So you want to study History? But what aspect of History interests you most? I mean, the term 'history' covers a pretty long stretch of time and a very broad range. Do you even know about your History, that of your country or are you aware of the story behind the town you live in?

Before I move onto the History BA Honours courses on offer in and around Edinburgh, I thought I'd do a brief introduction to the History of Scotland, to get the historic juices flowing! Well, if you want to call yourself a History student, you have to know a bit about what's around you - and Edinburgh could well be your new town!

The History Of Scotland

Since Scotland has had a very rich and somewhat eventful history, with Vikings, monarchs, philosophers and soldiers all taking pride of place, I have selected some of the standout moments in time for the nation. Information sourced from

"10,000 BC
The Palaeolithic Era

The period of earliest known occupation of Scotland by man is from the Palaeolithic era – also known as the Stone Age. Hunter-gatherers hunted for fish and wild animals and gathered fruit, nuts, plants, roots and shells.

Edinburgh is a city steeped in its own rich history.
Learn about the history of Edinburgh and its ancient monuments. Photo on Visualhunt

124 AD
The Roman Empire

Scotland’s recorded history began with the arrival of the Roman Empire. Despite building two impressive fortifications – Hadrian’s Wall to defend the northern border, and the Antonine Wall across Central Scotland to advance it forward – the Romans never truly conquered Caledonia. Unable to defeat the Caledonians and Picts, the Romans eventually withdrew and over time retreated away from Britain. Much of the 60km Antonine Wall survives and it was inscribed as a World Heritage Site, one of six in Scotland, since 2004.

800 AD
Arrival of the Vikings

Vikings were accomplished seamen at this point in history, and around 800 AD they began migrating from Norway and Denmark, crossing the treacherous North Sea to trade and settle in Scotland. While Vikings began to settle in the west, the Picts were forging a new kingdom; the Kingdom of Alba.

1040 AD
Macbeth rules Scotland

Immortalised forever in Shakespeare’s fictitious retelling, Macbeth is perhaps one of the best-known early Scottish kings. Macbeth ruled as King of Alba from 1040 to his death in battle in 1057.

Mary Queen of Scots

Mary, newly born at Linlithgow Palace, was just six days old when her father, James V, died and she was crowned Queen of Scots. Her reign was marked by Catholic-Protestant conflict and civil unrest in a period known as the ‘rough wooing’. In England, worried about the possibility of a Catholic plot against her, Elizabeth I imprisoned Mary and later, after almost 19 years of captivity, had her executed at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire in 1567 at the age of 44.

The Act of Union

In 1707 The Act of Union brought Scotland even closer to Britain by creating a single Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain at the Palace of Westminster.

First World War

Scottish soldiers played a significant role in the First World War and Glasgow’s Clyde side was an important centre during the war as well – products from the shipyards, steel works and iron foundaries were vital to the war effort.

Scottish Parliament reconvenes

The calls for more devolved powers had been growing for decades and resulted in a referendum in 1979. A second referendum was held in September 1997, with the vote delivering greater powers. In 1999 the Scottish Parliament reconvened for the first time in nearly 300 years, ushering in a new era for the Scottish people. The Scottish Parliament building at the foot of the Royal Mile officially opened on October 9, 2004.

Road to Referendum

In 2012, the Edinburgh Agreement was signed by Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron. It paved the way for a once in a generation referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 by confirming the Scottish Parliament’s power to hold a vote that will be respected by both governments.

On the 18 September 2014, the people of Scotland voted. In response to the question, 'Should Scotland be an independent country', 1,617,989 (45%) voted Yes and 2,001,926 (55%) voted No."

As a born and bred Scot, some of this information may not be news to you but the likelihood of you being taught about Scotland's history in this much detail at school or college in England are quite low. What's great about beginning an undergraduate level course is that you can usually find subject areas that are quite specialised and satisfy your needs and curiosities. So, if you wanted to learn about the History of Scotland or the UK, perhaps even the History of Ireland, you can surely find a course that fits!

If you're not based in Edinburgh you can read about where to study history in Glasgow, Belfast or Cardiff.

Life in Edinburgh

So, if Edinburgh city center is high on your list as a place to study, you may like to find out about some of the aspects of student life that aren't academically focused. Not all UK university websites offer you an insight into what it's like to be a student in Edinburgh, so here are some pointers for you regarding the student experience. If you want to find out first or second hand what life is like for university students, you could speak to undergraduates at Edinburgh University, the University of Glasgow or the University of St Andrews, for example, speak to people on online forums or go and visit the city yourself for a recce!

The city of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, has been highly ranked in a global quality of life survey (in fact it came second in the world!).

What's more, the vibrant city sits within the top 25 cities worldwide in terms of salary, with the typical net pay (after taxes) being just under £1800 a month. If you are looking at spending time studying in or travelling to Edinburgh for work as a postgraduate, you may be interested to know that the city has very low commuting times, meaning that you get to where you want to get faster on reliable services. Edinburgh isn't small by any means, so this must be down to excellent transport connections.

