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MA History (US History)

Start date
September
Duration
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught
Fees

Annual tuition fees for 2023 entry:
UK: £10,170 full-time
International: £21,150 full-time
More detail.

Dr Frank Uekötter discusses the four years of the Trump Presidency against the background of the history of Fascism.

This pathway gives students the opportunity to study the breadth of United States history from before the nation’s founding to the twenty-first century’s ‘War on Terror’.

Throughout your study you will encounter the United States within its global context. From the initial contact between settlers and sovereign Indigenous nations, through the rise of racial slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow to the US empire, the Black Freedom Struggle, the Cold War and Vietnam, and the end of the American Century.


Each of these topics are covered through a range of methods that include political, social, cultural, and environmental histories alongside the lenses of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and technology and mobility studies.

 

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

The School of History and Cultures hosts workshops and seminars throughout the year in which students are invited to come and listen to the leading experts in respective fields discussing their work. They actively encourage student engagement, which creates a lovely sense of participation and contribution.

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Why study this course?

  • Research strengths – Times Higher Education ranked Department of History eighth in the country in the Research Excellence Framework exercise 2021 based on Grade Point Average. 
  • Excellent reputation – the University of Birmingham has been ranked as one of the world's top 100 institutions to study History in the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
  • Foundation for further research – our MA History programme will equip you with the research skills to read and assess relevant primary sources, the ability to carry out independent research and to write up your research. By the end of the programme you will have acquired the skills and the knowledge to progress to a PhD if you wish.
  • Access to academic support services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 
  • Be a part of an exciting department – you will join a lively postgraduate community with opportunities to enhance your learning through events and research seminars.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.

Modules

Core modules

You will study three core modules:

Historical Approaches

This module provides students with an advanced introduction to some of the ways in which historians have approached a range of prominent themes within the modern historical discipline, such as religion, gender, race, class, community, and conflict.  The module introduces these themes through a mixture of case studies and background reading and information, with an emphasis on historiographical development and a range of different theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary influences, such as sociology, anthropology, the material turn, etc.  Each week students are guided in reading influential texts that relate to one of these key themes, and students then meet in small seminar groups to discuss a mixture of historiographical case studies and additional theoretical background.
Assessment: 4,000 word review of approaches to one of the themes covered by the module in your own chosen historical field

Research Preparation

This module is designed to deliver three complementary strands, with the ultimate aim of supporting students on the MA History to design, plan and research an ambitious dissertation topic.  The first strand is a series of lectures on key research skills in the historical discipline, ensuring that students are confident when it comes to aspects of research design such as defining a topic, reviewing secondary literature, identifying and accessing appropriate primary sources, etc.  The second strand is a series of seminars designed to support specialist sub-disciplinary skills relating to (for example) chronological period or a particular geographical area or methodological approach.  The third strand is a series of one-to-one supervisions with an academic advisor, to offer the student guidance and feedback as they devise their own unique research project, and lay the groundwork for their masters dissertation.  The module also helps students to develop important skills in presenting and articulating their research to a larger non-specialist audience.
Assessment: 3,000-word literature review (75%), 10 minute oral presentation (25%)

US History and Historiography

This module will introduce students to the main themes of American history through a reading of key texts, including classics and cutting-edge work in the field. It will provide the foundation for students seeking to engage in advanced research in American history and will focus on the significant debates and academic turns that have shaped historical writing on the United States. Topics and themes covered may include the ‘new’ histories of capitalism, slavery and enslavement, the Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Crow, cultural history, political and economic history, labour and the New Deal, U.S. empire and settler colonialism, gender and sexuality, immigration and ethnicity, the Cold War, intellectual history, and the War on Terror.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Optional modules

If you choose to study the US History pathway you must choose at least 20 credits from the US History or Special Subject lists below. 

These lists are indicative; not all modules will run each year depending on staff availability.

US History 

  • From the OSS to Snowden: A History of American Intelligence Agencies since 1945
  • ‘A Holiday from Reality’: A History of Drugs and Drug Use in the Modern Era
  • Of Great Powers and Failed States. Conceptions of the State in the Modern World
  • Indigenous and Settler Histories
  • Insurgencies in Global History
  • Sex and Sexualities in the Modern British World
  • Gender and Sexuality in the 20th Century United States

Special Subjects

If you choose a Special Subject as an option, you must take two co-requisite modules to the total of 40 credits. Topics available in recent years have included:

  • The American Civil War (Masters): A
  • The American Civil War (Masters): B
  • Terrorising History: Terrorist Motivations, Methods, and Mayhem (Masters): A
  • Terrorising History: Terrorist Motivations, Methods, and Mayhem (Masters): B
  • Land, Law, and Violence in the American West (Masters): A
  • Land, Law, and Violence in the American West (Masters): B
  • Making the Modern United States: The Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Masters): A
  • Making the Modern United States: The Gilded Age and Progressive Era (Masters): B

Any remaining credits can be taken from the wide range of History options. It is also possible to select options offered by other departments such as African Studies, Classics and Ancient History, Cultural Heritage, Modern Languages, Art History or English - with the approval of the Programme Director. See an indicative list of options.

Dissertation

In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation. The dissertation is the culmination of the MA: the moment when you put into practice the skills and knowledge you have built up in the previous modules, and the moment when you take wing as an independent historian. Your dissertation must be on a topic within the pathway area of specialism.


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2023 are as follows:

  • UK: £10,170 full-time; £5,085 part-time
  • International: £21,150 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

Eligibility for UK or international fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students

Paying your fees

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.


Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

How To Apply

Please review our Entry Requirements before making your application.

You will make your application to our MA History programme. If you would like to specialise in US History, you will indicate this at the module choice process upon entry onto the MA History programme. 

How to Apply for a Postgraduate Degree - Taught programmes

Application deadlines

The deadline for International students (requiring a VISA) to apply is 3 July 2023. The deadline for UK students is Wednesday 31 August 2023.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

You will need an Honours degree, normally in any humanities or social science discipline, such as History, Politics, Cultural Studies, or Literature, and normally of an upper second-class standard. All applications are treated on their merits, and we are happy to consider applicants who may have travelled by non-standard routes. Applications should highlight your interest in the programme and any relevant experience you have, academic or otherwise.

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band.. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements


You will be introduced to a wide range of sources, including digital and online archives and will be guided by leading scholars in US history who will create a supportive environment for you to develop your own specialist research programme to explore a facet of US history that interests you.

Learning and teaching takes on this course place via seminars, tutorials, reading texts on theory and methods and your own research on primary sources.

Course delivery

We have two teaching semesters per year, the autumn semester and spring semester. Semester dates can be found on our website.

As a full-time student, you will typically take three modules in each semester, followed by your dissertation. Depending on the modules you take, you can typically expect six to nine hours of classroom time per week, two or three per module. If you are a part-time student, you will typically take three modules across each year, followed by your dissertation.

Each module represents a total of 200 hours of study time, including preparatory reading, homework and assignment preparation.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: History

Our History postgraduates develop a broad range of transferable skills that are highly valued by a range of employers. These skills include: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.

Over the past 5 years, 81% of History postgraduates were in work and/or further study 6 months after graduation (DLHE 2012 - 2017). Some of our History postgraduates go on to use their studies directly, for example in heritage or in museums. Others use their transferable skills in a range of occupations including finance, marketing, teaching and publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include Royal Air Force, Ministry of Defence, University of Birmingham, Royal Air Force Museum and University of Oxford.

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