American and Canadian Studies and History BA

This multidisciplinary degree explores both global history and the dynamic past of North America and Canada.

You will get the chance to explore and inter-relate American and Canadian history, literature, politics and culture, whilst also investigating why and how our world emerged. We are currently ranked 1st for American Studies in all three major league tables: the Guardian University Guide 2017, the Complete University Guide 2017 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

At the University of Birmingham, History is not a plain narrative of events and you will be encouraged to question some of the myths and preconceptions that surround the subject. Our course is distinctive in its consideration of Canada, as well as the United States, with a variety of topics including American film, book illustrations, modern American fiction, the workings of Washington, the War on Terror and the legacies of slavery. 

EU referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Elle Picton

Elle Picton

“The best thing about my course is the range of content it covers: American history, literature and Canadian culture, as well as medieval world history. This variety of content has expanded my knowledge much further. ”

This programme brings together the literature, history, culture and politics of North America, alongside the wider study of global history in all its rich diversity.

To truly read a novel like Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), we need awareness of the historical moment in which it is set and written.

To interpret a political speech such as ‘A More Perfect Union’ (2008), we must immerse ourselves in the resources of languages, storytelling and allusion on which Barack Obama draws. 

The History department has an equally broad set of expertise. Whatever your interests - whether cultural, social, military, political, economic or religious history - there is someone in the department teaching to your interests. The size and quality of the department enables us to offer you a wide range of options across the medieval, early modern and modern periods, and over a vast geographical span. Moreover, historians in other departments in the University share expertise in the fields of Byzantine and African history, which broaden your learning opportunities even further.

Furthermore, to give a sense of the breadth of study in American and Canadian Studies, our lecturers have recommended websites, films and books for anyone considering choosing this degree. 

Why study this course

  • Excellent teaching – We are currently ranked 1st for American Studies in all three major league tables: the Guardian University Guide 2017, the Complete University Guide 2017 and the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. Similarly, the History department is one of the largest and most diverse in Britain, with over 30 full-time academic staff operating on an international level.
  • High student satisfaction – Our History degree is designed to provide both academic excellence and vocational development – a balance that is highly sought after by employers. Our students gave the course an overall satisfaction rating of over 92% in the National Student Survey 2016.
  • Strong research profile - American and Canadian Studies has a strong research profile and one of the most respected of its kind in the world. Dr Steve Hewitt offers his expert opinion for the BBC and other news organisations, and continues his analysis of current events in his foreign policy teaching. Furthermore, our History department was ranked 1st in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Innovative assessment - Alongside traditional written assignments, we offer a range of learning and assessment methods that develop our students' communication skills and enhance employability. These include the exciting opportunity to develop skills in media production using our state-of-the-art editing suite to produce a documentary film dissertation in the final year.
  • Outstanding resources - Students have access to a wide variety of resources from the University's Library, and the Hilton and Styles Libraries in the Arts Building itself. The University Special Collections houses some 60,000 rare and early printed books and upwards of 2 million manuscript and archive items.

Open day talks

Full videos on YouTube of recent open day talks relevant to this course:


The modules listed on the website for this programme may occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

In this programme, you study half of your modules (60 credits) in American and Canadian Studies (ACS) and half in History (60 credits)

First year

American and Canadian Studies

In your first year you take three compulsory foundation courses:

  • Foundations of American history to 1890
  • Foundation of American literature to 1890
  • Introduction to Canadian Studies


Compulsory modules:

  • Practising History (A): Skills in History
  • Practising History (B): Approaches to History

You then choose two out of the five survey modules below:

  • Discovering the Middle Ages
  • Living in the Middle Ages
  • The Making of the Modern World 1500-1815
  • The Making of the Contemporary World 1815-2000
  • War and Society

History first year detailed module descriptions

Second year

American and Canadian Studies

In your second year you take two compulsory modules:

  • American History from 1890
  • 20th-Century American Literature and Culture

Then depending on the credits you are taking in American and Canadian studies, you have a range of optional modules to choose from, which may include:

  • America and the Middle East through Film
  • The Emergence of Mass Culture
  • Hollywood Cinema
  • Literature and Illustration
  • The Foundations of African-American Experience
  • The Thriller: American Crime Fiction
  • The African-American Experience from 1945
  • Fantasy Film and Television
  • Signing the Screen: Film and Television Authorship
  • Terrorism in America: a History
  • North American 1920s: Literature and Society


Compulsory modules:

  • Group Research
  • Option B

Choose from one of the following:

  • History in Theory and Practice*
  • Research Methods (Dissertation Preparation) (please note: this module must be studied if a History 40 credit dissertation is to be taken in the final year)*
  • Professional Skills (please note: places on this module are limited)*
  • Option A*

*If you wished to do 80 credits in History you would do two of the non-compulsory courses.