In terms of healthcare, the city has very low pollution levels which is a very attractive feature for a large, bustling student city.

Is it expensive to live in Edinburgh?
What is it like to live in Edinburgh city? Photo credit: Marius Brede on / CC BY-SA

In addition, there's plenty of opportunities within the campus and off to take part in physical activities like netball, water polo, badminton, table tennis, rugby union, and more, along with the chance to socialise in many entertainment venues. As with most cities, there are various restaurants, shops and cafes to choose from too!

Just don't spend your free time wining and dining too many dates... the capital city was ranked as 14th most expensive when it comes to a typical dinner date! Perhaps you might prefer to cook a nice meal for your loved one at your university housing!

Find out where you can study History in London, Leeds, Manchester or Birmingham.

Courses In Edinburgh

Edinburgh boasts some of the UK's top universities, some of these British universities even rank highly in the global university rankings, not just the prestigious Times Higher Education university guide. Use a course finder online if you want an institution profile and to see which are the best undergraduate and postgraduate courses in History that Edinburgh offers.

History Courses - Why Take Them?

History isn't about the here and now, but then it is.

History allows us to evaluate the past and understand how the world has developed in the way it has up until the present day. Studying History, therefore, affects how we look at the past, present and future.

Our courses in Edinburgh cover a wide range of different historical periods, from which you can choose a broad range of historical themes, including subjects related to politics, culture, economics, social sciences, gender, education and the environment.

Whichever path you choose to go down, you'll deepen your understanding of subject areas that you have studied before during History classes at college or secondary school and will have the opportunity to explore new areas, keeping your student life exciting and build very useful career opportunities.

Now, let's see a few examples of History-related courses in Edinburgh, taken from a vast list of Masters courses, postdoctoral courses, and many more.

Various Undergraduate, Postgraduate and Masters Degrees, University of Edinburgh

"Why choose History at the University of Edinburgh?

We are ranked in the world's top 25 universities for history in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019.

We cover every period of history from the early Middle Ages to the present day and all major geographical regions of the world – Europe, Britain and Ireland, North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Beyond the University and its own libraries, there are further resources available to you in Edinburgh for historical research, including the National Library of Scotland, National Museum of Scotland and National Records of Scotland.

The University has one of the largest and most diverse history departments in the UK, with more than 50 academic staff at the cutting edge of the discipline.

You will be studying in a city steeped in history – a UNESCO world heritage site that has been home to famous historical figures including Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sophia Jex-Blake, Julius Nyerere, and Muriel Spark."

Get hands on with History by taking an Archaeology course or unit.
You can take History with another subject at the University of Edinburgh, such as Archaeology. Photo on

Find your degree:

8 degrees in History available at this institution:

  • Economic History (MA) V300
  • History (MA) V100
  • History and Archaeology (MA) VV1K
  • History and Classics (MA) VQ18
  • History and Economics (MA) V200
  • History and History of Art (MA) VV13
  • History and Politics (MA) LV21
  • History and Scottish History (MA) VV12

You may also be interested in these related study programmes:

  • Ancient and Medieval History (MA) V190
  • Ancient History (MA) V110
  • Ancient Mediterranean Civilisations (MA) VV41
  • Arabic and History (MA) TV61
  • Chinese and History (MA) TV11
  • English Literature and History (MA) QVH1
  • French and History (MA) RV11
  • German and History (MA) RV21
  • Italian and History (MA) RV31
  • Law and History (LLB) MV11
  • Russian Studies and History (MA) RV71
  • Scandinavian Studies and History (MA) RV61
  • Scottish Literature and History (MA) QVJ1
  • Spanish and History (MA) RV41

Social Science SCQF Level 5, Edinburgh College

"Course Overview:

This course offers an opportunity to study a broad range of social science subjects. You will study Sociology, Psychology, Politics, History, Criminology and Communication. You have the opportunity to sit National 5 exams in Psychology and Sociology.

Course Content:

  • Communication
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Politics
  • History

Entry Requirements:

Minimum of 3 passes at Intermediate 1 or National 4 in relevant subjects. These include English, History, Modern Studies, Health Studies and RMPS.

English Proficiency Requirements:

IELTS 5.5"

If you want more specific information on each of the courses available, such as entry requirements for admission, careers service, employability, students association, lecturers, course fees, student finance, open days, life on the main campus at university, exam results, course materials, reading lists, details on the academic calendar or being an international student in UK universities, then take a closer look at their faculties' websites or contact their admissions team regarding your enquiries.

Alternatively, for options available at other universities, then why not consider doing a Google search by subject and research courses that suit your criteria?

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Laura is a Francophile with a passion for literature and linguistics. She also loves skiing, cooking and painting.