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MA in American History


Course code: HSTT01 (full-time) | HSTT10 (part-time)
Duration: 1 year (full-time) | 2 years (part-time)

Entry requirements and applying

Contemporary politics shows that, more than ever, there is a need for a critical understanding for the formative political, social, economic and intellectual trends in American history.

Sheffield's long and distinguished tradition in American history continues today with a group of internationally-renowned scholars working at the cutting-edge of their fields. Drawing on this expertise, the MA in American history gives you the opportunity to study the historical development of the United States from the first encounter between Europeans and Native Americans in the colonial period through to the end of the Cold War. The flexibility of the programme allows you to carry out specialist research under expert supervision, and develop your understanding of the American past and skills in using relevant literature, while focusing on the particular skills that are most important to you through our optional modules.

A vibrant research community

The Department is a thriving research community and we actively encourage our MA students to make the most of their time at Sheffield by getting involved in our research activities and events, as well as organising their own through the Postgraduate Forum. This vibrant research culture and postgraduate community helps to disseminate research-led findings and facilitate lively and exhaustive historical debate.

The Department has its own research seminar series, which runs regularly during semester-time and covers a huge range of topics. This active research community also includes a range of research centres and networks many of which are interdisciplinary or focus on cross-cutting research themes. These include the Cultures of the Cold War Network; the Centre for Contemporary and Modern History; and the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies. These centres all have their own research event series and often incorporate postgraduate-led events such as the Early Modern Discussion Group (EMDG). Students also run a number of additional discussion groups including the Sheffield Modern International History Group and the Gender History Discussion Group.

Departmental research culture Postgraduate community

Our staff

Current staff interests range from early colonial settlement to the political culture of twentieth-century America. Particular areas of expertise include colonial history; urban history; social and cultural history; foreign relations and political history; and cultural encounters in the early modern Atlantic world.

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How it works


The taught component of the MA is designed to both develop your understanding of key historiographical and methodological approaches though a core module, which examines the essential workings of the American past and develops your skills in using relevant literature. You can also undertake the technical training best suited to your research needs and elect to study major themes in American history in closer detail. The dissertation will provide you with the opportunity to further develop the skills and methods that you learn during your taught modules and to apply this historical knowledge to your independent investigation.


You will choose modules totalling 180 credits over the full year of study - this includes 120 credits of taught modules plus a Dissertation worth 60 credits.

You will take three core modules worth 105 credits and your remaining 75 credits will be made up of a selection of option modules. 


You will choose modules totalling 180 credits over the two years of study - this includes 120 credits of taught modules plus a Dissertation worth 60 credits.

You will take three core modules worth 105 credits - an approaches module (year one) and both the Research Presentation and the Dissertation (year two). Your remaining 75 credits will be made up of a selection of option modules. We recommend spreading your overall credits evenly across both years of study to create a balanced workload.

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Core modules

You will take three core modules




Year (Part-time students)

HST6604: Approaches to the American Past

Explores key themes in American history from the colonial period through to the modern era, introducing you to important debates and giving you an awareness of principal historiographical schools and the critical interrelationship between historical trends, events and scholarly interpretations of the past. Seminars will cover topics such as Native American history, consumption, gender, slavery, ethinicity, the Cold War and the New Left.

30 1 1

HST6560: Dissertation

Provides you with the opportunity to further develop the skills and methods that you learn during your taught modules and to apply this historical knowledge to your investigation. You will work under the supervision of an expert member of staff to complete an original 15,000 word piece of independent research.

60 1 + 2 2

HST6802: Research Presentation

Designed to equip you with the skills and experience that you need to present and communicate a defined historical research project to an academic audience.

15 2 2
Option modules

You will choose 75 credits of option modules

This 75 credit selection can include up to 30 credits of unrestricted modules. Unrestricted modules can include non-history modules cross-listed from other departments (see Non-history modules) and/or modules from the broader range of history MA options, where the relevant module(s) will complement your core studies i.e. allowing further exploration of a particular theme across time and geographical boundaries (see MA in Historical Research options).

The modules listed below are those that we are planning to offer in 2018-19. Please note that module availability may still change at this stage i.e. due to student uptake at registration.*




Year (Part-time students)

HST681: Work Placement 15 1 and 2 1 or 2
HST692: Prisoners of War in the Twentieth Century 15 1 1 or 2
HST699: The United States in Vietnam, 1945-1975 15 1 1 or 2
HST6042: Presenting the Past: Making History Public 15 2 1 or 2
HST6043: Burying the White Gods: Indigenous People in the Early Modern Colonial World 15 2 1 or 2
HST6055: Microhistory and the History of Everyday Life 15 1 1 or 2
HST6062: Cold War Histories 15 2 1 or 2
HST6073: Medical Humanity? Medicine and Identity 15 1 1 or 2
HST6076: International Order in the Twentieth Century 15 2 1 or 2
HST6077: The U.S. Civil War in Global Context 15 2 1 or 2
HST6078: The United States and the Global 1970s 15 1 1 or 2
HST6084: Writing Late Antique Lives 15 1 1 or 2
HST6801: Research Skills for Historians 15 1 1 or 2
HST6085: Under Attack: The Home Front during the Cold War 15 1 1 or 2
HST6087: Before Facebook: Social Networks in History 15 2 1 or 2
HST6088: New York City and the End of the 20th Century 15 2 1 or 2
Non-history modules

Please note that teaching and assessment methods may vary for non-History modules. You can request to take a module not listed below (subject to availability) as part of provisional module choice, any requested modules should be relevant to your programme of study. Information about other available language modules is available here. 

