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Graduate Admissions

Course closed:

Political Thought and Intellectual History is no longer accepting new applications.

Teaching

The MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History is a nine-month full-time programme which combines elements of formal teaching with independent research. Students on the MPhil will join a group of researchers of all levels within the fields of political thought and intellectual history, allowing them to integrate into the research culture at Cambridge.

The teaching on the MPhil is designed to expand students’ knowledge of political thought, political theory and intellectual history. These classes do not form part of the examination of the course but they will help students to expand their knowledge and skills in the relevant fields.

The course comprises two kinds of work: group study and individually tailored supervised research training. Both persist simultaneously throughout the year, so that students are expected to attend the course classes, research seminar, and lectures while at the same time researching their essays. While there are no fixed course classes in Easter term when students will be concentrating on their dissertation, they will be required to present their work at a dissertation seminar and encouraged to continue attending lectures and the research seminar. Postgraduate students in Cambridge are expected to work continuously throughout the year with the exception of a few days’ break at a time, so that the "vacation periods" are in fact periods in which required work must be completed.

The MPhil includes the following components:

  • One core course in Michaelmas term: Methods in the History of Political Thought (six 1.5-hour sessions)
  • One eight-week class in Michaelmas term on reading a selected text (eight 1.5-hour sessions)
  • One option course in Lent term chosen from a list offered by the Faculty (six 1.5-hour sessions)
  • Two essays within the general fields of political thought and intellectual history (6,000 words) each worth 25 per cent toward the overall degree
  • A dissertation (15,000–20,000 words) worth 50 per cent toward the overall degree

In addition, students are required to attend the weekly research seminar in political thought and intellectual history and to present their dissertation work-in-progress once at the dissertation seminar in Easter term.

One to one supervision

All students admitted to the MPhil in Political Thought and Intellectual History will be assigned a supervisor to work with them throughout the course, but crucially on the dissertation.

Students will meet regularly with their supervisor for one-on-one supervisions throughout the course. Frequency of supervisions will vary depending on the time of year, and the onus is on students to organise these sessions, but students can expect at least three supervision sessions per term. 

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

All students will take the core course, Methodology in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History. The module is run with weekly seminars and key readings over the first six weeks of Michaelmas term.

All students will also take an eight-week class on reading a selected text throughout Michaelmas term. Students will be assigned to one of two options offered by the Faculty each year.

Students will also select one optional module from a list of courses offered by the Faculty in the Lent term.

The courses offered each year may vary.

In 2017–18 the selected text courses running were as follows:

  • Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Vico

In 2017–18 the optional courses running were as follows:

  • The Anthropocene
  • Punishment
  • Distributive Justice
  • Global Intellectual History (shared with the MPhil in World History)

Students are also required to attend and participate in the weekly research seminar in political thought and intellectual history. This thriving research seminar gives students the chance to hear papers from early career and more senior scholars in the field, from Cambridge, elsewhere in the United Kingdom and overseas. Students are encouraged to ask questions and engage with speakers.

Lectures

Although not compulsory, students are welcome to attend relevant undergraduate lectures as indicated by their supervisor.

Posters

All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.

Feedback

Students will receive regular constructive feedback throughout the MPhil.

Students can expect to receive:

  • regular oral feedback from their supervisor, as well as termly online feedback reports;
  • written feedback on essays and assessments;
  • oral feedback from peers during graduate workshops and seminars;
  • written and oral feedback on dissertation proposal essay to be discussed with their supervisor; and
  • formal written feedback from two examiners after examination of dissertation.

Assessment

Thesis

The thesis is Part II of the MPhil in Political Thought and History.

All students will submit a thesis of 15,000–20,000 words, worth 50 per cent toward the final degree. 

At the discretion of the examiners the examination may include an oral examination on the thesis and the general field of knowledge within which it falls.

Essays

Students will produce two 5,000–6,000-word essays, one in Michaelmas term and another in Lent term.

Each will count toward 25 per cent of the final degree, for a total of 50 per cent. The two essays together constitute Part I of the MPhil, and students must receive passing marks in order to move to Part II.

Students will also prepare a 2,000-word dissertation proposal essay due in the Lent term. This essay will be unassessed but students will meet with their supervisor to discuss the essay and get feedback in preparation for the dissertation.

Practical assessment

All students will present their work at least once during the academic year and will receive feedback from academics and peers on their work-in-progress. This is not an assessed element of the course but is a valuable feedback tool for the dissertation.

Key Information


9 months full-time

Master of Philosophy

Faculty of History

Enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 3, 2018
Application deadline
March 29, 2019
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2019

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 3, 2019
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 10, 2018

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