MA Banner AmericanMA Banner American

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
Tuition fee information

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.

Find out more

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.

Find out more

Find out more

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, ethnicity, 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 2020-21. Please note that module availability may still change at this stage i.e. due to staff changes or student uptake at registration.*

Please note that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we are anticipating the need to make some changes to our option modules for 2020-21. We will be in touch with applicants directly and we will update this list as soon as any changes are finalised. 




Year (Part-time students)

HST681: Work Placement 15 1 + 2 1 or 2
HST692: Prisoners of War in the Twentieth Century 15 2 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 2 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 1 1 or 2
HST6078: The United States and the Global 1970s 15 2 1 or 2
HST6084: Writing Late Antique Lives 15 2 1 or 2
HST6085: Under Attack: The Home Front during the Cold War 15 2 1 or 2
HST6087: Before Facebook: Social Networks in History 15 1 1 or 2
HST6088: New York City and the End of the 20th Century 15 1 1 or 2
HST6089: Wikipedia and Medieval History 15 1 1 or 2
HST6092: Women and Slavery in the Antebellum American South 15 2 1 or 2
HST6801: Research Skills for Historians 15 1 1 or 2
HST61005: History and Policy 15 1 1 or 2
HST61007: Oral History 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 2020-21. Please note that module availability may still change at this stage i.e. due to staff changes or student uptake at registration. The owning department has final approval for acceptance onto their modules and, if space becomes limited, priority may be given to students registered in that department*




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
LIT6700: 'Tales of the City' - The Living Space in Contemporary American Fiction 30 1 1 or 2
Our staff

Below is information about staff working in your area of interest and their expected availability for the 2020-21 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. His first single-authored book, In Union There Is Strength: Philadelphia in an Age of Urban Consolidation, will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press at the start of 2019. Tracing parallel responses to social crisis in the urban North and sectional crisis in the nation as a whole inspired a generation of citizens to explore the bonds of union, and link city growth to national integration and imperial expansion. He is currently working on a second book, tentatively entitled Let the Empire Come: Monarchy, Modernity, and a Reconstruction-era Conspiracy, which explores the appeal of - and the fears engendered by - authoritarianism in the post-Civil War United States.

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 will be on research leave in the 2020-21 academic year. Cover will be provided.

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 most recent book, Gateway State: Hawai'i and the Cultural Transformation of American Empire (Princeton 2019), 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. Her next project explores the reinvention of New York as a ‘global city’ in the wake of its fiscal crisis in the 1970s.

Photo of Caroline Dodds PennockDr Caroline Pennock

Caroline's research focuses on Aztec and early 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. She is currently working on a major new book studying the neglected history of Native American travellers to Europe and beyond before the founding of Jamestown.

Dr Simon Toner Profile PictureDr Simon Toner

Simon will be on research leave in Autumn 2020-21.

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 focuses on small group seminars and masterclasses complimented by individual tutorials and supervision sessions. Seminars are usually two hours long and range from around 5-18 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 focuses 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.

Our campus and how we use it:

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.

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 another humanities or social sciences discipline (i.e. English, languages, politics, philosophy, archaeology or journalism) from a recognised UK or overseas university. Please see the University's online prospectus for full entry requirement details.

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. 

Online prospectus 2020 
International qualifications 
English qualifications 
English support

Apply now 
Common questions

Additional support information 

Information for disabled students

We're committed to responding effectively and appropriately to individual support needs. Find out more.

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

Email us



*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's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.