methods have been applied throughout different time periods and regions. Additionally these courses may focus on various topics, like gender, from a historiographic perspective.

African History

Like other region-specific courses, a course focused on Africa will likely cover a variety of topical issues that are specific to the African continent. Coursework could include the history of various African nations and life in pre-colonialism and post-colonialism time periods. Students may learn about the effects of colonialism on the past as well as modern-day culture and society in Africa.

Topics in Feminism and Gender

In courses related to feminism and gender, students will learn about the development of feminist thought, as well as various gender issues throughout history by reading the notable research of academics and historians who worked in this field. Some courses may focus on either feminism or gender as it pertains to a specific topic, like gender and race, gender and war, or feminism and pornography.

History of Science and Technology

Students may also take a course that focuses on the history of science and technology and the development of various schools of thinking as they pertain to these two topics. The course may cover how the philosophy of scientific thinking has changed over the years by assigning students various readings, in addition to covering this development from a purely historical perspective. The course may also take a comparative approach by looking at the history of science and technology as it was recorded during different time periods.

Admissions Standards for Graduate Programs in Intellectual History

In order to gain admission to graduate programs in intellectual history, students will need to fulfill some prerequisites and submit a completed application file. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of these programs, students from a variety of different undergraduate fields of study are eligible for admission. Admission committees will likely look closely at your transcripts to gain an understanding of the rigor of your undergraduate career, read your personal statement that explains your interest in pursuing intellectual history, and analyze the required writing sample in order to help them determine whether you will be a good fit for the program. In addition to transcripts, a personal statement, and writing sample, students will also need to provide letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a resume or CV. Some programs may also set a foreign language requirement.

Intellectual history as a concentration or theme can be pursued at the graduate level within master's and Ph.D. history programs. Students may explore a number of topics related to intellectual history, including regional history, historiography, and gender.

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