History second year detailed module descriptions

Year abroad

You can apply to study abroad for a year in an approved university around the world. If you achieve a grade of 2.1 or above in your first year then you will be invited to apply for a Year Abroad in your second year. If your application is successful, you will go abroad in your third year and return to us for your final year. Find out more.

Final year

American and Canadian Studies : In your final year modules are all optional and you can choose from a wide range. You will also have the opportunity to complete either an extended essay on a research topic of your choice, or some of your credits will be taken up as part of a ‘link’ Dissertation between your two disciplines.

Compulsory element:

  • Dissertation or
  • Audio-Visual Dissertation (alternative to Dissertation)

If you wish to do 40, 60 or 80 credits in American and Canadian Studies you will also take one, two or three optional modules which may include:

  • Aesthetics of Television
  • CIA US Foreign Policy and International Relations since 1945
  • Contemporary American and European Cinema: Dialogues and Discourses
  • Death and the moving image
  • Nation and Identity in Nineteenth-Century America
  • New York, New York
  • Reading and popular culture: contemporary book cultures in North America and UK
  • US Foreign Policy and Terrorism
  • American Woman since 1945 
  • Anti-Americanism
  • Cold War and Film
  • Contemporary North American Writing
  • New media, social media and politics
  • Postcolonial Film
  • Postmodern Historical Fictions 
  • Visualising C19th Networks


Compulsory modules:

  • Special Subject A+B (20 + 20 credits)

Optional Modules:

Students can also take an Advanced Option A, an Advanced Option B or a Joint Honours History dissertation for a further 20 credits or two of these modules for a further 40 credits.

If you studied Research Methods (Dissertation Preparation) in year 2 you would normally be expected to do a 40 credit dissertation in History (for 80 credits in total).

History final year detailed module descriptions

Fees and funding

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2017, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Fees for 2017/18 are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £9,250
  • Overseas: £15,570

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

For further information on tuition fees, living costs and available financial support, please see our pages on undergraduate fees and funding.

Tuition fees when studying abroad

For those spending a whole academic year abroad (where available):

  • Students who are classed as home/EU for fees purposes are required to pay 15% of their normal annual tuition fee
  • Students who are classed as overseas for fee purposes are required to pay 50% of their normal annual tuition fee

For those studying abroad for just one semester (where available), normal annual tuition fees apply.

Note - Study abroad opportunities vary between courses; please see the course description for details of study abroad options offered.

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
Required subjects and grades:
A Level History, Medieval History or Ancient History at grade A

Additional information:

BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma are all considered on a case by case basis.

Please be aware that you will need to meet the subject specific requirements for both subject areas within the degree programme - please check their Single Honours coursefinder entries for more information. If you need further guidance please contact us.

Other qualifications are considered – learn more about entry requirements.

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6,6,5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall.

We welcome applications from international students and invite you to join our vibrant community of over 4500 international students who represent 150 different countries. We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

How to apply

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

University of Birmingham students are part of an academic elite and learn from world-leading experts. We will challenge you to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers.

You will have a diverse learning experience, including:

  • lectures
  • small group tutorials
  • independent study
  • and peer group learning, such as delivering presentations with your classmates


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Welfare tutors - We have dedicated welfare tutors who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
  • Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) - the AWAS team will provide guidance on writing essays and dissertations at University-level. You will receive individual support from an academic writing advisor and meet with postgraduate tutors who specialise in particular subjects. Support is given in a variety of ways, such as small-group workshops, online activities, tutorials and email correspondence.
  • Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into university. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

Teaching staff

Students at the University of Birmingham are taught by a mixture of professors, senior lecturers, lecturers and doctoral researchers, thereby receiving a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience. Many of our teaching staff have published important works about their areas of expertise, whilst others have taught at international institutions and can offer unique perspectives of their subjects.

