Universiteit Leiden

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Ancient History (MA)

About the programme

The one-year master’s programme in Ancient History covers a range of subjects. These include the complex history of the Roman Republic; civic life in Italy, Asia Minor and Egypt; Graeco-Roman religion; and the rise of Christianity.

All courses are taught by academics, who are also active researchers. The curriculum is regularly updated to reflect contemporary academic debates and the latest insights, while regular seminars inform students of our researchers' latest findings. And when it comes to doing your research thesis, this might well be linked to a research project of one our faculty members. They play active roles in every student’s education, serving as both mentors and community builders.

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 your programme.

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.

Optional Course
We also offer students the ability to take an Optional Course from a wide range of possibilities. These may comprise MA-courses offered by Leiden University and those offered by other universities. 


You conclude the programme by writing a MA-thesis. Students are guided in writing their thesis by thesis supervisors. Students are also expected to follow a thesis seminar, aimed at providing students with some additional support in the writing process. Upon graduation students sit for a final ceremony for which they defend their thesis and answer questions on additional literature. 

  • Seminars
  • Self-study
  • Internship options
  • Exams
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, research papers
  • Oral presentations
  • Thesis

The one-year Master of Arts in History (study load 60 EC) aims to bring you state-of-the-art knowledge in your subject area of choice. You will pay specific attention to the analysis of historical process, the study of primary sources, conducting historical research, historiography and methodology.

The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts and the analysis of complex conceptual problems, and the ability to independently conduct high-quality scientific research are key goals of the programme.

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.

Detailed programme

For a detailed programme, see the Prospectus. Please bear in mind that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may differ slightly.

Jordi Guardiola Cánaves

Why did Jordi choose to study Ancient History in Leiden?

Jordi Guardiola Cánaves

"One of the reasons for choosing the master’s programme in Ancient History at Leiden University was its long-standing tradition in the study of History."

A social history

"One of the reasons for choosing the master’s programme in Ancient History at Leiden University was its long-standing tradition in the study of History (the most used epigraphic system around the world is called Leiden Conventions). Moreover, I fell in love with the city as soon as I arrived. Nonetheless, what appealed to me most was the content of the courses, which focus on social history and the history of mentalities and religions, with a special interest in anthropological issues."

Methodologically effective

"I really liked how the courses were organised. They all revolved around the students’ exposition and discussion of the recommended texts, always with the guidance of the professors. I felt that this method enhanced our critical thinking and improved our presentation skills. I also valued the high level of autonomy and flexibility of the courses, which allowed me to combine the whole master’s programme with a part-time job in an international school."

Abilities to apply

"I intend to pursue a career in education. The master’s programme at Leiden University has made me realise how important it is for students to talk about History and to know that we can always reshape how we think about the past. Not only that, it has provided me with the confidence and independence to research and apply new techniques that may improve the quality of the learning process."

Liesbeth Claes

University Lecturer

Liesbeth Claes

"Ancient History in Leiden is focused on transformations of societies and empires in the Greco-Roman world, from Alexander the Great until the late Roman Empire. Our research programme has two major research lines: the history of mentality and religion of the Greco-Roman world and its social and economic history. All our courses are in one way or another linked to these research lines. Furthermore, we take pride in our strong emphasis on documentary sources, such as inscriptions, papyri, coinage and legal texts."

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