Universiteit Leiden

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Ancient History (research) (MA)

About the programme

During the two-year Ancient History (research) programme you will learn from inspired academics and learn how to conduct quality research.

Although the main focus of the programme is on your chosen specialisation, it also includes a number of courses enabling students to acquire a better understanding of theories on historical processes, historical debates and methodology of historical research. In the first semester, you will follow a course in historical methodology, in the second semester a course in research skills.

Literature Seminar

The programme starts with an intensive Literature Seminar, which covers the first 8 weeks of the semester. During this course you will discuss recent insights and key issues within the field of Ancient History.

Research Seminars

You will take two Research Seminars during which you will carry out research on the basis of primary source material or published documents. You will take one Research Seminar during the first semester. The second Research Seminar may be taken during the second semester, or abroad during the third semester.

Historical Theory

This course is compulsory for all Research MA students. It discusses major problems in historical theory or philosophy of history through close readings of relevant texts. Topics that will be addressed include explanations, models, intentions, representations, narratives, paradigms, comparisons, objectivity, and ethics.


The tutorial is the mainstay of our Research MA as it offers intensive, eye-to-eye discussions with one of Leiden’s many specialists. During the tutorial you will explore the field and determine the subject and research question of your thesis.

Courses Research Schools

Within the Research MA History, students are required to take courses at a Research School, amounting to at least 10 EC. You will compose this set of courses yourself, together with the Coordinator of Studies. Research Schools courses offer training in both methodology and area specific knowledge. Research MA students choose courses at the Research School that relates most with their possible area of research.

Developing Research Proposals

This course is also compulsory for all Research MA students. It will focus on the development of your research skills. You will learn how to arrange academic research, from initial research question to publication/research proposal. Senior researchers will guide you through this process, using their own ongoing research projects as guideline.

Optional Courses

You will also take a number of Optional Courses, worth up to a total of 20 EC. We encourage students to take these courses abroad. However, you are also able to fill in this Optional Course space with a multitude of options. See the Prospectus for more information.


You conclude the programme by writing a Research MA-thesis. Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Upon graduation students sit for a final ceremony for which they defend their thesis and answer questions on additional literature. 

The main aim of the programme is to ensure that after graduation, you will be able to function as a junior academic researcher, either in a semi-academic position or at a university. You will be able to solve complex academic problems independently, critically and creatively, and report on these results with clarity both in writing and verbally. The programme qualifies you to continue your studies in a PhD studentship.

Detailed programme

For a more detailed programme, see the Prospectus.

Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Year 1 & 2
Course EC
Life in a Multicultural Society: Historiographic Debates and Perspectives on Hellenistic Egypt 10
Debating Ancient Slavery 10
Empire and Diversity in the Roman World 10
Religions of the North: Impact of the Roman Empire on Religion in the Northwestern Provinces 10
Historical Theory 10
Developing Research Proposals 10
Research School Courses (ResMA History) 10
Tutorial 10
Research Workshop: Greek and Latin Epigraphy (10 EC) 10
Greek Papyrology 10
ResMA Thesis History & Final Exam 30
Course EC
Maritime treasures: diving into maritime history 10
The Business of Empire: Colonial and Imperial Entrepreneurship, 1415-1974 10
In or Out? History of Inclusion and Exclusion since 1900 10
Political Eloquence in the Netherlands 10
Surinamese Political History: A Special Case of Shared History? 10
Empire and Diversity in the Roman World 10
Global Peace Movements in the Era of Decolonization 10
On the Hippie Trail. Colonial Knowledge, Local Agency, and the Countercultural Imagination of Asia 10
Thrones, Families, and Power: Dynastic Rule in Medieval and Early Modern Worlds. 10
Gender, Sexuality, Migration Since 1960 10
Dangerous Cities? The Risks of the Urban Environment (1750-2000) 10
The Irish Revolution, 1912-1923 10
New Approaches to the Holocaust in Central and Eastern Europe 10
Premodern Political Culture in Europe 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants (ResMA) 10
Arsenal of Democracy?: The United States and the World since 1945 10
Leiden Elective Academic Periodical 10
Religions of the North: Impact of the Roman Empire on Religion in the Northwestern Provinces 10
A Life of Crime? Poverty, Illegality, and Making Do in the City, 1800-1930 10
Russia Revisited in War and Revolution (1914-1921) 10
Addressing Authority. The Politics of Petitioning 10
Research Workshop: Greek and Latin Epigraphy (10 EC) 10

Latest knowledge

All courses are taught by academics who are active researchers. The curriculum is regularly updated to reflect contemporary academic debates and the very latest insights. Regular seminars are held presenting students with our researchers' latest findings. Your research thesis is often linked to one of the research projects of our faculty members, who play an active role in every individual's education, acting as mentors and community builders.

Research on the Greek and Roman times often focuses on important leaders, writers or politicians. However, PhD student Patricia Kret is more interested in the normal people living in these times, an important line of research at the Ancient History section. Her research focuses on amulets which were often used, for example to cure diseases. Why did people believe so strongly in the power of these amulets? And what did they hoped the amulets would help protect them from? That's what Patricia is hoping to find out. Watch the video (in Dutch) to learn more about her research.

Admission and Application

Do you want to find out if you are eligible for this Master's Programme?

Check the entry requirements

Learn from the latest research on Roman amulets by PhD Patricia Kret

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