You can find out more about the members of staff (including their qualifications, publication history and specific areas of interest) in their academic profiles linked below.

Contact hours

You can expect about 9-10 hours of contact time per week in your first year. You will also undergo a formal transition review to see how you are getting on. In second year, you can expect about 8-9 contact hours and, in your final year, you can expect about 7-8 hours depending on whether you do a short or a long dissertation. There are also many additional activities that are also available to students.

Assessment methods

Assessments - you will be assessed in a variety of ways to help you transition to a new style of learning. At the beginning of each module, you will be given information on how and when you will be assessed. Assessments methods will vary with each module and could include:

  • coursework, such as essays
  • group and individual presentations
  • and formal exams

Feedback - you will receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so you can learn from each assignment. You will also be given feedback on any exams that you take. If you should fail an exam, we will ensure that particularly detailed feedback is provided to help you prepare for future exams.

As a student of American and Canadian Studies and History, you will have an excellent opportunity to develop skills that are highly prized by employers, as well as benefitting from the diversity offered by this multidisciplinary degree.

85% of our American and Canadian Studies graduates and 90% of our History graduates enter work or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2015). Your skill-set upon graduation will include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • A deep understanding of the past
  • The ability to research, analyse and interpret complex information
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Respecting the views of others
  • Handling complex information
  • The ability to form concise and articulate arguments
  • Managing your time and prioritising your workload

 As a graduate of American and Canadian Studies and History, you have a vast potential to enter a wide range of careers, including government, the media, law, accountancy, international development, marketing, advertising, human resources and retail management, teaching, research and many other types of employment that offer graduate entry schemes.

Our graduates start careers with employers, including:

  • the BBC
  • Freud Communications
  • Maverick TV
  • the National Youth Theatre

Graduate roles are equally diverse:

  • Business Development Executive
  • Events Co-ordinator
  • Financial Analyst
  • Marketing Executive
  • Production Assistant
  • Research Assistant
  • Youth Mentor

Furthermore, many of our graduates choose postgraduate study to extend their knowledge of American and Canadian Studies and History, or to prepare for careers such as law and teaching.

Developing your career

Employers target University of Birmingham students for their diverse skill-set and our graduate employment statistics have continued to climb at a rate well above national trends. If you make the most of our wide range of opportunities you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.

  • Careers events - we hold events covering careers in teaching, event management, marketing and working with charities to help you meet potential employers and learn more about these sectors.
  • Global Challenge - you can apply to work overseas on an expenses-paid placement during your summer vacation through our Global Challenge initiative.
  • Work experience bursary - we encourage you to apply your skills in the workplace by undertaking internships in the summer. Our work experience bursaries allow you to apply for funding to support you during unpaid internships.
  • Cultural Internships - our innovative Cultural Internships offer graduates the opportunity for a six month paid internship at a leading cultural institution in the West Midlands. These internships will give you professional experience to set you apart in a competitive graduate market. Our current partners include Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust, Library of Birmingham.

There are also internships available at our own cultural assets, such as Winterbourne House, the Lapworth Museum, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Extra-curricular activities

To enhance your career prospects even further, you will need to think about engaging in some extra-curricular activities to broaden your skills and network of contacts.

  • Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme - our College of Arts and Law Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme enables interested students to work on a current academic research project being run by one of our academic researchers. Undergraduate research scholars gain work experience over the summer after their first or second year and have the chance to develop skills in both collaborative and independent research.
  • Personal Skills Award - our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.
  • Guild of Students - there is a vast number of student groups and volunteering opportunities offered by the Guild of Students, which cover a wide variety of interests.

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Student Experience Officers

Our Student Experience Officers will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.


Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.

International students

The University of Birmingham has been welcoming international students onto our campus since 1900.

We have one of the largest and most vibrant international student communities in the UK, with 5,000 international students from more than 150 different countries and 31% of our academic staff from overseas.

If you would like further information about entry requirements, how to apply and funding options, then you can visit our international students webpage. You may also wish to take a virtual tour of our campus and watch the video below to hear our international students say their favourite thing about the University of Birmingham.