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Sociology: About




We welcome you to the community of Sociology.  Sociology is focused on the social world of human action, every aspect of the social world, from face-to-face personal relationships to the global flows of money markets. 

Whatever the topic, staff at the University of Edinburgh work with the students to make Sociology alive and relevant to our lives and our world.  Join us in a range of formal and informal events and activities.  Enjoy critical thinking about everyday concepts (such as community) and assessing the evidence. Our graduates come from and follow many different paths but feel at home while in Sociology.  Many go out of their way to tell us how they gained from their University of Edinburgh Sociology experience. Our excellent reputation as a place to study, research and teach depends on the current members of our  Sociology community. We hope you will be one of them.

We have an active student community, including the Sociology Society (SocSoc). For more information on our undergraduate and postgraduate events and activities please see the Student Community pages.

The History of Sociology at Edinburgh

Founding Principals, a short history of Sociology at Edinburgh (1964-1987) by Frank Bechhofer and David McCrone can be found here.

Sociological Explanation, the inaugural lecture delivered in 1965 by Tom Burns, the first chair of sociology at Edinburgh is available here.

More of Tom's work can also be found at

The Department of Sociology began in 1964 when Tom Burns (1913-2001) was appointed the first Professor. Sociological research and some teaching had taken place here for several years before that - perhaps represented most notably by two famous monographs, Burns's own The Management of Innovation (written with George Stalker) published in 1961 and Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life which was originally published in Edinburgh in 1956. Burns published his acclaimed Erving Goffman in 1992.

The Science Studies Unit (SSU) moved from the Science Faculty into Sociology in 1990; the Research Centre for Social Sciences joined Sociology in 1998. In the summer of 2001, the Department of Sociology became a subject area of the School of Social and Political Science, which also includes Politics, Social Policy, Social Anthropology and Social Work.