The modules listed below are those that our partner departments within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are planning to offer in 2018-19. Please note that module availability may still change at this stage i.e. due to student uptake at registration. Please note that the IPA modules in particular may be withdrawn - more information will be available on these modules by the end of July.  *




Year (Part-time students)

AAP637: Heritage, Place and Community 15 2 1 or 2
AAP6102: Heritage, History and Identity 15 1 1 or 2
AAP6219: Digital Cultural Heritage: Theory and Practice 15 2 1 or 2
IPA650: Language in Use: an introduction to corpus-based linguistic analysis 15 1 1 or 2
IPA651: Language in Use: an introduction to corpus-based linguistic analysis 15 1 1 or 2
LIT6021: Exchanging Letters: Art and Correspondence in Twentieth-Century American Culture 30 1 1 or 2
LIT6351: Topics in American Postmodernism: Postmodernism to Neoconservatism in American Culture 30 1 1 or 2
LIT6700: 'Tales of the City' - The Living Space in Contemporary American Fiction 30 2 1 or 2
Our staff

Below is information about staff working in your area of interest and their availability for the 2018-19 academic year. Please note that this information could still change at this stage in the academic year.

Photo of Andrew HeathDr Andrew Heath

Andrew's research interests lie at the intersection of the political, urban and social history of the USA during the nineteenth-century. He is currently working on a monograph exploring how the optimism and anxiety engendered by America's imperial expansion over the civil war years shaped the way citizens imagined, built and used the city of Philadelphia.

Dr Rosie Knight

Rosie’s research focuses on women, race, and slavery in the American south. She has particular interest in the relationships between enslaved women and female slaveholders, mothering, and the slaveholding household. Her research also explores the uses of intersectionality in the history of women and slavery.

Photo of Sarah Miller-Davenport.Dr Sarah Miller-Davenport

Sarah's research focuses on how Americans conceptualized their nation's role in the world after World War II, and how the emergence of the United States as a global superpower transformed domestic culture, politics, and social relations. Her current project explores the impact and meaning of Hawai'i statehood in 1959 and its relationship to both the global movement for decolonization and the emergence of multiculturalism in American society.

Photo of Caroline Dodds PennockDr Caroline Pennock

Caroline's research focuses on Aztec and Spanish American history and the Atlantic world, with a particular interest in gender, violence, and cultural exchange. Her first book studied the role of ritual violence, integrating the study of human sacrifice with a reinterpretation of Aztec gender and daily life. Caroline is currently working on a major new research project on 'Aztecs Abroad', studying the neglected history of Native American travellers to Europe and beyond in the sixteenth century.

Claudia RogersDr Claudia Rogers

Claudia’s research focuses on first encounters in the New World (c. 1492-1550), exploring how indigenous groups and individuals responded to and identified Europeans in moments of early contact in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica. In particular, her work examines the methodological issues arising from the uncovering and reading of indigenous voices and actions in the (ethno)historical record. More broadly, Claudia’s interests surround the ‘white gods’, indigenous histories, concepts of space, and identity. She is especially interested in cultural intermediaries and notions of ‘in-betweenness’.

Dr Simon Toner Profile PictureDr Simon Toner

Simon is a historian of the United States and the world, focusing particularly on the history of development and the American War in Vietnam. His work examines how a diverse array of U.S. actors formulated and projected ideas about postcolonial development into the Global South after 1945 and how “Third World” actors received, renegotiated and sometimes resisted these ideas and projects. He explores these themes in his book manuscript, which he is currently completing. Based primarily on Vietnamese and American archival sources, the manuscript examines the final years of the American War in Vietnam as an episode in the history of global development. In particular, it shows how changes in global development thinking and practice in the late 1960s and 1970s shaped debates within and between the allied U.S. and South Vietnamese governments and had a decisive impact on the course and outcome of the war.

Teaching and assessment

Our MA teaching focusses on small group seminars and masterclasses complimented by individual tutorials and supervision sessions. Seminars are usually two hours long and range from around 5-15 students in size. Teaching takes place between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. 30 credit core modules run for 10 weeks and most 15 credit modules run for 5 weeks.

Assessment focusses on essays and a dissertation complimented by oral assessment in the Research Presentation module. Essays usually look to explore the key themes of the module and engage with current historical debate through a question of your choosing. Our public history modules offer the opportunity to undertake group work and/or develop writing styles appropriate for different academic and non-academic audiences.

Timetable and deadlines

Tailor your degree

Our MA degrees are carefully designed to allow you to build a programme that suits your needs: whether you want to progress to PhD research, aid your career development or simply expand your knowledge in your chosen area of history.

In addition to the skills and knowledge that you will develop through your core modules, you can use the option modules to focus on the areas most relevant to you including the option to gain experience in public history. For those interested in PhD progression, we offer both individual and group support to help you develop your ideas and write a strong research proposal suitable for funding applications.

Skills development Public history PhD progression

Entry requirements

Students wishing to take this programme should normally have a 2.1 or equivalent in a Bachelors degree in history or a related subject (i.e. English, languages, politics, philosophy, archaeology or journalism) from a recognised UK or overseas university.

If you are an international student, you need to provide proof of English Language proficiency with a minimum IELTS score of 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).


You can apply for one of our MA programmes using our online application form. There is no formal deadline for applying and we can usually accept applications until mid-August for entry that September.

You'll find the answer to many common questions such as what supporting documents to provide and what to include in your statement on our Common questions page. 

English qualifications English support

Apply now Common questions

If you have a question about applying, or would like to discuss your individual qualifications, just get in touch.

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* Please note that the course details set out here may change before you start, particularly if you are applying significantly in advance of the course start date. The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is current and relevant. Individual modules may be updated or withdrawn in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, curriculum review, staff availability, and variations in student numbers. In the event of a material change the University will inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.