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University of Leeds: Social History of Art

Institution University of Leeds
Department School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies
Telephone 0113 343 5274
Study type Taught


Building on over seventy years of academic programmes in the study of art history, and with an international reputation for innovative, critically engaged and globally conscious approaches to the discipline, the MA Social History of Art will equip you with a deep subject knowledge in the history of artistic practices in the broadest sense, grounded in fundamental questions about why such study matters in the world we face today.

The emphasis of the course is on social and political approaches to art history, whether looking at the most recent and contemporary, or in the study of the deeper roots of the cultures we inhabit. From Medieval and Renaissance art to live practices now, from the study of our most local environments to the arts of Africa, Asia and beyond, we approach art as central to the production and reproduction of our shared and different social worlds.

The course has well-established strengths in feminist and gender studies, in engagements with the relations between art and capitalism, in the legacies and critiques of colonialism, in Jewish studies, and in engagements with issues of climate and environment. We offer an exceptional range of choice in specialist study, founded upon in-depth understanding of the discipline of art history, and leading to a major independent research project.

Across the areas we teach, we attend critically to the institutions and spaces in which art is encountered, drawing on ongoing professional collaborations and long-standing expertise among many of our staff who have worked in major museums, galleries and related arts and cultural organisations, whether locally, nationally, or internationally.

The Social History of Art course has a quite distinct position in relation to comparable programmes, in a research-intensive Russell Group university where art historians study alongside fine artists and others studying galleries, museums and heritage. You’ll be based within a purpose-built space that includes studios and a gallery alongside seminar rooms and a shared student common room, which is used as both an informal meeting place, and for the staging of film-screenings, talks and other events.

Specialist facilities In addition to the wide range of museums and galleries in the city and beyond, the University campus features:

  • The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery

  • Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery

  • Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine

  • Marks & Spencer Company Archive

  • International Textile Collection

  • Public art trail

  • Project Space – a multi-purpose space in the School designed for the development of curatorial practice and visiting exhibitions.

The University Library offers online books, journals and databases, has a wealth of archive material in its Special Collections, including manuscript, archive and early printed material, and provides a range of spaces for individual study or group work. You’ll also benefit from access to Box of Broadcasts, an archive of over 2 million TV and radio broadcasts.


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